Califonia Bountiful

It's a bountiful life: Dancing for joy

July/Aug. 2013 California Bountiful magazine

When not immersed in farming, Cynthia Mathiesen moves to a different beat as a ballroom dancer.

More online: Continuing the conversation

Farming is a dance orchestrated by weather, water and market forces. No one knows that better than Cynthia Mathiesen, president of the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau. When not immersed in farming, Mathiesen, who manages worldwide plant patents for Driscoll's berries in Watsonville, moves to a different beat as a competitive ballroom dancer.

When did you start dancing?
In 2000, on a whim. I wanted to try something new and at first, danced for fun. I never thought I'd end up competing or performing.

What's your favorite dance?
I lean toward American smooth dances, like the fox trot and Viennese waltz.

What's the best part of your job?
I manage Driscoll's patents and trademarks for all proprietary strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries for our global entities. I meet people from all over the world, experience different cultures and travel.

Are there lessons from the dance floor that translate to the workplace?
Just when you think you know what you're doing, everything changes. As long as I understand this, I should be able to adjust. When I anticipate my lead's next move, I get into trouble because I get ahead of myself.

Do you have any other passions?
I recently purchased a Victorian house in the country. I've been spending a lot of time fixing it up. I enjoy camping and traveling with my family ... but it's not often enough.

Continuing the conversation

What do you do when you're not dancing?
I have so many interests, I'll never run out of things to do. I love just about anything where I can create something. Cooking, gardening, knitting, stained glass, sewing, china painting, you name it!

Cynthia Mathiesen, president of the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau, shows off her dancing skills with partner Jeremy Pilling.

How do you see agriculture unfolding in Santa Cruz County?
I'm concerned about the constant push to take over prime farmland for housing and commercial buildings; there needs to be a balance in our growth. Technology will continue to play a large role in farming, helping us produce nutritious, high-quality, high-yield, sustainable crops—with less water, labor, chemicals and other inputs—while protecting the environment.

What do you wish everybody knew about agriculture?
What's in your house, on your plate and how you live comes from, or affects, farming operations. It's still about education. If people could step into the shoes of a farmer, they'd get a glimpse of what it takes to produce lifestyles we all enjoy, whether it's food, clothing, building materials or flowers in your yard. Everyone is a stakeholder when it comes to agriculture.

If there were a dance tune for farming in Santa Cruz County, what would it be?
Farming in this county is a medley. Some issues seem like a waltz, some need to be attacked like the Paso Doblé. There are times to draw on the subtlety of the rumba and, once in awhile, have fun like dancing the East Coast Swing or Lindy Hop.

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