Skip to content
Go to News

Brian Coltrin Shares Experiences From a Farmer’s Tailgate Event

by Brian Coltrin |

The transition to organic agriculture is fundamentally about personal connection and community building. This was the thought going through my mind as I attended the farmer’s tailgate event in Santa Maria on April 16, 2024. The event aimed to provide various services to the Latino/a farm community and aid growers in the transition to organic farming. The small farm community is a unique group of people. We (I too dabble in farming) are often fiercely independent, choosing a rugged existence, making a living from cultivating the land. While we’ve honed our independent farm business skills, we also recognize our interdependence and the need for collaboration to thrive.

The tailgate event was organized by Anel Trujillo of American Farmland Trust, with help from Misael Sanchez of the Cachuma Resource Conservation District (RCD). It was conducted entirely in Spanish and held in early spring just after a rainstorm; both factors helped provide farmers the opportunity to attend. With about 20 attendees, we listened to presentations from many speakers who discussed the various regional farm services available. Topics ranged from farm financing options from organizations such as California FarmLink and the USDA Farm Service Agency to Feed the Hunger providing alternative financial assistance. There were the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service with cost-share programs for soil improvement and American Farmland Trust (AFT) technical experts discussing nitrogen budgeting and soil health. Representing the CCOF Foundation, I, along with my co-worker Hanali Lopez-Tapia, covered the transition to organic farming and the grants available to support farmers along the way. Local taqueros/as provided an excellent lunch!

Santa Maria has seen an expansion in strawberry production in recent years, and many strawberry growers in addition to vegetable producers attended the event. The organic community is just starting to build momentum in this area. There has been some interest in organic agriculture and still some skepticism about shifting from conventional methods of production. Our goal at the CCOF Foundation is to keep showing up to the regions participating in events like this tailgate, building relationships, and ensuring the farmers know about the support available to help them grow organic. The culmination of the tailgate event was a farmer panel where farmers from Hijas de la Fresa, Miriam Olivera and her sister Donna, along with Jose Martinez from Mateo Farms and our site host Virginia Cortez from Ranch la Familia, shared their experiences in agriculture. These were stories of generations of hard workers persevering through crop losses due to extreme weather, remaining steadfast to their commitment to provide food for their communities.

Giving farmers the spotlight to share their experiences felt pivotal. It seemed to me that this event was important for the Latino/a farm community of Santa Maria.

I had the chance to speak with one farmer, Everardo, who plans to grow blueberries. After working for others, Everardo is now starting his own business, focusing on certified organic due to its promising potential. We had spoken briefly before the event, and it was great to meet in person. We’ve scheduled an appointment to assist him in completing his Organic System Plan and submitting the application for organic certification.

This event, particularly the panel, underscored the importance of sharing the Latino/a farmer narrative in California. It highlighted the need to link farmers to services available for their businesses and to each other. Every conversation and shared meal brings us one step closer to transitioning more farms to organic agriculture and to success for small farms. It’s a long row to hoe, but we will get there, one handshake at a time.

Related News

See all