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Meett heFaces ofFarmi ng


The Face of Farming Deep rooted stories from local agricultural leaders.

Uniting to protect & promote the future of agriculture in Sonoma County since 1917

Our Mission

To represent, protect and advance the social, economic and educational interests of the farmers and ranchers of Sonoma County.

On the Cover Left to Right & Top to Bottom

Joe & Steve Dutton, Graton

Dutton Ranch (winegrapes & apples)

Tito Sasaki, Vineburg

Sasaki Vineyards (winegrapes & pears)

Board Members Jeff Carlton, President, Windsor (district 4) Jennifer Beretta, First Vice President, Santa Rosa (district 5) Pat Burns, Second Vice President, Healdsburg (district 4) John Bidia, Treasurer, Santa Rosa (district 5) district 1

Ray Mulas, Sonoma Norm Yenni, Sonoma Karissa Kruse, Santa Rosa district 2

Domenic Carinalli, Sebastopol Don DeBernardi, Petaluma Judy James, Cotati

Hector Alvarez, Santa Rosa

Hector’s Honey (vegetables & honey)

Patrick & Gayle Sullivan, Healdsburg Dry Creek Peach and Produce (peaches)

Joe Imwalle, Santa Rosa

Imwalle Gardens (flowers, plants & produce)

Katie Jackson, Santa Rosa

Jackson Family Wines (winegrapes & wine)

Austin & Melissa Lely, Glen Ellen

Bee Well Farms (produce & eggs)

Walker Family, Graton Walker Apples

Singing Frogs Farm Owners & Employees, Sonoma Back row L to R: Miguel, Elizabeth & Paul Kaiser, John, Marty and Kim. Front row L to R: Anna, Lucas, Nina and Bryanna.

district 3

Singing Frogs Farm (produce)

district 4

Sonoma Mountain Ranch (cattle)

Carolyn Wasem, Santa Rosa John Azevedo, Healdsburg Kathy Reese, Santa Rosa Summer Jeffus, Santa Rosa district 5

Doug Beretta, Santa Rosa Karen Bianchi-Moreda, Valley Ford Steve Dutton, Graton Joe Pozzi, Valley Ford director at large young farmers & ranchers representative

Taylor Serres, Sonoma

Jamie Mickelson, Sonoma Valley

Clo the Cow, Sonoma

Clover Sonoma (dairy & eggs)

Chris & Nick Neve, Petaluma Neve Brothers (wholesale flowers)

Karen Moreda & Joe Moreda, Valley Ford Valley Ford Creamery (cheese)

Jarrid Bordessa, Valley Ford Bordessa Dairy (dairy)

Fred & Nancy Cline, Sonoma

Cline Cellars (wine) & Green String Farm (vegetables)

Ed & Johanna Vanoni, Geyserville Vanoni Ranch (cattle)

Sonoma County’s History Begins

Our Contributors

and Ends with the Land By Gaye LeBaron

The first American settlers, writing in diaries or letters home, talked of the wild grasses growing tall enough to hide a man on horseback. It was enough to make a farmer back in “the States,” reading those letters, set his sights to the Far West. From the potatoes grown in the coastal valleys in the 1850s to today’s border-to-border premium vineyards and innovative crops, “farming,” as the first settlers would have called it, has ruled the land. In the first 125 years of county history, most crops, in their turn, succeeded beyond expectations. Potatoes, then dairy and the orchards -- apples, prunes, walnuts, cherries, some pears and peaches, always grapes for the wine that shipped out in small barrels. And hops, which was the king crop of the early 20th century, grown along the river and creeks from Sonoma to the north county line. When hops moved north toward Canada, and new storage and transportation technology turned our apple canneries and prune dryers into symbols of the “old ways;” when increased population pushed into the orchards and dairy land, and the threat of becoming just another sprawling commuter suburb looked frighteningly real, it was time for grapes to come to the forefront. In spite of the fears of monoculture, we think about how lucky Sonoma County has been to have grapes. The investors in what I like to call the Wine Renaissance of the 1970s fortunately were not the corporate giants. They were men and women who had made money at other things—law, computer science, aeronautics – and looked at the old vines through new eyes and found a way to keep the land for growing things – not just grapes for wine but apples for cider and a hundred new ways to use what fine land can produce. In what seemed to some to happen suddenly, we had a new county governance that stopped the old practice of selling off a chunk of orchard for development when crops failed. Protections were put in place. Read the right-to-farm message on your next property tax bill. Sonoma County ag has mastered the art of co-existence – many farmers, growing many crops, tending flocks and herds for animal products. We are, despite the march of time, still a farm county – with promise that it will endure. Gaye LeBaron has chronicled Sonoma County’s past and present for more than a half century as a journalist and historian. The long-time Press Democrat columnist is the undisputed voice of Sonoma County, using her wit, wisdom and keen intellect to create a vivid portrait of our community. Gaye co-authored two volumes on Santa Rosa’s history from the 1840’s to the 1950’s. Her celebrated work details agriculture’s enduring role in defining Sonoma County’s landscape, economy and way-of-life.

Mary Fricker, Editor, is a retired Press Democrat business reporter who lives near Graton and is a proud member of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau. Her family moved to Sonoma County and settled on six rural acres in 1975, when land was just $2,000 an acre. She especially appreciates the Russian River Valley Winegrowers and the Dutton family for their great example of how farmers and ranchers benefit our community and our youth. Brytann Busick, Contributing Author and a Humboldt County native, is passionate about advocating for the agriculture industry and connecting consumers to the sources and producers of their food. She is a past 4-H & FFA member, received her Master’s in Agricultural Communication from Texas A&M University and is the editor of the Sonoma-Marin Farm News. Carol Schmitt, Contributing Author, lifted her first feed pail at age 5, was driving a tractor by age 7, is very familiar with “picking rock” and “walking beans”, and raised livestock to put her through college. After living in Silicon Valley and managing enterprise technology market development for decades, Carol recently moved to West Sonoma County where she now helps accelerate deployment of clean energy, sustainable agtech & climate change adaptation solutions. Tim Tesconi, Contributing Author and a native and lifelong resident of Sonoma County, is a self-confessed Ag Nerd who is passionate about preserving our county’s rich farming heritage. He has been writing about farms, fairs, 4-H and FFA members for more than 40 years, chronicling the sweeping changes in agriculture and profiling dedicated stewards of the land. Leasha LaBruzzi, Layout Designer. As a multi-skilled freelance designer, Leasha has a sharp eye for detail, and is especially talented at creating eye-catching layouts. Her passion is horse racing which early-on led to an internship in Kentucky where she learned to start yearlings under saddle. She then made her way back to Sonoma County where she became involved in graphic design for the agricultural and equine industries. LaBruzzi Media Craft is a proud member of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau.

