Several times this week, I’ve heard it said that Ventura County farmers need to connect more with consumers. Connecting to people is always a fine thing, but I’m not sure we need to focus on connecting better to consumers. Whether they realize it or not, consumers love Ventura County farmers… it’s why we have one of the most diverse and successful farm economies of any county in the United States.
No, the people we really need to connect to are our neighbors. And that connection doesn’t need to be commercial. Whether they buy our lemons or strawberries will not determine whether or not Ventura farmers stay in business. But as neighbors, what they choose to do with zoning and ordinances, when they choose to litigate, what they write to the paper…these things will make a difference. We don’t need our suburban neighbors to be our customers, but we can’t afford for them to be our enemies.
This doesn’t mean that we can’t highlight the food that we produce here as part of that outreach strategy. Many VC crops are considered the finest of their variety in the world, and the people who live next door should get the chance to appreciate it. But as farmers, we would be wise to remember that the relationship with our neighbors is based on trust and friendship, not commerce.