Almond Queen: Visioning Capay’s Future

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By Hallie Muller of Full Belly Farm

Last weekend, our small community  celebrated a 96-year old tradition: the  official crowning of the Almond Queen.  In a valley rich with history, this is a  standing room only event because it  gives our community the chance to  celebrate the talented and successful  young women living among us. This  year, six seniors at Esparto High School  vied for the crown, each one an  involved member of our community.  The group included acclaimed athletes,  accomplished public speakers and  strong leaders. It was a tremendous  evening of celebration for the queen  candidates, the parents, teachers, and  community leaders. A major component  of the evening is a short speech. This  year’s topic was a glimpse into the  future. The girls were asked to speak  on the topic: “Our community is  continually evolving and changing.  When you imagine the Capay Valley in  25 years, what does it look like? How  have the agriculture, community, and  valley changed?” Answers varied, but it  got everyone here at Full Belly thinking:  What will the future hold for our  agriculturally diverse and rich region?  I was born on Full Belly Farm 25 years  ago (almost exactly- the big 2-5 is on  Tuesday!) and have been witness to  some of our valley’s biggest changes – new farms, improved schools, and the  expansion of the Cache Creek Casino.  Our farm too, has transformed in the  last 25 years – barns, packing sheds,  and a beautiful office have been built,  orchards planted, and we grow a  morewide array of fruits and vegetables.  If I could wish three things for the  next 25 years of our valley, I would  hope for the continuation of  community celebrations, the  preservation of farmland, and  smart growth. For anyone who has not yet visited  the farm, I would encourage you to  come during a community-wide  celebration. The Hoes Down  Festival and Almond Blossom  Festival (where the previously  mentioned Almond Queen  reigns”¦) are events steeped in  tradition and overflowing with  community pride. These traditions  give us the chance to share our  valley with others while working  with our neighbors. The Almond  Blossom Festival is unique.  Festival goers travel from town to  town throughout the Valley. With  over 100 different community  organizations participating, from  the high school’s Future Farmers of  America, to Capay Valley Vision, to  the local Grange, to the sports  booster’s club, the Almond  Blossom Festival is a tradition that  would be heartbreaking to loose. I  hope that in 25 years these  celebrations are still providing great  memories.

The Capay Valley is home to some of the most rich and beautiful farmland in California. It is so important that we take time to preserve this amazing soil. Recently, CalTrans has proposed the changing of the simple two-lane road to a major highway (more than triple the size of the current road), leading directly from Highway 505 to the Casino. This highway expansion, coming at a time when our state is overloaded with debt, would pave over productive orchards and vineyards, and would blast through fields of alfalfa and organic produce. The loss of farmland would be immense, almost 200 acres, and the result? A faster trip to the local casino. In a time when healthy farmland is harder and harder to come by, it seems that preserving what we have is common sense. I hope that in 25 years the farms and ranches in the Capay Valley will still be farming this beautiful land.

My last hope for the future is for wise decision making when it comes to growing our community. This valley really is something special. It is agriculturally based, the number of small, family owned farms is staggering, and the pace of life here is vastly different from the cities around us. It is so important to me that we maintain the feelings of community. I understand that growth is a natural, and good, process, but I hope that we can grow in a way that allows us to hold on to our agricultural roots and strong community traditions. I hope that in 25 years our valley will be as strong as it is today – and that’s where you, our CSA members come in. With your support of the farms and CSAs originating in the Capay Valley, you help to make a better future for all of us.

For more information on how to help preserve our valley’s farmland, please visit the Capay Valley Coalition.


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