Califonia Bountiful

These stunning images of California won big in our photo contest

January/February 2020 California Bountiful magazine

The lenses of many capture California's land of plenty

There's a First Prize, and there's a first-ever prize. As in, nine people are first-time winners in the annual California Farm Bureau Photo Contest, in which this year's participants were asked to "Imagine California."

They didn't imagine—they saw. A farmer looking at a sunset while feeding hay to his cattle. A field of sunflowers. A humble but crucial irrigation valve. A small boy holding a chicken. A field of newly planted almond trees. And they captured the scenes for others to see.

The adults took home prizes of as much as $1,000. The Budding Artists winners (photographers 13 and younger) have their own category, plus money for the piggy bank, thanks to the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom.

And they all have the opportunity to see their pictures in print.

Grand Prize: Kathy Brimmer, Yuba County

Kathy and John Brimmer are first-generation farmers. Although they had children active in FFA where they lived previously, they didn't go into farming full time until moving to the Smartsville area in 2014 to raise cattle. One evening, while helping her husband feed the animals, Kathy Brimmer saw this scene and grabbed her smartphone. "We have some phenomenal sunsets up here," she said. "Sometimes I feel like we're living in Hawaii."

First Place: Cindy Lohse, Glenn County

Lohse's daughter works for a seed company in Woodland, and Lohse was in town for lunch when the two visited one of the company's fields. "My favorite things are sunflowers and barns," Lohse said. "There just happened to be this beautiful field of sunflowers and this beautiful red barn."

Second Place: Mindy Rasmussen, Calaveras County

Rasmussen's husband and his brother run a cattle operation; the valve seen here irrigates pasture for those cattle near Angels Camp and needs to be turned on every 10 days or so to let water in. "Water's an important issue right now," Rasmussen said. "So I thought it was kind of a cool, cool picture of the water coming down the canal."

Third Place: Andrea Traphagan, Lassen County

Traphagan and her husband, Tom, are first-generation alfalfa and grain growers and are about to start a mill near Ravendale. He was out one day inspecting test plantings of grains when his wife captured the scene. The mill, she said, "has been a longtime dream he's had forever. I'm so thankful that we've been able to get that dream to come to life."

Honorable Mentions

Amy Blagg, San Joaquin County: Blagg and her family were visiting her parents for Easter when her youngest son, Oliver, headed for the chicken coop. "He's my animal lover," Blagg said. "He likes to go collect the eggs at Grandma and Grandpa's house any chance he gets. He picks up all of the chickens all of the time."

Kevin Robertson, Kings County: With tomato harvest in full swing in his fields near Corcoran, Robertson recruited a little extra help: his 3-year-old son, Eamon. "We brought him to the farm with me in the morning to look at the tomato harvest and teach him about tomatoes," Robertson said. This is one of the candid photos he was able to grab with his smartphone when Eamon picked up a tomato.

Samantha Francis, Napa County: Francis' husband, a vineyard manager, was harvesting near Summit Lake when she went along in search of photo opportunities. "I really enjoy going out early morning or late night to get harvest shots," Francis said. "It was actually really foggy down in the valley, and you're so high up there that you're above the fog line." So she headed uphill, and as the sun came up, hopped in a truck bed and tripped the shutter.

Melissa Laney, Sutter County: Laney is a partner in a farming company that recently planted these almonds near Live Oak and the Sutter Buttes. In the course of her work, which includes managing the company website, she got out the camera. "That was one of the many that I took that day, because it was to me a beautiful scene," she said. Almonds are new for Laney, whose company grows peaches, walnuts and rice.

Marilyn Ferrante, Napa County: Ferrante, a wine educator by trade, was in the vineyard before dawn as the 2019 harvest got underway at O'Brien Estate in the Oak Knoll District. This woman was one of a crew of 15 picking sauvignon blanc grapes. "I just thought, without them or her, I wouldn't be able to sell wine for a living," Ferrante said. 

Marti Hubbell, San Benito County: Hubbell calls this "A Texan Living in California," because we're looking at a purebred Texas longhorn on the Hollister ranch that's been in her husband's family for generations. "As you can see by the picture, he's magnificent," she said of T-Bone, her 9-year-old steer. "He's not mean or anything, but because he doesn't like his horns touched, we've never been able to measure him. But we've checked spots on the fence, and we think they're a little over 6 feet."

Budding Artists

First Place: Dottie Davis, 11 years old, Glenn County

Dottie said she wanted to take this photo last year but forgot. "One day we had some free time, and I went and asked my mom if I could grab hay hooks and gloves and climb on the haystack, and she let me," she said. That's what led to this picture on the family alfalfa farm near Orland.

Second Place: Mylee Decroix, 12 years old, Glenn County

"She's kind of new to farming, but she definitely loves photography," said Nate Kilmer, Mylee's stepfather, who grows almonds and olives near Orland. "She was just out and about on the farm one day, clicking away, and that's one that she really liked." This almond-blossom shot is Mylee's first photo contest entry.

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