A recent Friday found one of my favorite podcasters – Rodger Wasson of Farm to Table Talk – in Los Angeles. It’s a short drive from there to Ventura County, so I suggested Rodger drive up and spend a morning. I promised to try to rustle up farmer Chris Sayer (@pettyranch), who appears often as a guest writer on this blog. Sayer is the author of Picking our Future: Essays on Food, Change and Farming and blogs at Saticoy Roots.
Chris is a fifth-generation Ventura County farmer, a civic leader and a fixture on the local food and agricultural scene. He grew up working on Petty Ranch, a farm his family has operated since the 1870s…and which he now manages. In between his stints working and managing his family’s farm, he studied at Northwestern University, married attorney Melissa Sayer, flew anti-submarine aircraft in the United States Navy, raised two sons and recruited executives for Silicon Valley start-ups. During the process, he learned an important life lesson: produce in the grocery store is just never, ever as good as what you grow yourself.
Sayer grows lemons, avocados, specialty citrus, figs and is a food entrepreneur. One of his recent projects is producing fig wine in partnership with a local winery. Sayer also serves on the boards of the Farm Bureau of Ventura County, Associates Insectary and Citrus Mutual Water Company.
Chris is one of my go-to people about agriculture. He’s an excellent teacher and I knew he’d be a great interview for Rodger, who graciously let me jump in with a few questions. After the interview, we sampled figs.
Chris believes that “farming is not nature. It is technology…We are heirs to an ancient and yet dynamic body of knowledge.”
It’s a longish podcast, so settle in with a cup of coffee. It’s really worth listening to, though…you’ll learn a lot of things about producing figs, lemons, avocados, global trade, water stewardship, cover cropping and the importance of agricultural education. The interview draws strong connections from local to global.
Excuse some wind noise…we were in an actual orchard, accompanied by five of Petty Ranch’s farm dogs.