Farmers are mostly to blame – Red Bluff Daily News

It’s been almost 25 years since we remodeled our home and stuffed memories into Rubbermaid tubs to keep them safe until our project was done.

At the urging of my son, who wanted visual proof that he really enjoyed college, my mission was to find photo albums from a time period that were missing from our not-so-impressive photo book collection and put them back on the shelf.

Last week, I finally opened up our dusty storage shed and waded through piles of stuff I never should have kept in the first place.

What I discovered between the sticky and faded pages of the album was an album devoted strictly to articles that I cut out and decided to use as a portfolio of my work. One article from 1989 was an article about farmland development in San Luis Obispo.

This column could easily have been written about developments in Tehama County and their impact on local farmers. All it took was a few name changes and more input from the local farm office.

In 1989, according to a Mustang Daily News article written by yours truly, French Brothers Investments proposed to develop 270 homes, five business parks and a social center, to be called Obispo Del Sur on land destined for grazing.

The local farm office was open and adamant that the development was a bad decision for ranchers due to the value of the land and the scarcity of water in the area.

“If it doesn’t rain anymore this winter, all these discussions may just be news articles,” said David Pereira, chairman of the San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau’s land use committee, who attended the meeting.

The local farm bureau and Cal Poly agriculture professors openly opposed growth on grazing land because it inflated the value of marginal land and was detrimental to the future of the cattle industry in San Luis Obispo.

“A lot of springs that exist on earth are going to be put to other uses,” said animal science professor Mike Hall. “And beef farmers will have to find another place to put their cattle.”

“We lose thousands of acres of farmland every day,” Hall said in the 1989 article. “We really need to preserve farmland.”

The development took place because the developer convinced city officials that the seven underground wells already on the property would recharge groundwater instead of flowing directly into the ocean.

This week I looked at home sales in that approved real estate development when I was a college reporter in 1989. A 1,500-square-foot house built more than 30 years ago sells for between $1 million and $1.75 million.

Why am I writing about this today?

Because I should blame the farmers of Tehama County and the local Farm Bureau, of which I am a member. We spoke in the early 1990s, thanks to Tom Heffernan, who helped introduce an ordinance prohibiting the export of groundwater from out-of-county farmers who tried to take ours.

But where were we when Rancho Tehama proposed more than 2,000 homesites on grassland in 1969? Where were we when the county approved the development of 10- and 20-acre parcels in rural Tehama County, where groundwater has always been an issue?

And where were we when the state and federal government stepped in and seized our surface water rights? Why did we allow our local irrigation district boards to negotiate agreements with the government when farms desperately needed that water for livestock and crops?

I don’t really have an answer for that. All I know is that local farmers and the farm bureau can and should do better to protect our farmland and their water rights so that farms big and small can stay in business.

It’s time to make a difference by showing up and speaking up.

squirrel talk

Wow. I ran out of room to have a deep discussion about squirrels. However, I received a pretty delicious recipe from local reader S. Catanich. His pairing with the squirrel stew with paprika and vegetables sounds fabulous. I think he shared that in a local letter to the good readers of this paper.

I must confess that I live next door to some of the most capable hunters in Tehama County. Steve Gappa is a hunter, mounter, and taxidermist (and a prominent retired educator in this county). His wife, Cindy, is a better wild game chef.

Cindy made one of the tastiest squirrel stews with tarragon dumplings I’ve ever tasted. In fact, it’s the only squirrel I’ve ever eaten and would happily do so again.

There are no squirrel warning labels, so I’ll pass on the local rule of thumb, according to my excellent squirrel-hunting neighbors. They insist that only tree squirrels are for food and must be hunted in months ending in -er. That’s September, October, November and December.

I’ll call Cindy and see if I can share her recipe during one of the -er months. Until then, she supports our local farmers and eats beef, pork, lamb, chicken, or catfish. If you are a vegetarian, enjoy the local almonds, walnuts, olives and prunes.

Shanna Long is a fourth generation journalist and former editor of the Corning Daily Observer. She and her husband reside in Corning and grow almonds, walnuts, and prunes. You can reach her at, instagram @sjolong.