Sonoma County Farm Bureau Staff Members Tawny Tesconi EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR



Story Photos by WILL BUCQUOY WB Photography specializes in special events, commercial events, professional profiles, family portraits and media photography. Will is a well-known and dedicated supporter of the community.




Cover Photos Courtesy of STEVE KNUDSEN PHOTOGRAPHY Working Lands Photos Courtesy of BYRON PALMER

Helen Mills INTERN

Groundwater Recharge Jackson Family Wines Works to Secure Water for Sonoma County’s Future By Tim Tesconi

Saralee’s Vineyard, a sprawling stretch of grapevines planted 40 years ago by the late agriculture visionary Saralee McClelland Kunde, is the field laboratory for an ambitious groundwater recharge project that could play a pivotal role in water security for Sonoma County residents. Jackson Family Wines, which now owns Saralee’s Vineyard, a 300-acre property on Slusser Road near Windsor, is overseeing a project that could provide a blueprint for the replenishment of the aquifers lying below Sonoma County and beyond. The study, started in 2017 and under the direction of hydrology scientist Philip Bachand, captures storm water runoff in the vineyard and allows it to slowly seep back into the aquifer. Instead of flowing to the ocean as winter runoff, the flood water is contained by earthen berms around the vineyard so it can gradually filter through the soil and be stored in the aquifer for future use. Data from probes in the soil show a net increase in the water table of the vineyard that is part of the study. “We are proving that there is a sustainable way to recharge groundwater levels in the aquifer by using our vineyards to absorb and store winter rain,” said Shaun Kajiwara, 34, a vineyard manager for Jackson Family Wines. Kajiwara and his wife, Katie Jackson, who is a member of the Jackson family and the vice president for sustainability and external affairs at her family’s Santa Rosa wine company, are overseeing the groundwater recharge program and other environmental projects, like carbon sequestration, that will help combat the impacts of climate change. The Jackson Family takes climate change seriously in planning for their farming future. While California’s groundwater reserves have been dwindling for the last century, the idea of recharge surfaced with the passage of the state’s 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The Act says new public agencies must develop plans to ensure the state’s groundwater basins are stablized, including in the Petaluma Valley, Santa Rosa Plain and Sonoma Valley. It gives the new agencies the authority to assess fees and limit water pumped by larger well owners. The act offered systematic recharge of farm fields as one solution to falling underground water levels, and Jackson Family Wines took up the challenge, devoting time and resources to the feasibility of groundwater recharge on Sonoma County farmland. They will share their information with the Sonoma County Water Agency and other government

Sonoma Country has more than 500,000 acres of farmland that offer the potential for recharge sites.

“We are proving that there is a sustainable way to recharge groundwater levels in the aquifer by using our vineyards to absorb and store winter rain.” agencies to move groundwater recharge forward. Studies in the Central Valley by the University of California have found success in raising the level of water tables by flooding alfalfa fields and almond orchards during the winter. There is tremendous potential for local groundwater recharge considering that Sonoma Country has more than 500,000 acres of farmland that offer the potential for recharge sites. Studies will continue on the optimum soil types and topography for the best groundwater recharge. Katie Jackson, along with her siblings and mother Barbara Banke, own and operate Jackson Family Wines, the parent company of Kendall-Jackson wines and many other top brands including LaCrema, which is located at Saralee’s Vineyard. Jackson and her family are positioning their wine business for the generations that will follow, and that means finding solutions to challenges like drought and the diminishing water levels in aquifers across California and the rest of the country. “The reality is that we are focused on affecting change and passing down a business model that is innovative and scientifically based when it comes to land, water and resource management,” said Kajiwara, who holds a degree in biochemistry. Kajiwara and Jackson have three children. Their children are among the next generation of the Jackson family poised to one day take control of the business started by Katie Jackson’s father, the late Jess Jackson, a San Francisco lawyer who turned a weekend hobby vineyard into one of America’s largest family-owned wineries.

Bee Friendly Farming Jordan Vineyard & Winery’s Sweet Spot By Brytann Busick

At Jordan Vineyard & Winery —a culinary-focused winery with a working farm— viticulture, winemaking, cooking, event planning and pollinating work in harmony to create a unique food story that draws visitors from around the world, including bees. Although Jordan, one of the state’s leading sustainable wineries, never originally intended to be in the business of bees, they now operate as full-time beekeepers with year-round tenants. Bees and other pollinators may be small, but they are critically important to the sustainability of agriculture and ecosystems. Without them many fruits, nuts, vegetables and other foods would not exist. Pollinator populations are in decline, but farmers can play a key role in their health and survival. Sonoma County native Brent Young, who has been the viticulturist for Jordan since 2008 and was promoted to ranch manager in 2012, oversees vineyard management, precision viticulture and sustainable farming. Young works year-round to preserve the sustainability of Jordan Estate’s 1,200 acres, which host a diverse array of plants and animals—and a thriving colony of bees. “Honeybees are a vital piece of the ecosystem,” Young said. “Thirty percent of the plants and trees are pollinated through this process, and up to 95 percent of the plants we eat rely on a pollinator. Without honeybees we are looking at a huge ecosystem collapse.” Jordan Vineyard & Winery is a Certified Bee Friendly Farmer, which means that the Healdsburg winery makes habitat available for pollinators, provides fresh water and practices integrated pest management to promote pollinator health on their lands. Jamie Sherman, Chief Operating Officer of Pollinator Partnership, a San Francisco nonprofit that works to protect pollinators and oversees the Bee Friendly Farming program, said that to date there are over 700 Bee Friendly Farmers registered in the selfcertifying program, 90 of them in Sonoma County. “We work with land owners that want to migrate towards a more ecosystem-services, pollination program which creates habitat for native pollinators,” Sherman said. “We help them to create that kind of environment economically on their land.” Ranch Manager Young said that he works to cultivate a natural habitat where bees can prosper. Jordan’s bee garden provides a safe haven for some of farming’s smallest friends. Just beyond the vineyards, beehives are surrounded by row crops, fruit trees, berries, a floral garden, goats and chickens. In the bee garden, wine corks bob around in small water features, giving bees a place to land. A Manzanita tree provides shade, so the beehives don’t get too hot. Large boulders create microclimates where bees thrive. Over the bee garden fence, cows chew their cud as they stand among the fennel thistles, clover and wildflowers that bees love. Two lakes and the nearby Russian River provide ample water sources. Pollinators who call Jordan home have access to food resources that last the entire foraging season. The bee garden provides a continuation of a garden area that was already teeming with life and an abundance of heirloom, hyper-seasonal varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables that Jordan’s Executive Chef Todd Knoll incorporates into his culinary creations. Now he uses pollen and honey harvested from the traditional Langstroth Hives or Flow Hives where the bees live in the garden. Lisa Mattson, Jordan’s Marketing Director, said that through their efforts, Jordan helps to ensure pollinators’ future. “When you are stewards of a property of this size with so much of the land preserved as natural habitat, sustainability and protecting whatever you can runs through the business,” Mattson said. Jordan shares the story of pollinators in the context of a beautiful winery to guests who visit from

