CORNING, Calif.-Prune producers Doug and Suzanne Sale come from one of the most well-established farm families in their area, having had a road that now leads to Tehama County Farm Bureau offices named for them years ago.
So the two certainly know how their food is produced. But they climbed aboard a bus with about 50 other local residents and toured farms in their area Oct. 24, visiting a dairy, a fig farm, a factory that makes use of discarded walnut shells and an olive oil plant.
"This is our first time and I am so impressed," Suzanne Sale said of the day-long farm tour. "We grew up here and we've lived on his (Doug's) family ranch, and we never knew the diversity or the innovation that goes on in our own county."
Set up ostensibly to teach city dwellers about the ag in their backyard, the Tehama Farm Bureau's annual bus tour has also become popular with growers who wish to learn about other commodities or gather ideas to use in their own operations, manager Kari Dodd said.
"We all need to work together and share our successes and failures so we can duplicate the successes and avoid the failures," said local Farm Bureau president Sam Mudd, who grows walnuts along the Sacramento River north of Red Bluff, Calif.
The annual tour is held in conjunction with Farm-City Week, which will be observed Nov. 10-16 around the country. Scores of interactions between farmers and city folks will take place in the coming weeks at myriad banquets, civic club meetings, farm tours and job exchanges, all locally organized.
The events are aimed at correcting misunderstandings between rural and urban areas at a time when many city dwellers are questioning contemporary farming practices, American Farm Bureau Federation spokesman Mace Thornton has said. However, the events have also fostered a sense of unity and camaraderie among growers.
"We all get so wrapped up in our own projects that we don't take the time to see what's happening" at other farms, Mudd said.
In the Tehama Farm Bureau's eighth annual tour, guests started at Alderson Dairy in Gerber, Calif., which was recognized for environmental stewardship in 2001. Then they came to the Corning area and visited Maywood Farms, a fig producer, and Eco-Shell Inc. before having lunch and touring the Lucero Olive Oil plant.
Cow-calf producer Tammy Chrisler, co-owner of Flying T Ranch in Red Bluff, found it all fascinating.
"I'm always interested in what's happening in the ag community," she said. "I could do this every day. I learn so much and it kind of just inspires you as to what kind of new and innovative practices you can use."