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Five Questions with Colleen Taber, Advocate for Agriculture



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“The mission of the Farm Bureau of Kern County is to represent Kern County’s agriculture interests through public relations, education, and public policy advocacy in order to promote the economic viability of agriculture balanced with appropriate management of natural resources.”

Colleen Taber, administrator at Kern County Farm Bureau, enthusiastically highlights that mission in life and in conversation. Her commitment to the people involved in local agriculture is evident in her approach to what is more than just a job. Family ties to the region, personal history, and the legacy of agriculture as something to pass on to our children all stand out in the way she talks about what matters to her.

Agriculturalists and the community they serve are Taber’s focus at work, but we caught up with her at home to talk about the unusual circumstances in which so many women find themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic: working remotely while adjusting to a new normal.

A mother of three, Taber telecommutes each day in addition to traveling frequently between Bakersfield and The Woodlands, Texas, to accommodate family circumstances. Born and raised here, Bakersfield is forever where the Tabers feel at home, Colleen says. Husband Tab Taber, previously an AVID math teacher at Independence High School, is well-known for his Bakersfield roots; he is the great-grandson of former Coca-Cola bottling company owner Sam Lynn, for whom the Sam Lynn Ballpark is named. Their oldest daughter, Emma, studies agricultural communication at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Paige, a junior at The Woodlands High School, spent her first two years of high school at Independence and has verbally committed to the University of Kentucky as a stand-out national swimming champion with competitive ranking and Olympic aspirations. Youngest son, Cal, formerly an American Elementary School student, is adjusting well to sixth grade at a new middle school.

Even as the Tabers take it one day at a time, given the unusual nature of the pandemic, they remain connected to the community.

Q: What would you like Kern County Family Magazine readers to know about agriculture in Kern County?

A. The amount of passion and effort that each individual person puts into advocating for agriculture continues to amaze me. The courage it takes for them to continue to put one foot in front of the other each day and make a difference puts food on our tables. As they face so many regulations, the work continues. Where your food comes from is not just from the ground or the grocery store. It’s a conscientious effort for food to be safe, healthy, and accessible.


 


One difference I can appreciate from now living in another state is that food in Kern County is fresh and local. That is something we really take for granted at times. For example, I know that I really took for granted how a watermelon looks and tastes like what we would expect. In other places, that is not necessarily the case; a watermelon does not always have a fragrance, the texture is different, and it can actually be bland. There is not nearly the variety of fruits and vegetables available as in Kern County, which really does have a rainbow variety. In other parts of the country, you may still see the rainbow, but you don’t always taste what you see. We are unique among the nation and the world with that safe, wonderful taste of the rainbow.

Q. How can our readers better support local agrarians?

A. Attending and supporting farmers markets is one way families can get to know local growers who would love to share more information about what they do each day. Educating yourself about where food comes from and realizing we have amazing agriculturalists that have worked for decades in our Mediterranean climate is a start.

There are only eight areas with a Mediterranean climate in the world, and water systems are set up and put in place to make it possible for crops to flourish. I think we are sometimes so used to hearing about the drought and that shortage of water, but if we do not get the water we need, we will start seeing some changes in what we can provide. Kern County is one of the top two producing counties in the world, next to Fresno.

A common complaint here in our county and at the base of the valley is poor air quality.

Understanding that we are at the base of the Grapevine and the air in the San Joaquin Valley comes down from the north and stops at the Grapevine is key because we really are all in this together. Farmers and people who care about agriculture want our air and water clean. We are leaders in advocating for our land, air, and climate. It is not just a Kern County problem but a state problem and a valley problem. We need to work together with organizations throughout the state, and it requires a lot of collaboration toward improving those efforts. 

Learning from people and having conversations is something every family can do. Pick up the phone and ask questions. You can absolutely give us a call at the Kern County Farm Bureau. It is an honor for me to be that conduit.

Q. As a parent in the area, what do you recommend other parents do to educate their families about agricultural resources?

A. Grow something in your own yard your kids can learn about. Teach them all the aspects of water.  Whether it’s herbs or crops or grass, growing plants is the best science project in the world. Go through the process and rediscover that knowledge and create a memory with your child.

As a girl, I was an active participant in 4-H, and the skills I learned have served me in so many ways throughout my life. My children were in FFA at Independence and Stockdale West 4-H Club. They also showed animals at the Kern County Fair, where I also have amazing memories of doing the same thing. Pigs, rabbits, horses and chickens specifically, and that experience gives families a way to bond and share in responsibility together. It can be a really fun experience for parents and kids.

We also normally host a tremendous amount of outreach and so many of those efforts are still going on. Find family events organized by the Kern County Farm Bureau at https://kerncfb.com under the Events tab.

Q. Do you have any recipes we should share with our readers?

A. I can recommend Ally Triolo’s Instagram, @farmtoforkbyallytriolo. Ally is chief communications officer for Kern County. She posts amazing recipes at www.farmtoforkbyallytriolo.com. I can recommend the sheet pan vegetable recipes, and I just saw a salmon with grapefruit salsa that looks amazing.

Q. Working with children at home has been a challenge throughout the pandemic. Is there any insight on this topic?

A. The first word that comes to mind is grace.This set of circumstances with parenting in a pandemic has never been done before, not in our lifetime at least. We’re doing so much, and doing our best to meet a variety of needs. As moms especially, we can be incredibly hard on ourselves and we can take it personally when things don’t go right or don’t match what right is in our minds. My best advice is to take a breath and give grace to yourself, which will allow you to give grace to your children, especially when you are both really needing it. Right now, people are feeling a lot of frustration, but we are also experiencing an incredible blessing of time that would have never happened otherwise to enjoy the small stuff instead of sweating it.

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Tags: Featured Story, Maternity, Parenting


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