“Honeybees are a vital piece of the ecosystem... up to 95 percent of the plants we eat rely on a pollinator.” all around the world. All estate tours or vineyard hikes either begin or end in the garden. “Everyone visits the apiary,” Mattson said. “Telling the story of sustainable farming and the importance of pollinators, not just on our farm but in society overall, is really powerful because guests take that information home with them with a different appreciation for Jordan, as a wine that they love, but also, hopefully, an appreciation for stewardship of the land.” Although guests may only visit Jordan on appointment, bees continue to roam the property freely, and wild swarms arrive each year, hoping to make Jordan their forever home. Mattson said that bees have become a part of the Jordan story. “When people visit us for a food and wine tasting experience, they learn that Jordan is more than a bottle of wine,” Mattson said. “We hope they take away a new appreciation for our agricultural diversity and see Jordan as a culinary playground for people, for animals and for bees.” Sherman with Pollinator Partnership said that he has worked with the whole range of farmers and ranchers, vineyards and orchardists in Sonoma County. “Farmers and ranchers in Sonoma County have done a lot to improve pollinator health,” Sherman said. “We are very lucky in northern California because people understand the notion of stewardship. We are all fortunate to live here because of that.” Farmers like Jordan’s ranch manager, Young, have and will continue to play a critical role in bees’ health and survival now and in the future. But Sherman said that everyone can do something to help pollinators. “You can plant a garden to support pollinators or you can support people or businesses like Jordan who are good stewards of the land,” Sherman said. “If everyone did something, it would add up to a lot. You don’t have to have 10,000 acres to make a difference.” All you need is a sweet heart to make a home for the pollinators and their honey.

Of 700+ Bee Friendly Farmers registered in the selfcertifying program, 90 of them are in Sonoma County.

Eco-Minded Farming Hog Island Oysters Sustain Tomales Bay By Carol Schmitt

Hog Island Oyster Company, nestled on the shores of Tomales Bay in the town of Marshall, plays a major role in the health of the bay’s rich intertidal ecosystem and the waters beyond. By growing eight million oysters, clams and mussels that each filter up to 50 gallons of seawater per day, by revitalizing the land above the oyster beds, and by teaming up with scientists to research and monitor ocean conditions, the owners of Hog Island are pivotal to the future of the biologically dynamic region. “Our principle is to leave the land and water in better shape than we found it,” said Terry Sawyer, founder and owner with John Finger. Bivalve mollusks are vegetarians that filter seawater to trap phytoplankton and tiny diatom algae, Sawyer said. By pulling down nutrients, the Hog Island oysters grow sweet and fat while the water becomes clearer, which in turn enables more sunshine to filter down and feed vital aquatic plants such as eelgrass. The bivalves and grasses together also lower nutrient loads, stopping devastating algal blooms before they start. Meanwhile, as their oysters filter the bay, Sawyer and Finger are transforming 250 newly acquired acres of former dairy land located above the oyster beds, using strategies like water recapture, watershed restoration and organic farming. They are also investing in new businesses, such as using marine- and land-based organic waste to create rich compost for sale. “Polyculture is more resilient,” Sawyer said about their multiple crops. “It may not look as tidy and sometimes your margin is a little less, but in the long run, we are more sustainable. That to me speaks success.” Sawyer said their success is built on a long-term view of 100 years or more. They have teamed up with UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory in Bodega Bay to research and monitor ocean conditions, such as acidification, which is the chemical nemesis of seawater’s calcium carbonate required to build stronger sea creature bones and shells. At one time, a “canary in a coalmine” was synonymous with early warnings of an environment gone wrong. Now we look to oysters in an estuary. “When you grow animals under water at the interface where land meets water, you know very quickly when something is wrong,” Sawyer said. Self-described as “former marine biologists who love to eat,” Sawyer and Finger incorporated the Hog Island Oyster Company in 1983 when they acquired 160 acres in Marshall, about 30 miles southwest of Santa Rosa. According to researchers from New York University, bivalve farming does less ecological harm than farming other aquaculture species, while producing one of the most high-protein, nutrient dense foods.

Each bivalve can filter up to 50 gallons of seawater per day, trapping phytoplankton and tiny diatom algae.

“Our principle is to leave the land and water in better shape than we found it.” “It’s amazing how much food we can produce with no input of fertilizers, negligible consumption of freshwater and reusable equipment,” Sawyer said. The company’s bounty is dished up to more than 500,000 diners annually through Hog Island’s Marshall farm and its oyster bars in downtown Napa, San Francisco and recently reopened Tony’s Seafood in Marshall. To Sawyer, the key to such aquaculture abundance is diversity. “I describe Tomales Bay as very similar to the resiliency of a native, untouched prairie in the Midwest. It is a widely dynamic system that evolved to be very diverse and not controlled by man or monoculture,” Sawyer said. “When we maintain diversity, we do things right. It’s an incredible feedback loop.” Today, along with the 3.5 million bivalves harvested by Sawyer’s team annually, the Tomales Bay is home to more than 900 species of plants and animals, many of them threatened or endangered, as well as 50,000 wintering waterbirds that make Tomales Bay their home, according to the Marin Watershed Project. This diversity makes the bay more nimble and able to adapt to changing conditions. Hog Island plays a major role in that health. In 2016, the company transitioned to become a Certified B Corporation, creating a legal means to transparently verify their social, philanthropic and environmental impact as well as track profits. Today, solar powers nearly 90 percent of operations. Company vehicles are being transitioned to either hybrid or electric. Single use plastics are virtually eliminated. And Sawyer dedicates more time to volunteering on watershed and land trust committees and boards and on broader initiatives, such as the Billion Oyster Project. “We have an imperative as a society to be as dynamic and nimble as nature,” Sawyer said.

