Catholic Rural Life visited Stockton, CA and parts of the San Joaquin valley last week in our ongoing efforts to stay in touch with CRL members and farm communities. Bishop Stephen Blaire and the Diocese of Stockton have been faithful supporters of CRL for many years and provided a warm welcome to Jim Ennis, our Executive Director and Peg Louiselle, our Director of Development.
The purpose of the trip was two-fold: First, to introduce more people to the work of Catholic Rural Life, particularly the programs within our Rural Ministry and Outreach. Secondly, to get feedback from agricultural producers about our Faith, Food and the Environment project.
“We felt blessed to spend time with over 30 people during our brief visit,” Ennis said. “We were grateful for their time and interest, and very much welcomed their insights into our program work and outreach.”
California Agriculture & Family Farms
California is the nation’s top agricultural state, and has been for more than 50 years. Agriculture generates approximately $37.5 billion a year, more than any other state, but not all the farms are as big as some may believe.
More than 60% of the state’s farms are less than 50 acres in size, one indicator of the growing number of specialty crop operations. Also, more than 90% of California farms are family farms or partnerships.
Ennis said they enjoyed a fruitful week of conversation and learned much about the unique challenges and opportunities in the San Joaquin valley. In the back of everyone’s mind, however, was serious concern about the Butte fire east of Stockton, in Amador and Calaveras counties.
Impact of Forest Fires
California is entering the fourth year of a record-breaking drought creating an extremely parched landscape. Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought state of emergency earlier this year and imposed strict conservation measures statewide.
As news reports have often said, this is one of the most severe droughts California has experienced over the past century.
Ennis recounted a story about one of their meetings in a local church they were visiting when one of the participants was notified to evacuate his home. The meeting turned into a flurry of activity as parishioners collected items in support of the evacuees.
“The community rallying in support of their neighbors was an edifying manifestation of God’s love and generosity,” Jim said.
We are grateful to all our old and new friends in the Stockton area and are looking forward to similar visits to the Diocese of Salina, Kansas in early October; Des Moines, Iowa in late October; and San Antonio, Texas and Seattle, Wash, in November.