As the home of some of the country’s most creative and innovative restaurants, California is celebrated around the world for its vibrant culinary scene. But while many of the state’s chefs have achieved rock-star status, the farmers and farmworkers who grow the fruits and vegetables for their signature dishes remain largely unknown. To give Golden State farmers and farmworkers a well-deserved share of the spotlight, California Grown, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting consumers with the people who grow and produce their food, has designated October California Farmer and Farmworker Month.
Honoring their efforts is especially important after the challenging events of the past 18 months, notes Karla Stockli, chairperson of California Grown and CEO of the California Fig Advisory Board.
“Our agriculture community came together early in the pandemic to secure a safe, nutritious food supply to the retailers and delivery channels that served the people who were sheltering at home, as well as making a substantial increase in the 160 million pounds of food our farmers contribute to the food-bank system each year,” Stockli says. “While the agriculture community has always known that the work of farmers and farmworkers is essential, the last two years have given consumers a reason to recognize how critical our food system is.”
One of the best ways to honor these essential workers, adds California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross, is to enjoy the state’s bounty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and other food products.
“After all that we’ve been through, Californians are long overdue for a reason to break bread in celebration,” says Ross. “By simply enjoying the delicious foods made from the world’s best ingredients, we can help support the 1.2 million jobs and $263 billion in state revenue that California farming generates each year.”
Here are five ways to celebrate and support the Golden State’s agricultural workers during California Farmer and Farmworker Month—and all year long.
1. Choose California produce
As the nation’s largest producer of agricultural products, California grows more than 400 crops, supplying one-third of the nation’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts. That means it’s easy to find and purchase California-grown fruits, vegetables, wine, and other farm-fresh products in stores across the country.
2. Get to know California’s farmers
How much do you know about the people who grow and produce the food you eat? Explore California Grown’s Meet a Farmer series to learn about growers like chefs-turned-organic-vegetable-farmers Andy and Julia Henderson of Confluence Farm in Sonoma County, and Eric Schmidt of Eric Schmidt Farms, who grows citrus in Central California when he’s not chasing down bad guys as a Fresno County Deputy Sheriff. You can also meet farmers on their home turf along California’s many farm trails.
3. Say thanks
Everyone loves to know they’re appreciated, and farmers are no exception. The next time you visit one of California’s farmers' markets, take time to tell the purveyors working the stands how much their efforts mean. You can also spread the love by posting your thanks on social media during California Farmer and Farmworker Month using the #CAGROWN hashtag.
4. Do some wine-ing
Home to 620,000 acres of vineyards and 4,200 wineries, California is the nation’s top wine-producing state and the world’s fourth-largest producer. Show your support for the Golden State’s winegrape growers and vintners by visiting wineries across the state and enjoying the fruits of their labors. Many offer wine pairings that feature local produce, bringing a true “sense of place” to tastings.
5. Support farmwork organizations
Donate to charitable organizations that support California’s farmworkers, such as the Napa Valley Farmworker Foundation, the California Farmworker Foundation, and the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation. These worthy programs assist hardworking farm employees through education, professional development, and health and wellness initiatives.