Climate Conscious Brewing Solar Helps Cows Keep Their Cool at Lagunitas Brewing Company By Carol Schmitt

Quirky and irreverent, Lagunitas Brewing Co. of Petaluma is one of the top five U.S. craft brewers according to Nielsen research, churning out more than 984,000 barrels of its tasty brews annually. But behind the scenes the iconic brewery is also creating its own brand of permaculture. From water reclamation, to recycling brewers malt as bovine feed, to adding free-standing solar energy generation that also creates shaded “cow parking” for its onsite ranch, Lagunitas is delivering on a mission that creating awesome beer can be sustainable too. “We had to make the new, standalone solar taller than usual so the space underneath could shade our steers,” said Dean Stocker, manager of Lagunitas Brewing Company’s ranch, 25 acres of grassland and open space located behind the successful brewery. The small acreage supports up to 30 steers, hyper-locally sourced and served at the brewery’s onsite restaurant. The cattle feed on ranch grasses and brewer’s malt, a byproduct of making Lagunitas’ tasty twists on traditional beer styles. Stocker said the byproducts are stored onsite in giant silos until shipped and sold for below-market rates to feed many of Sonoma County’s conventional dairy cows. It turns out cows love the taste of the brewer’s malt. As a sustainable source of protein and fiber, the byproduct is highly nutritious and assists with cows’ ruminant digestion. Lagunitas employs a nutritionist to counsel dairies how to gain the most nutrient value in feed mix that includes the brewer’s malt. Stocker added that non-locals have offered to buy the byproducts. However, by keeping it local and by not hauling the malt away as waste, Lagunitas creates a win/ win that perpetually helps sustain local agriculture. “It’s a Sonoma County thing. Anytime you can reuse and not throw away, it’s cool, and makes me feel so good too,” Stocker said. With the addition of the ranch’s freestanding solar, the brewery will have invested in more than 6,000 solar panels that will generate 2.1 megawatts of power, making it the third largest solar

“We had to make the new, stand-alone solar taller than usual so the space underneath could shade our steers.” installation at a brewery worldwide, according to the North Bay Business Journal. Brewing requires a lot of energy, as the boil kettles and hot liquor tanks need to be heated up constantly. The renewable energy supplies will replace more than half of Lagunitas’ Petaluma energy needs, saving the brewery millions of dollars on energy bills while also slashing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Since 2013, Lagunitas –which with its parent company, Heineken, rank as the fourth largest U.S. brewing company by the Brewers Association –has also treated more than 50,000 gallons per day of high-strength wastewater onsite. Using electrogenic organisms, a special type of bacteria, the self-sustaining system generates clean energy from wastewater, Lagunitas could replace thousands of trucks that once hauled wastewater to municipal systems for treatment. The cleaned water meets strict water recycling regulations and is used onsite for cleaning applications and irrigation of grounds and ranch. Since its founding in 1993, Lagunitas has blazed its own path. The ranch is featured in “Highstories” told by employees sitting on a couch in the field, promoting the genesis for creating new brews. But Stocker said maintaining the ranch means much more than creating a movie-set backdrop for the brewery’s trademark, edgy promotions. Lagunitas Ranch is part of an ongoing desire to “try to do the right thing” and give back to the community, a deeply embedded ethos that has made Lagunitas a high-value brand that the company says is sold in approximately 20 countries worldwide. After all, to quote Lagunitas, “beer speaks, people mumble” –and cool cows are happier too.

More than 6,000 solar panels will generate 2.1 megawatts of power, making it the third largest solar installation at a brewery worldwide.

Working Lands Farmers & Ranchers Assume Stewardship Roles to Protect Open Space By Brytann Busick

Sonoma County farmers and ranchers are producers of an overlooked but essential commodity: wide open spaces. These agriculturalists are among the most important stewards of resources that the whole community cares about, said Karen Gaffney, Conservation Planning Program Manager for the Sonoma County Ag + Open Space District. “We have really viable agriculture in Sonoma County with very strong markets that are protecting open space lands without the public needing to pay for them,” said Gaffney. “Working lands, farmers and ranchers make Sonoma County what it is,” said Dr. Stephanie Larsen, Director of University of California Cooperative Extension in Sonoma County. “We have agriculture on our County Seal, which I think people forget all the time. Agriculture is the economic engine of this county,” said Larsen, who has worked in Extension for 35 years. Gaffney said that agriculture has been actively practiced in Sonoma County for hundreds of years and today the majority of land in Sonoma County is privately owned agriculture and open space. “Whether it’s forest, groundwater, carbon, biodiversity or soil, agriculture landowners play a huge role in stewardship of our county’s natural capital,” Gaffney said. Working lands also provide clean, reliable drinking water, protection from natural hazards, local foods, climate change resiliency, recreation and tourism opportunities, Gaffney said. Larsen said farmers and ranchers assume stewardship roles because society encroaches on wild spaces. Stewarding open spaces fosters economic vitality. “Parts of the land that are in agriculture production are supporting jobs, supporting the economy, and even the most intensive agriculture use has some multiple benefit value that comes from it,” said Gaffney.

