Sustainability: It comes in many flavors: economic, social, cultural, environmental, and many other permeations. We work hard to be exceptional stewards of the natural resources which we have been blessed-the soil, the water, the geography, the wildlife-it is essential to our sense of place. In the small farming communities of the Sacramento Valley we live everyday with these many examples of sustainable resources and do not give it much thought. It is just our way of life, it’s our values, all around us, and accepted as the cultural norm in the Sacramento Valley.
The intergenerational and interdependent life of our small farming community illustrates an instance of sustainability that isn’t talked about much. Farming and ranching operations that have been around for 3 or 4 generations know the importance of being interconnected. Education is an essential part of this too. Through education we are preparing the next generation to continue and effectively improve our economic and social community that works to feed the world. It isn’t easy in this economic climate. School budgets, from pre-school through high school, are under tremendous strains. In our small communities, we have been struggling to maintain our school programs with everyone doing more with less. It is not always a Norman Rockwell painting, but as bleak as it may seem at times, I know that we will get through it. Our parents and grandparents got through worse times and succeeded. Education is essential in preparing our youngsters for adulthood and to becoming the next generation of community, state and perhaps national leaders. This isn’t only about what goes on in the classrooms. It is about what goes on in 4-H and Future Farmers of America clubs and projects. It is about kids participating in many diverse activities in school, whether it is Band, or Sports, or Culture Club, or Interact, or Key Club, or Academic Decathlon. It is about involvement in the community that is unique with small farming towns. And it is about kids going out and walking the fields with Grandpa or riding the tractor with Dad. Agriculture in not only a lifestyle, it is a culture, with values that are held up as ideal characteristics of the American experience. Education weaves throughout and is essential to our success.
Sustainability means different things to different people. To me, it means being able to effectively and efficiently meet the needs of the present without compromising the future. And that is what we work for everyday in the Sacramento Valley on so many levels without stopping to dwell on it. It is our culture and we will persevere and succeed.