Sunday, January 25, 2015

Farmbudsman to help locals navigate system

From page A1 | June 25, 2013 |

The red tape isn’t disappearing completely for the farmers of Solano and Yolo counties, but they’re hopeful it will become a whole lot more transparent with the help of Yolo County farmbudsman Michelle Stephens.

Stephens is tasked with supporting farmers in the navigation of complex regulatory processes in Yolo and Solano counties in the role of farmbudsman. Finding your way through the bureaucratic system is one of the biggest challenges facing the economic viability of the region’s growers, according to The Yolo County Ag and Food Alliance.

The tribulations of those in the agriculture industry are ingrained in Stephens,  a fifth-generation cattle rancher in Calaveras County. Spurred on by an interest in learning more about economic development — specifically in rural areas — she earned a bachelor’s degree from UC Davis and a master’s from University of Texas.

“This position is ideal for me because it combines the business planning stuff that I worked on in school,” she said, “and my personal passion to work in agriculture and to help small- and medium-sized farmers and ranchers find success.”

In January, the Board of Supervisors of Yolo and Solano counties reached an agreement to collectively spend $54,000 annually through the counties’ respective Economic Development Departments and fund the hiring of a farmbudsman through fiscal year 2015-16.

The decision was celebrated by the Yolo County Ag and Food Alliance, which began advocating for the creation of a farmbudsman position after participants in the 2010 Yolo County Regional Food Forum highlighted a need for it.

The operating agreement between the counties, in association with the Solano Community College Small Business Development Center, includes expected goals for the new farmbudsman, which comes with a three-year contract and a $50 hourly wage.

They anticipate a 20 percent increase in approvals of agriculture-related projects by 2015; 500 added ag-related jobs; and five more processing facilities total between the counties, which can range from a large canary to a small diary operation.

“There’s a little bit of pressure because those aren’t the easiest of goals to achieve, but it’s good,” Stephens said. “I don’t want to be frittering away my time and wasting money. It’s good to have goals because it’s something to aim for.”

“As far as my own personal goals. I really want to — and this is going to sound all ‘touchy-feely’ in comparison to those concrete number-driven goals — be a value to the community. I want everyone to see me as a benefit, the farmers as well as my supervisors.”

Since filling the position in April, Stephens has been developing a strategy for reaching these ends. It begins with having the region’s farmers realize that this resource now exists, so she can assist in facilitating growth and otherwise help as needed.

“A lot of the farmers may feel comfortable talking with the departments themselves,” she said. “But if they feel the need, I’m there to be a liaison. There’s no guarantee it’s going to make the process any simpler, but hopefully it takes some of the confusion out of it.”

Ultimately though, it’s up to the farmers and ranchers of the region to pull the trigger on establishing new processors and hiring new employees. Her input comes free of charge, but does not carry the weight of any enforcement.

“One of the challenges is that I can only do so much,” she said. “I can’t make the regulations go away. I don’t have the authority to do that at all. I can, however, open up the discussion to find other routes to get from point A to point B.”

Another issue facing Stephens in accomplishing her goals is that not everyone is aware of the resource. That’s hoped to be remedied during a “Meet the Farmbudsman” open house from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Turkovich Winery, located at 30471 Buckeye Rd. in Winters.

This is Stephens first formal introduction to the local agriculture community.  She’ll also be discussing ways in which she can assist farmers with projects, though having a project in mind is not required for attendance.

All of Yolo County’s farmers and ranchers are invited to the event. Space is limited, so she’s asking potential guests to RSVP to or 530-863-9073.

“I’m doing this to reach beyond the usual groups,” she said. “The Yolo County Ag and Food Alliance and the Yolo County Farm Bureau have a set group they interact with, so I’m hoping to get some farmers or ranchers that may not be as plugged into that network.”

— Reach Brett Johnson at or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett



  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .


    Bridges of Yolo County: Wear, tear … repair?

    By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Four days of unusual, adventuresome music

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Spanish police arrest 4 suspected members of a jihadi cell

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Rockets kill 30 in Ukrainian city as rebels launch offensive

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Abe ‘speechless’ after video claims IS hostage dead

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    GOP presses state bills limiting gay rights before ruling

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Abortion opponents express renewed hope at California rally

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Share your love (story) with us

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Sip wines at St. James’ annual tasting

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

    Fake schools draw federal scrutiny

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Winter produce available at Sutter market

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

    Vote for your favorites in Readers’ Choice poll

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Donations to be distributed during homeless count

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

    Speaker will share computer security tips

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Logos Books celebrates 5 years, offers language groups

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Australian olive oil company opens U.S. headquarters in Woodland

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Explore at the YOLO Outdoor Expo

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Pedal around Davis on weekly bike ride

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Yolo animal shelter seeking rawhide donations

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A5

    Woodland Healthcare employees take Great Kindness Challenge

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    At the Pond: Nest boxes give birds new homes

    By Jean Jackman | From Page: A6 | Gallery

    California ranks worst in nation for guidance counselors

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

    Davis, Woodland are saving water

    By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A12

    Words and Music Festival events

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A12



    Family isn’t keen on relationship

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A8

    Caring for the aging mouth

    By Samer Alassaad | From Page: A8

    Big utilities’ nightmare begins to play out

    By Tom Elias | From Page: A10

    Mayor’s Corner: Let’s renew Davis together

    By Dan Wolk | From Page: A10

    We have the right to choose

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    We don’t have to suffer

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    City helped immensely

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Rick McKee cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

    When measles spreads from Disneyland, it’s a small world after all

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A11

    From innovation parks to innovative buildings and planning

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11



    Wildcats’ inaugural kids development league exceeds expectations

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Aggies get top 2015 gymnastics score, but fall short

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Loud crowd sees DHS boys win

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Lady Devils hold off Pacers, stay perfect in league

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    UCD men take two tennis matches

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8

    Watney in ninth at Humana Challenge

    By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B8







    Davis man focusing on cannabidiol business

    By Will Bellamy | From Page: A9

    Marrone Bio’s Regalia approved for new uses in Canada

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

    UCD grad makes insurance ‘hot 100′ list

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    Yolo County real estate sales

    By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A9





    Comics: Sunday, January 25, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B8