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Underwood Family Farms

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August 23, 2016 Comments Off on MY FARM STORY – H. Elaine Mehlschau Cavaletto Views: 715 Farmers and Ranchers, People

MY FARM STORY – H. Elaine Mehlschau Cavaletto

I grew up on a cattle ranch in San Luis Obispo county.  15 years later our family moved to a small vegetable farm where my sister and I “worked” for our Dad, learning how to irrigate, drive tractor, fix machinery, hoe weeds, manage our wages (.50 an hour), and the most important; as farmers we are stewards of the land and if we treat it well it will take care of us.

1957 my husband Al, our 5 month old son Richard and I moved to a small  50 acre farm in Somis.  Two daughters, Monica and Christina soon followed.  The land purchased had walnut trees , then changed to oranges (not a smart decision) and finally lemon trees. Trying to maintain the needs of the family were difficult so I went back to working in several banks, retiring in 1998. Weekends were spent  helping around the farm and enjoying the children and their activities.

Both Al and I came from generations of farmers, beginning in Italy, Switzerland, Denmark and the mid-west of USA.  Our roles in ag changed over the years, from hard work /long hours, not having a regular paycheck, mother working in town, but all in all a wonderful   life on a farm to now: new regulations sometimes hard to accept and trying to explain the not too different  conventional vs organic way of growing food plus land, water, immigration and government regulations of where/what we can farm, the pesticides we can use, the equipment we use, the noise/dust/smells all have to be dealt with.  Continued learning is a must for both the farmer as well as the consumer.

In 1990 I joined California Women for Agriculture (CWA) joining women whose education and legislative programs were of interest.  Not only did I become involved in Ventura County but also in meetings that were held throughout CA.  Since that time I have held offices in our county CWA and also the state CWA.  It is important (to me) that we understand and help others to understand the role of farming and the role of the consumer. As CWA says:  If you eat food and wear clothes, you are involved in agriculture.   CWA has helped me to speak out on the issues and most importantly to listen.  Today I belong to Farm Bureau, CWA and CoLAB all which bring different resources to the table. But in the end, we all want to continue to farm and help feed the world.

And now at 80 years, I am alone on the farm.  My dear Al passed in Dec. 2013, our children are in the education aspect of farming as well as several of the grandchildren  (Ag teachers, FFA advisors, 4-H Community Leaders).  I am so proud of my family and the things they have accomplished.   We talk frequently and together we make the decisions to keep the farm running smoothly.  I am thankful for the wonderful farm laborers that help me and the people I can go to that answer my questions.

The one message I  would leave is: enjoy life, laugh often, love others and it’s OK to cry.  Life is too short to be miserable.  Listen for opportunities to tell your agriculture story, each one is different and together we tell the world what agriculture is all about.  God bless you all.

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