Sonoma Mountain Institute

Sonoma Mountain Institute, founded in 2003, is an example of ag stewardship. It is a learning laboratory for different land management methodologies including integrated methods of soil-building, replanting and watershed management, but their primary focus is responsibly maintaining grazing lands across Sonoma County. Byron Palmer, Grassland Manager at Sonoma Mountain Institute, oversees their home restoration grazing property in Petaluma and works with several dairies in Sonoma and Marin counties to graze 700-850 head of cattle. He actively stewards the land using rotational grazing and regenerative ranching practices. Palmer, who never thought he would be a rancher, said most people don’t realize that, especially in seasonal rainfall climates like in California, healthy grasslands require grazing livestock. “I think that when people think about cattle, they don’t always think about the functional role they play in a grassland ecosystem,” Palmer said. “Grasslands coevolved with herbivores. You can’t have a healthy one without the other.” Why do people mow their lawns? Because grass doesn’t drop its leaves like a tree. “If grass isn’t mechanically removed it grows, and it just sits there, has a bunch of thatch, and

“Unmanaged, it can take 15 years for organic matter from grass to become integrated back in the soil.” oxidizes,” Palmer said. “Unmanaged, it can take 15 years for organic matter from grass to become integrated back in the soil.” Without lawn mowers or weed wackers, grass depends on the mechanical disturbance—biting, removing and trampling—of an herbivore to graze it. Palmer said the relationship between herbivores and grasslands has existed for hundreds of thousands of years, and it has come to define ecosystem health. Healthy grasslands also need rest, like so many other things in life. Historically, natural predators kept herbivores moving. Today, in California, most dominant native herds and predators are gone. Palmer said that his responsibility as a land manager is to take on the role of the predators that used to walk this land. “Whenever you destroy the role of an animal in the ecosystem you essentially take on its responsibility,” Palmer said. “Now, because there aren’t predators and because we don’t have large herds of herbivores—you don’t want large herds of Tule Elk running through downtown Rohnert Park—land owners keep animals moving and the grass growing and regenerating.” According to data collected from 70 monitoring plots, Sonoma Mountain Institute’s land management methods are working. One institute property saw a 193 percent increase in biodiversity in a five-year period. “Every property we have taken over we have seen pretty drastic changes in terms of the number of total vegetative species,” Palmer said. “It is really exciting to see new species coming in through responsible and thoughtful management of the land.” As one example, he said the institute took over a property on Sonoma Mountain that hadn’t been grazed for 15 years. “When we got it, it was just standing thistle and thatch, three feet high. The ecosystem service function of that property had diminished,” Palmer said, referring to the benefits that people get from nature. “But within one year of grazing this place we saw a 30-40 percent decrease in thistle and invasive plant species, an increase in biodiversity and the ecosystem services function was restored.” Palmer explained that the economic incentive of grazing cattle on the landscape made the transformation possible. “I think that agriculture must be a part of the solution to help improve the function of the ecology on this planet because it—between arable land and grazing land—covers the greatest category of land in the world,” Palmer said. “I really enjoy helping craft, with the team at SMI, management plans that are producing results that provide benefits to the land and allow working lands to be regenerative and sustainable.”

Fire Prevention

Managed land can also play an important role in mitigating the impact of fire, which threatens the health and safety of Sonoma County residents as much as any other challenge. For example, cattle graze down annual and perennial grasses, promoting new growth and leaving less dead underbrush that acts as kindling. This livestock grazing lowers wildfire risk and reduces the ultimate impact of the fire by decreasing flame speed, spread and burn temperature. “Grazing reduces thatch loads. So, it reduces fuel. It also keeps the vegetation matrix much more open. It keeps the shrubs down and keeps new growth from getting choked in, which is important to decreasing fire loads. They are more defensible spaces too,” Palmer said. Larsen with UC Cooperative Extension evaluated all rangeland properties that burned in the 2017 fires. In comparison to working lands, unmanaged land was much more severely burned, she said. The properties that had been grazed experienced a quick, healthy burn. Unmanaged land burned hotter and longer, creating white ash, sealing the soil and making it hydrophobic. Gaffney with Sonoma County Ag + Open Space agreed there is strong anecdotal evidence that agricultural lands, not surprisingly, were more resilient to fires in 2017. In addition, Ag + Open Space is partnering with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to research how agricultural land fared and responded to the 2017 fires.

Doing Right by the Land

Palmer, Larsen and Gaffney all agree that, in their experience, farmers and ranchers in Sonoma County are doing right by the land. “I work with people in traditional agriculture across Marin, Sonoma and many other counties across northern California, and every single one of them cares deeply about the land they manage,” Palmer said. He thinks landowners care for the land especially because it supports their family and their community. “Farmers and ranchers are so tied to the land day in and day out that they know it,” Palmer said. “They understand weather and season patterns and the movements of animals. They notice changes acutely.” Larsen said Sonoma County farming and ranching families have had properties for over 100 years because they sought economically and ecologically viable stewardship. If landowners didn’t take care of their land, they wouldn’t be able to make a profit. “That’s the piece that people maybe don’t understand,” Larsen said. “If land is not sustainable and resilient to drought and to fire, landowners aren’t going to be able to make money. Agriculturalists do what they do for the culture and for their heritage, they want to be able to pass on their farm or ranch to future generations.” Palmer shared a similar sentiment. “Everyone’s lives in Sonoma County is touched in some way by the industries of agriculture,” Palmer said. “Without working lands, we’d be losing the ecological benefits, economic function, cultural heritage and the view sheds and open spaces that we all love.”

“Grazing reduces thatch loads. So, it reduces fuel... It keeps the shrubs down and keeps new growth from getting choked in, which is important to decreasing fire loads.”

One institute property saw a 193 percent increase in biodiversity in a five-year period.

Waste Management Weber Brothers Focus on Environment; Producing Eggs and Organic Fertilizer By Tim Tesconi

