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Growing up in Salinas as a child, my view of agriculture was not a warm and fuzzy feeling. My father worked all his life in strawberries, beginning as a share cropper and ending up the owner of Monterey County Strawberries.

When I was old enough to work, and summer came, my father informed his 6 children, 3 boys and 3 girls that during summer break, we would all be working in the strawberry fields. His reasoning: he wanted us to experience the long hours, hard work and difficult yet honest way of life experienced by people who labored in the fields. It was his way of motivating us to stay in school, study hard and find a better path than stoop labor. It worked.

When I was asked to participate in AgKnowledge, I saw the opportunity to learn about agriculture not from the eyes of a child performing stoop labor, remembering his father leaving home early and coming home late, dirty and tired; rather, as a way to learn about the multi-billion dollar, multi-faceted industry that has shaped the Salinas Valley and County of Monterey. While the class participated one morning in picking strawberries as part of a farm worker study session, most of our time included hearing from farm owners, agricultural experts, scientist, educators, lawyers, industry representatives, water regulators and may others and taking numerous field trips. AgKnowledge, a name rightly coined, does indeed educate one on the breadth, depth and complexity of what makes up new agriculture in Monterey County.

My “ah ha” moment for the course was realizing that AgKnowledge acted not only as a vehicle to share knowledge of agricultural best practices but as a catalyst of collaboration and leadership. The application of AgKnowledge to my workplace was gathering subject matter content and collaborating with industry experts to compile various Economic Development Pillar “infographics” that our department is using in presentations, our website and marketing events. The experience was well worth the time and effort.

While I no longer perform stoop labor as I once did as a youth, I would encourage others to view agriculture in an enlightened and respectable fashion. New Agriculture is much more than I once remembered.

Jerry Hernandez
Analyst, Economic Development, Monterey County

“AgKnowledge was an amazing experience. I walked in thinking I knew a good deal about the agricultural industry. Wrong. The program opened my eyes and taught me far more than I ever imagined. Industry leaders shared their insight in farm fields, board rooms and research labs. Their depth of agricultural knowledge made the program worthwhile and challenging. I would recommend this program to fellow journalists and anyone else who wants to learn more about the county’s leading industry.”

Carolina Garcia
Executive Editor, The Monterey County Herald.

“It was a full sensory experience to hear, see, smell, taste and touch the wide variety of …. Monterey County agricultural industry. Per¬fectly complimenting this experience was the cadre of industry leaders who graciously shared their knowledge. Without a doubt, I strongly recommend the program.”

Wayne Tanda
Director, Monterey County, Office of Resource Management