Sonoma County small farmers say ’Yes,’ to police oversight

Farmer Caiti Hachmyer has had enough of the misinformation surrounding Measure P.

But it’s not just the opposition’s false claim that it “defunds the police” that she’s upset by (fact: it won’t cut a single dollar from the Sheriff’s $184 million budget). Or that this ballot initiative will cut safety services (it won’t). Or the allegation that it would increase response times to emergency calls, fires and disasters. (In truth, Measure P will simply increase existing, yet under-resourced, citizen oversight of the Sheriff’s Office.)

But of all the falsehoods, the one that’s bugging Hachmyer the most is what’s been plastered on big signs all across the county: that farmers, like her, are against it.

“That’s just not true,” says Hachmyer. “Most of the farmers I know support Measure P.”

Red H Farm’s Caiti Hachmyer has been active on social media in her support for Measure P. Measure P would provide additional independent audit oversight into the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department.
Red H Farm’s Caiti Hachmyer has been active on social media in her support for Measure P. Measure P would provide additional independent audit oversight into the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department.

Farmers like Jenny and Vince Trotter. After seeing a few too many of those signs go up in their neighborhood, the Trotters took to their tractor with a “Yes on Measure P” sign to make clear that whoever is putting up those signs sure doesn’t speak for them.

In fact, since last week, when Hachmyer sounded the alarm about this campaign of agrarian misrepresentation, local farmers have been standing up across Sonoma County to set the record straight: Laguna Farm, Singing Frogs Farm, Bernier Family Farm, Green Valley Farm, Tierra Vegetable, Coyote Family Farm, Kibo Farms, Full Bloom Farm, Radical Family Farm, Green Star Farm, Red H Farm, and so on and so on.

According to a recent Gallup poll, agriculture easily tops the list of most trusted industries in America. And here in farm-to-table Sonoma County, a farmer’s word can go a long way. Which is why the opposition is so eagerly exploiting their credibility in a desperate attempt to prevent this common-sense initiative from seeing the light of day.

But what do farmers really think?

“Those who believe in good policing,” says Hachmyer, “and those who are good police should support it. Really, it isn’t even about supporting law enforcement or not supporting them. It’s about strengthening community participation to keep our communities safe, building trust, and fostering good policing–things we should all support.”

CAFF which advocates on behalf of smaller-scale farms, hadn’t planned on weighing in on measure P,  but  a lot of local food producers in Sonoma County,  believe that when it comes to law enforcement, transparency and community participation is essential.
CAFF which advocates on behalf of smaller-scale farms, hadn’t planned on weighing in on measure P, but a lot of local food producers in Sonoma County, believe that when it comes to law enforcement, transparency and community participation is essential.

Wendy Krupnick, owner of Chiatri de Laguna Farm, serves as the president of the Sonoma County chapter of Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), which advocates on behalf of smaller-scale farms. “As the local chapter,” says Krupnick, “we hadn’t planned on weighing in. It just felt beyond the purview of an agricultural group. But when folks started inquiring with us last week, asking why farmers were so adamantly opposed to this measure, we felt the need to speak up. There are a lot of local food producers in Sonoma County, like me, who believe that when it comes to law enforcement, transparency and community participation matters.”

This screen shot of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s fundraiser went viral on local social media threads, confusing area residents about the relationship between the Farm Bureau and the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department.
This screen shot of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s fundraiser went viral on local social media threads, confusing area residents about the relationship between the Farm Bureau and the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department.

But the Sonoma County Farm Bureau never asked Krupnick or Hachmyer or the Trotters for their thoughts before handing over $20,000 to the Sonoma County Deputy Sheriff's Association to oppose Measure P with signs speaking not for the Bureau but for farmers as a monolith.

Now, some readers might be wondering: what does police oversight have to do with agriculture anyway? In this case, the Sheriff is no stranger at the Farm Bureau. Earlier this year, the Farm Bureau’s fundraising auction advertised a private tour of the jailhouse (public property), after which, “you will surely build up an appetite. Not to worry! Sheriff Essick’s office has arranged a lovely catered dinner for you and your 9 guests.”

Evan Wiig is the Director of Membership and Communications at CAFF.
Evan Wiig is the Director of Membership and Communications at CAFF.

Regardless of the Farm Bureau’s reasons for opposing the measure, for Hachmyer and many other family farmers, the agricultural relevance of Measure P is clear: “Concerns around racial bias and racial profiling are at the heart of needing community oversight,” she said. “We ALL have racial bias, it’s built into our society and culture ‘and requires active personal and community dismantling. While I don't know why the Farm Bureau is weighing in, if anything I would think they should wholeheartedly SUPPORT Measure P. Our farm community is hugely made up of latinx individuals, the exact folks who might be victim to racial bias.”

The Farm Bureau should wholeheartedly SUPPORT Measure P.  Our farm community is hugely made up of Latinx individuals, the exact folks who might be victim to racial bias.
The Farm Bureau should wholeheartedly SUPPORT Measure P. Our farm community is hugely made up of Latinx individuals, the exact folks who might be victim to racial bias.

So, as election season nears, remember to question every political sign, statement and slogan.

While I won’t claim to speak for all farms either, I will say this: family farmers care deeply about the health and safety of everyone in our community. And many of them recognize that the time has come for us to unite around the belief that we can do better. The values behind Measure P are the same that you’ll find behind many of the booths at your local farmers market.

So on behalf of these farmers, YES ON MEASURE P.

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