For more than 100 years, Scott and Mike Weber’s family has been producing eggs from their farm in Petaluma, proud survivors in one of America’s toughest agricultural businesses. It’s not a business venture for those unwilling to change, adapt or embrace challenges, which the Weber family has consistently done to not only survive but thrive at their rural Petaluma enclave. Like many Sonoma County farmers, the Weber brothers, fifth generation Petaluma poultry ranchers, are motivated to feed people, producing a healthy product at an affordable price. And they are committed to doing it in a way that provides the best care of their 500,000 laying hens and the environment at their farm. And beyond. That’s why they’ve invested millions of dollars to raise cage-free hens, produce tons of organic fertilizer for the state’s farmers and make ongoing environmental upgrades. “Every day we are focused on what we do to the air, soil and water, always looking at how we can do better to lessen the impact,” said Mike Weber of his family’s eco-farming quest. Tall and agile, Weber, 50, is an agricultural hybrid - university educated and environmentally aware but blessed with a farmer’s insatiable urge to nurture and produce. “If we don’t do this who will? People need to eat,” said Weber, walking through one of the houses where free roaming Leghorn hens scratch in rice hulls, skitter from roost-to-roost and cackle in a harmonious cacophony. Mike and Scott Weber, who took over the operation from their father, the late Dick Weber, are strategically positioning their historic poultry farm to be around for the next generation, adhering to technological efficiencies and an environmental ethic consistent with being a farmer on the urban edge of the San Francisco metropolitan area. The farm provides housing for 12 of its 25 employees. “We are in this for the long haul,” said Mike Weber. The brothers have invested heavily in cage-free avian housing and an innovative, energy-efficient manure management system that produces a dry, odor-free fertilizer used by organic farmers in Sonoma County and throughout California. The chicken manure – more than 60 tons a day - is moved out of the houses on a conveyer belt and deposited into a contained storage pit where it is again moved on to a belt to be dried. Warm air, removed from the chicken houses as part of the air conditioning for the birds, dries the manure. Every 10 tons of wet manure

“Every day we are focused on what we do to the air, soil and water, always looking at how we can do better.” produces 3.5 tons of a dried material highly valued by organic farmers. Manure is the lifeblood of organic farming. Weber Family Farms’ manure fertilizes everything from organic apples in Sebastopol to wild rice for the celebrated Lundberg Family Farms in the upper Sacramento Valley. The Webers said it is gratifying that waste from their laying hens is enhancing the quality and yields of many crops, completing a cycle of production helping to feed the planet. In the 1940s there were thousands of egg farms around Petaluma, crowned the “Egg Basket of the World.” Today, the Webers and a handful of others are the only producers left in Sonoma County, overseeing chicken flocks that supply millions of eggs throughout the county and the entire San Francisco Bay Area. Weber Family Farms is part of the vast North Coast foodshed filling consumer pipelines with everyday staples like milk and eggs and specialty products like artisan cheeses and organic salad greens. The next big environmental project at Weber Family Farms is a four-acre solar field – one of the largest in the North Bay – in a pasture bordering the hen houses. The project, now in the permitting process, will be installed next year to meet the energy needs of the farm. “We prefer to be on the leading edge,” said Mike Weber. “This is where we need to go.”

Every 10 tons of wet manure produces 3.5 tons of a dried material highly valued by organic farmers.

Carbon Farming Valley Ford Rancher is a Dedicated Carbon Farmer on Coastal Pasturelands By Tim Tesconi

Valley Ford rancher Joe Pozzi takes the pursuit of excellence very seriously in producing lamb, wool and beef from coastal pastureland he considers both a working farmscape and environmental treasure. Now, Pozzi, a fourth generation SonomaMarin livestock rancher, has added carbon farmer to his agricultural resume, taking the same targeted approach to carbon farming as he does to raising quality lamb for Whole Foods Markets in Northern California. Carbon farming, said Pozzi, is ranching in a way that reduces greenhouse gas emissions while capturing carbon in vegetation and soils. That reduces atmospheric carbon warming the planet. The captured, or, sequestered, carbon also benefits the farmer as it enhances plant growth and increases organic matter that supplies nutrients to plants and improves water retention capacity in the soil. As a dedicated conservationist, Pozzi believes carbon farming is the right thing to do for his land, the environment and the future of agriculture in a region where an environmental ethic is paramount in food and farming. It makes economic sense, too, because the land is more productive. The stored carbon is increasing the health and productivity of the sweeping coastal grasslands where Pozzi’s sheep and cattle graze. “A carbon farming plan makes you a better steward of your land, more in tune with the plant species you have on the ranch and how they can capture carbon from the air and put it back into the soil,” said Pozzi, who spent two years developing the comprehensive plan for his 356acre ranch. He worked with the Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District and the Marin County Resource Conservation District on the blueprint for managing carbon resources. Stephanie Larson, certified range specialist with UC Cooperative Extension, assisted with the plan. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the plan requires the reduced and judicious use of fossil fuels and enhancing the ranch’s natural environment. Pozzi’s plan includes planting trees and vegetation along streams and applying compost to the soil to improve water retention. Pozzi limits his use of fossil fuels and has eliminated intrusive practices like plowing in favor of using no-till drilling to plant pasture seeds. The plan calls for a network of cross fencing and water development that spreads his sheep and cattle over the ranch to better distribute manure and lessen compaction in concentrated areas. Carbon sequestration is a practice being adopted by a growing number of ranchers and landowners concerned about the impacts of climate change and the necessity of conserving natural

“A carbon farming plan makes you a better steward of your land.” resources, said Pozzi, who also serves as district manager of the Gold Ridge Conservation District. Pozzi said a model based on local data by the Carbon Cycle Institute in Marin County estimates his practices over the last five years have already captured 480 metric tons of CO2, which is equivalent to the carbon emissions produced by 1.2 million vehicle miles. He said that model will be multipled many times over as more ranchers use their land to store atmospheric carbon. Carbon farming fits into Pozzi’s farming philosophy of enhancing the environment while providing food security for the region now and in the future. He believes it’s part of the natural evolution of his ranching operation. “I’ve always said that you have to have a strong natural resources base on your property to be successful in ranching,” said Pozzi, a community leader dedicated to land conservation and the economic viability of family farms. He is director and past president of Sonoma County Farm Bureau, the county’s largest agriculture organization, and active in many other agriculture and livestock organizations at the county, state and national levels. Most Bay Area residents don’t realize the tremendous environmental value of the farms, ranches, vineyards and orchards that unfold on the urban edge, providing benefits ranging from open space to fresh food, the rancher said. “As people in our community learn more about what we are doing, I believe they will support our farmers and ranchers, who provide the working landscapes we all appreciate,” said Pozzi.

Over the last five years, Pozzi’s practices have already captured 480 metric tons of CO2, which is equivalent to the carbon emissions produced by 1.2 million vehicle miles.

