Farmer in the Capitol: An Interview with David Ogilvie
This year’s Cap to Cap trip, sponsored by the Sac Metro Chamber, brought 350 regional leaders to Washington, D.C. and it was a most productive visit for the Food and Ag Committee.
Last fall, David Ogilvie, Delta farmer (Wilson Vineyards) and winemaker (Muddy Boot Wine), joined our team as a Committee Co-Chair. On his first Cap to Cap trip, David did a fantastic job of telling our story and representing the region – and making sure we had authentic Clarksburg varietals to field test! Here are David’s “Perspectives on Ag” and Cap to Cap:
1. What was your impression of Cap to Cap? What was your experience like going for the first time and being the co-chair of a committee?
Cap to Cap was a fantastic opportunity and great experience for me. I have never felt more effective and available to the policy makers of our country. Cap to Cap is a program that has a real ability to provide positive change to many concerns in our region. As a farmer, I felt that my concerns were heard by many policy makers in USDA Rural Development, USDA Farm Service Agency, and even the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) along with our local Congressmen, LaMalfa and Garamendi. I appreciated meeting policy makers on both sides of the aisle who were able to understand that the farmers in our region and the country can’t be overlooked when it comes to policy. I felt that the concerns that our team brought forth – Requirements of Rural Broadband, AgPlus Food and Beverage Manufacturing, and Career Pathways in Ag – were heard and appreciated by both sides of the aisle.
Being Co-Chair was honestly a surprise bestowed onto me by Nicole Rogers from Nugget Markets, who is now a good friend. I know now the method to her madness and how important her vision was to have an actual farmer on the Food and Ag committee. I felt honored to be in such great company with Nicole, Chelsea Minor from Raley’s, and Trish Kelly from Valley Vision. I think we all brought our strengths to the team and although as a first year I don’t have experience for comparison, I feel that we were successful in our goals. We have a lot of good follow up communication from our meetings that will hopefully lead to positive change in the region.
2. How did/do you see the issues you focused on coming together like broadband and workforce?
When I first joined the team I was more focused on the workforce side of things. It’s pretty simple; 65% of farmers in the U.S. are over the age of 55, and we don’t have the farming workforce coming up behind these retirees to keep our global dominance in agriculture. But the more I thought about that issue, I understood that it’s not just about educating and encouraging new farmers. It’s also important to make sure that these new farmers have the tools to farm efficiently, using less fuel, electricity, and water than their predecessors. The technology that is coming out of UC Davis that allows us young farmers to do this all runs on high internet speeds and cell phones with good reception.
I have latched onto this idea of rural broadband being a key ingredient to the sustainability of future farming in our region because I am dealing with the issue firsthand on my own farm. I am putting in a project to reduce water and electricity usage and allow me to irrigate using my phone. However, I am only putting this efficient technology on two of my four ranches because the other two don’t have reliable cell service. Young farmers want to use this technology. It excites them, and may be a key to keeping them around.
3. How do you think Cap to Cap benefits the region and our brand as America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital?
Having lived in Williamsburg, Virginia before, I have seen firsthand what it looks like shopping in a grocery store where all the produce travelled hundreds if not thousands of miles to get there. So, I know how special our region is and the validity of our being America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital. I don’t know that those in Washington, D.C. understand the importance, but we certainly can explain it during the Cap to Cap program. USDA seemed to understand the importance of local and that local doesn’t just mean the farmstand underneath the freeway. We explained to many on this trip that “Local Agriculture” includes local processing and that if we invest in more local processors, we will have greater access to local produce and food that spends less time on our freeways. This is important as only 2% of the food we eat is grown locally.
4. What do you see as our take-aways or follow up? What did you come back with as your next steps?
I look forward to working with the team to follow up with our congressional representatives, the USDA, and the FCC on workforce, manufacturing, and rural broadband issues. I feel we made good headway in getting some infrastructure dollars for broadband built into the next Farm Bill. Additionally, the FCC is working on creating “Gigabit Zones” for prioritizing broadband infrastructure. Based on our examples in local agriculture and manufacturing, the FCC mentioned this opportunity and I intend to follow it through to see if it can help me get better service so that I can farm efficiently in all of my vineyard blocks.
Trish Kelly is a Managing Director at Valley Vision.
David Ogilvie is Vineyard Manager and Director of Wine Production at Wilson Vineyards, and served as Co-Chair of the Cap to Cap 2017 Food and Agriculture Team.