ROMINGER BROTHERS FARMS MODEL STEWARDSHIP AND SUSTAINABILITY
Most Americans are disconnected from the journey their food takes from field to plate. Few consider the hands involved along the way. Recent documentaries on food production in the U.S. such as What the Health? and The Game Changers seek to open up that conversation by perpetuating a worn myth that American food production is corporate and impersonal. Rominger Brothers Farms proves otherwise.
They have always been a big picture family. Father Rich served six years as Director of the California Department of Food & Agriculture, and eight years in Washington, D.C. as the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture at the USDA. Mother Evelyne, who grew up in a dairy family, always encouraged her four children to “think globally, act locally.”
For son Bruce, a career in agriculture was never a given. It wasn’t until he found a book in his college bookstore at UC Davis that his perspective changed.
Topsoil and Civilization by Vernon Gill Carter and Tom Dale argues that all the great civilizations of the ancient world were built around rich soil. When agriculture was neglected, these civilizations began to decline and eventually collapse. In every society, the book argued, the first aspect to be neglected is its soil. It was a lightbulb moment for Bruce.
Today, Bruce and his brother Rick run Rominger Brother Farms in Yolo County, California. Theirs is a diversified operation, with rangeland leased for cattle and sheep grazing beside rich farmland producing tomatoes, rice, sunflowers, corn, wheat, almonds, walnuts, wine grapes, alfalfa, and more. A few years back, the family farm was almost divided when some second cousins decided to part with their share. Bruce searched for a way to keep the property intact and found California Rangeland Trust.
“I like the idea of being involved with a land trust that has a bunch of ranchers on the board,” he says. “Well-meaning people who aren’t from agriculture don’t understand it when it gets down to the nitty-gritty details.”
As farmland moves into the hills and mountains around them, Bruce is concerned about the impact on California’s ecosystem. “We can’t keep putting land into production forever. Eventually, there will be no wild lands left. When we have an opportunity—especially near an urban area like this—to preserve some of that and to say, ‘OK, this is never going to be converted, this is going to stay grazing land forever and a place for wildlife,’ I think it’s something we ought to consider.”
Farmers and ranchers like the Romingers present a more accurate picture of food production in the United States; one Americans should see. They are a hardworking, educated, and passionate family that cares about every aspect of their land. They see themselves as stewards and providers. The Romingers are committed to conserving grazing land in Yolo County forever, protecting the wildlife corridor, and offsetting the negative side effects of urban development in the area. Bruce is a farmer who cares about the health of the hills in his stewardship.
A version of this feature was originally written for the California Rangeland Trust.