Regenerative Ranching Freestone Ranch Produces Healthy Food and Healthy Soil By Carol Schmitt

Jonathan and Misty Gay have lived and raised children for 14 years on Freestone Ranch near Valley Ford, where they produce grass-fed beef and painstakingly practice regenerative ranching to nurture soil health. With strategic planting, composting, no-tilling, managed cattle grazing, erosion control, stream protection and more, the Gays are literally rebuilding their land’s soil health, which had deteriorated when the land was once farmed for potatoes and deeply grazed. Their efforts nurture healthy soils crucial to sequestering carbon, help control wildfires and store rainwater. Their land management practices nurture a vibrant ecosystem of raptors, bobcats, coyotes, rodents and snakes, cattle, plants, restored wetlands and spring-fed streams. “Our mission, in addition to creating healthy food, is to show that agriculture can also improve the function of the entire ecosystem of native species and the soils that feed them,” said Jonathan Gay. “We’re working on building that synergy for the future.” In some ways the Gays repeat the work of wooly mammoth and giant bison that once roamed the San Francisco Bay Area, transforming forests to grasslands more than 100,000 years ago. Like the ancient herds, the Gays tap the complex grazing-browsing-trampling regime of their cattle herds to increase soil health. The highly monitored and managed process effectively cycles nutrients like compost and nurtures soil’s mycelium bacteria. The healthy soil and bacteria spur plants to sink their roots deeper and broader, invigorating growth. Healthy plants naturally produce excess sugars, which are released back into the soil, and sugars-rich soils and bacteria are best at absorbing carbon, as much as 25 to 60 tons captured and stored per acre. “We’ve done talks and tours about soils biology and we have been amazed by people’s geekiness around soils. Everyone seems curious about the role healthy soils play in a healthy environment,” said Misty Gay. According to research included in California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment 2018, composting ranchlands can increase sequestration of carbon in the soil’s organic matter by 3 percent, decrease runoff and increase the soil’s water holding capacity. Across California’s working lands, that can mean an increase of up to 4.7 million acre-feet of water every year, and a single application of compost can increase soil organic carbon sequestration for up to 30 years. “Misty and Jon were our first clients to complete a Carbon Farm Plan, which led them to apply compost to kick-start their soils,” said Adriana Stagnaro, Outreach and Project Manager for Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District. A Carbon Farm Plan is a document that describes a property’s current stock of carbon in the soil’s organic matter and the opportunities for increasing that stock. “The Gays are really amazing and passionate land stewards who make conservation projects a priority, even without the support of outside funding,” Stagnaro said.

Our mission is to show that agriculture can also improve the function of the entire ecosystem of native species and the soils that feed them.” While the Gay’s Carbon Farm Plan has been used to apply for funding for Creekside planting, watershed restoration and compost applications, the Gays personally financed and labored to install extensive fencing and plantings to protect streams and stop erosive gullying. These projects are all a part of the Plan and are expected to contribute to the ranch’s ability to capture carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the ground and vegetation, where it can do good for the climate and the ranch’s natural ecosystem. Such management and planned grazing also help control invasive plants, like coyote brush, that can fuel devastating wildfires. “Improving soils and restoring watersheds is a way we can all do active good,” said Jonathan Gay. Resource Conservation Districts and other funding agencies are part of a critical support system to farms and ranches that struggle to finance conservation projects like these. The Gold Ridge and Sonoma Resource Conservation Districts are working on a number of other Carbon Farm Plans throughout Sonoma County, assisting thousands of acres of ranches, forests, vineyards and orchards, Misty said. “We need to relook at what we choose and what we do, as these things are all super connected and complicated. We don’t need to look to textbooks to teach our children about healthy ecosystems and diversity. It’s right here where we live,” Misty Gay added.

A single application of compost can increase soil organic carbon sequestration for up to 30 years.

Supporting Habitats MacMurray Ranch Turns Wine into Water By Brytann Busick

At E. & J. Gallo Winery’s MacMurray Ranch property on Westside Road in Healdsburg, Environmental Manager John Nagle flips the switch on an intricate valving system. He waits. Water starts to flow from an onsite reservoir into nearby Porter Creek. And just like that, Nagle performs the opposite of one of history’s greatest miracles. He turns wine into water. Nagle and the rest of Gallo’s environmentally conscious staff operate in a space dedicated to conservation and quality. Their purposeful efforts could have long-term effects for threatened species and ecosystems in Northern California. “We are trying to help two species in the Russian River: Steelhead, which are threatened, and the Coho, which are endangered,” Nagle said. “In order to delist the Coho in the Russian River, you need to have more fish in the river. So, this project is one way of addressing the endangered species issues in the Russian River.” The family-owned winery grows lower Russian River fruits including Pinot, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay and has 424 of 1500 acres planted to vine at MacMurray Ranch. Gallo uses their water rights for habitat enhancement on Porter Creek to improve salmon and overall stream health. “The water rights on this property are tied to the land,” Nagle explained. “We have a water right to take water out of a river well and hold it in a reservoir on the property. We use a portion for irrigation and a portion is put into Porter Creek.” Stream enhancement supplements water at critical life stages of the fish in order, not just for fish survival, but to sustain, improve and regenerate the fish populations. Nagle said that although the complicated scientific process yields clear benefits, the reason behind Gallo’s practices is simpler. “We are trying to regenerate the fish populations because it is the right thing to do,” Nagle said. “Just as we are good stewards of our award-winning grapes, we seek to be good stewards of the land.” Gallo has had a long and rich history of environmental stewardship and has worked to improve the riparian area on the property. They were proactive on sediment control issues, replanting native grasses and using all available tools for water conservation including soil moisture probes, drip irrigation and cover cropping. “We put in bridges instead of stream crossings, installed 11 large woody debris areas in the creek, removed a 70-year old flash dam to allow fish passage and since 2010 we have been working with the Army Corps of Engineers to fill up the creek in the fall so that they have a place to put brood stocking of Coho Salmon.” During the drought of 2014, representatives from Gallo met with the National Oceanic and

