Editorial

Signs would feed our crop curiosity

Ever wanted to know what’s in the fields of SLO County? Identification signs would help

letters@thetribunenews.comJuly 25, 2013 

The San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau made crop identification signs like these available to local growers.

COURTESY SAN LUIS OBISPO FARM BUREAU

How many times have you driven past a farm field and asked yourself, “Hmmm, I wonder what’s out there. Celery? Lettuce? Broccoli? Cauliflower?”

Or maybe out-of-town visitors have looked to you for enlightenment as you pass a verdant field of whatever-it-is. You then have two choices: Guess, or admit that you, um, aren’t really sure.

Los Osos resident Cindi Huntley has a solution: Farmers and ranchers could post crop identification signs on their property “to educate us locals and tourists,” she suggests in a letter to the editor published Tuesday.

We think it’s a great idea. So do the folks at the San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau. In fact, they tried it back in 1998. A small grant paid for the signs and stakes, which were then offered to local growers.

“All they had to do was come and get them, or we would have taken them to the farmers and ranchers,” said Marilyn Britton, who was then executive director of the Farm Bureau.

Some signs did go up. Britton recalls that a North County vineyard had one up for quite a while (the vineyard signs identified the variety of grape), and several signs were used at a demonstration garden that was located in front of the Farm Bureau.

But the program didn’t catch on in a big way.

However, we believe the time may be ripe to try it again, especially since the “farm to fork” movement — which encourages cooks to use ingredients grown close to home — has inspired fresh interest in agriculture.

Several farming communities already are using signs or banners attached to fences to identify what’s growing. Art is even cropping up in farm fields, well exemplified by the Salinas area’s life-sized cutouts of growers and farmworkers.

A local program would, of course, have to be purely voluntary; we aren’t looking to add to the workload of farmers and ranchers.

That said, it would be a great way to promote farm products, to help educate children (and their parents), and to instill pride in all involved with crop production.

If any agriculturalists are willing to post simple crop identification signs — the Farm Bureau still has some available — they’d reap many rewards. And we wouldn’t have to fudge the next time a visitor points to a field and asks, “What’s that?”

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