“We are trying to help two species in the Russian River: Steelhead (threatened) and Coho Salmon (endangered).” Atmospheric Administration and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and agreed to participate in a Voluntary Drought Initiative to continue to supply water in the creek to support critical salmon life stages. With Sonoma Resource Conservation District, Gallo also applied for a grant with Wildlife Conservation Board to create a system to manage the flows of water from their onsite reservoir into Porter Creek. The intricate valving system they developed using grant funds allows Nagle to schedule water flows and mimic large storm events in Porter Creek from his computer, which prevents fry from being stranded because of varying water levels, mimics natural stress conditions and pushes fry out of the creek in the spring. Nagle said that the three-year project will result in a manual about how to operate the system for 20 years and hopes the project can be replicated by other landowners in Sonoma County. “This project has really been able to demonstrate how little water is needed in the system for fish survival,” Nagle said. “Here on Porter Creek, Coho survival can literally come down to gallons of water.” Coho Salmon are an important indicator of health on the land because they are highly dependent on not just a healthy river but also healthy tributaries as their life cycle travels through both. Nagle said that coordinated efforts are what it’s going to take to improve their population. “One farmer or property owner doing a similar project on their land wouldn’t be enough to make a big difference,” Nagle said. “I believe many smaller projects will have a bigger impact than one large project. Through private-public partnerships, and long-term collaborative efforts, everyone can do his or her part.” Nagle said he thinks it’s important for farmers and ranchers to implement sustainable practices because they are a part of the environment and have a vested interest in ensuring that it stays healthy. Nagle’s real miracle may be proving that sustainability and profitability go hand-in-hand. “I believe the project at MacMurray Ranch is proof of concept that environmental stewardship of land and profitable farming can reside together,” Nagle said. “I don’t buy the argument that these must be two separate activities. They can be integrated into overall land management and farming strategy.”

MacMurray Ranch put in bridges instead of stream crossings, installed 11 large woody debris areas in the creek, and removed a 70-year-old flash dam to allow fish passage.

Water Reuse Santa Rosa Farmers are Global Leaders in Water Recycling By Carol Schmitt

What do a toilet flushing in the City of Santa Rosa and farming have in common? A fourdecade partnership that is renowned worldwide for successful reclamation and reuse of urban wastewater. According to Doug Beretta of Beretta Family Farm’s organic dairy on Llano Road, and Rip Forrey, Irrigation Manager for the City of Santa Rosa Water Department, recycling water and using it to irrigate pastures and fields has been a “win/win” for nearly 40 years. “Working with local dairies, farmers and grape growers to use our recycled water has been mutually beneficial to the agricultural customers and rate payers,” said Forrey. He added that cost savings and greatly reduced discharges into the Russian River are only two of the many benefits; preservation of ground and surface water, green space, community dividers, wildlife habitat, diversity of uses, carbon sequestration, employment opportunities, mitigation credits and agricultural preservation are just some of the less quantifiable merits associated with agricultural reuse. Tertiary treated wastewater — which is a highly sophisticated process including filtration, aeration, oxidization and disinfection – is the process that allows use of reclaimed water to grow crops locally. Growing our own crops reduces the number of products that need to be transported into Sonoma County, Forrey said. Using reclaimed water has also reduced, and in some cases eliminated, the use of potentially millions of gallons of ground and/or surface water that had been utilized in the past for irrigation. “We’ve been the biggest water recyclers for decades,” Beretta said. “Just think where our groundwater would be and how much the city would have had to spend on overflow penalties and infrastructure if we hadn’t raised our hands to use the reclaimed water.” The symbiotic relationships have firmly established Santa Rosa as a global leader in water recycling. In 1981, Beretta said his father negotiated their original irrigation contract. It signaled a shift from piping tertiary water out to sea via the Russian River to, instead, using it locally. Beretta said that he has since expanded the irrigation from the original 90 acres to 200 of his organic dairy’s 400 acres. “Over the years, as the city continued to grow, they regularly asked us to take more water. And we have,” said Beretta. According to the City of Santa Rosa, it has one of the largest recycled water systems in the world. Of nearly seven billion gallons of water recycled annually, just two percent is not reclaimed. Nearly 40 percent irrigates 6,400 acres of agricultural and urban lands located within

The city’s reclamation system consists of over 20 miles of buried pipeline and 11 ponds.

“Just think... how much the city would have had to spend on overflow penalties and infrastructure if we hadn’t raised our hands to use the reclaimed water.” 20 miles of the water treatment plant on Llano Road. The city’s reclamation system consists of over 20 miles of buried pipeline and 11 ponds, Forrey said. He added that the city is responsible for the operation, maintenance and repair of this infrastructure while the agricultural customers are responsible for the upkeep of their irrigation infrastructure. The other 60 percent of recycled water, nearly 11 million gallons a day, is pumped 42 miles uphill to the Geysers Recharge Project to generate electricity. The Geysers came online in 20032004 at an estimated cost of more than $220 million as part of broader City of Santa Rosa’s Recycled Water Master Plan updated in 2007. Infrastructure maintenance costs, repair and reliability are regular concerns when dealing with buried pipelines and ponds, Forrey said. When The Geysers system has a breakdown, all of the water transfers are off until repairs can be completed. In contrast, because of the design of the agricultural reuse system, only a portion of the system is affected when a malfunction occurs, and water transfers can continue to most of the customers. Having multiple outlets for reclaimed water use benefits the entire community. The Geysers and reuse components are critical to the city’s ongoing operations, Forrey said. Without either one of these components the only other option for reclaimed water is discharge into the Russian River. Weather and natural disasters also play a critical role. Whenever there are heavy winter rains or flooding, Beretta said, Santa Rosa’s 60-plus ag partners have been willing to increase irrigation to help the city. Agricultural reuse is insurance against natural disasters, Forrey explained. Not only is reuse a critical component of the water balance for reclaimed water but also a hedge against natural disasters. “Reclaiming water is very important to making Sonoma County a desirable place to live and work,” Forrey said.

FAST FACTS about farming



About 99 percent of U.S. farms are operated by families – individuals, family partnerships or family corporations.


Farm and ranch families comprise just 2 percent of the U.S. population.

Today, farmers and ranchers receive only 15 cents out of every dollar spent on food at home and away from home. The rest goes for costs beyond the farm gate: wages and materials for production, processing, marketing, transportation and distribution. In 1980, farmers and ranchers received 31 cents.

Each American farmer produces food and fiber for 165 PEOPLE annually, both in the U.S. and abroad. Above data according to the American Farm Bureau.


Winegrapes account for only 6% of Sonoma County’s 1 million acres. (urban 9%, pastures 36%, forests 49%)

Sonoma County exports 9 different commodities to 24 countries. (Sonoma County Deptartment of Agriculture/Weights & Measures 2017 Crop Report)

Sonoma County’s agricultural economy has a total economic impact of

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$7.04 billion.


(IMPLAN derived from 2012 USDA Ag Census)

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