Glimpses of farm life
January/February 2023 California Bountiful magazine
Winning photos depict varied
joys, beauty and challenges
Story by Linda DuBois
Nuts growing on a tree, a stunning vista, a tractor in a field of row crops, a cow nuzzling her calf, a ray of sunlight shining through the haze of a smoldering fire. Each image helps tell the collective story of California’s farmers and ranchers.
These are just a few examples of the winning photographs in the 41st annual California Farm Bureau Photo Contest.
The contest invited Farm Bureau members to enter photographs that showed a slice of farm and ranch life. They came through with shots of animals, produce, machinery, landscapes and employees hard at work or breaking for play.
Cash prizes were given to the adult winners as well as the Budding Artists under age 14, in a category sponsored by the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom. Winning photos are also featured in a calendar.
Nevada County Farm Bureau
Easley works in land conservation, helping farmers, ranchers and forest stewards manage the land. Prescribed fires are used to improve grazing vegetation for livestock, reduce wildfire risk and increase the land’s overall health. During one such fire at a Nevada City ranch, she was struck by the way the sun’s rays were shining through the smoke and silhouetting the trees “in a very ominous and soothing way. … It was an eerily beautiful scene I wanted to capture on camera,” she says. So, she took out her smartphone and quickly snapped it. “The smoke and trees allowed for great lighting naturally.”
Nevada County Farm Bureau
Blagg, her husband and three boys grow grapes and hay in Lodi and run cattle in Grass Valley. “The photo was taken in Grass Valley at the beginning of our fall calving season. I was out checking for new calves and had brought my camera along. I have always enjoyed taking farm and ranch photos and have been trying to get back in the habit of having my camera, not just my cellphone, on hand,” she says. When she spotted this red Angus cow “showing off her maternal traits, posing with her days-old heifer calf,” she saw the perfect photo op. Even while using a telephoto lens, she got this crystal-clear image.
Lassen County Farm Bureau
First-generation farmers, Traphagan’s family grows certified-organic grains in Ravendale, a tiny Lassen County town. One day, while harvesting alfalfa, part of the crew ran into some machinery problems and Traphagan was called out to help. On the way, she glanced over to the other side of the field, saw this picturesque scene, grabbed her smartphone and snapped the photo. “Every once in a while, I just stop and go, ‘Wow! We live in a really pretty spot.’ … When I see something like this, I love taking an opportunity to capture it and it’s usually spur of the moment—that’s when the best stuff happens.”
Farm Bureau of Ventura County
Williams is an agricultural commissioner and sealer of weights and measures for the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Just after a spring storm, he was out on a Saturday drive with his wife and in-laws enjoying the scenery in the Santa Clara Valley, when he came upon a sight that warranted pulling over for a photo. “Coming back home just west of Fillmore, we saw this beautiful landscape of the Topatopa Mountains and the orange, lemon and avocado orchards along Sespe Creek,” he says. He notes that although he has two good cameras and lenses, for this image, he used what he had on hand: his phone.
Solano County Farm Bureau
Gish is a full-time student at Woodland Community College, majoring in animal science. He also raises cattle with his father on the family’s Vacaville property. “I have a passion for photography and sometimes when I’m bored, I enjoy going out and taking photos of our cattle,” he says. For this photo of a female Hereford he took in March, he focused only on her eyes and top of her head “to create a more dramatic and intense photo of the cow.”
Tulare County Farm Bureau
Hauff grew up on a farm in Tulare, where her father grew row crops and she now manages orchards with cherries and pistachios. Over her 50 years in agriculture, she says she’s always enjoyed the “spectacular beauty of farming.” She notes that the gorgeous scenery is “always changing yet remains the same.” She took this photo of pistachios hanging from one of her trees over the summer. “I’m always looking at the beauty of farming the lands,” she says, adding that this made her photo both “planned and spontaneous.”
Tulare and Kings County Farm Bureaus
Bettencourt of Visalia has been farming for more than 50 years. So, when he saw his 3 1/2-year-old grandson, Zachary, driving his toy tractor next to the family’s garden and carefully loading vegetables into his wagon, the proud grandpa needed to get a picture. “I thought he looked so cute—like a little farmer in his overalls checking his vegetable crop,” Bettencourt says. “Zachary is driving the tractor my wife and I gave our son, his father, Keith Jr., when he was a child.”
Stanislaus County Farm Bureau
Tracy resident Yerian, a communications manager for a cattle-breeding services cooperative, grew up on a Glenn County dairy. Although they have since sold the cows, her parents now have other animals living with them on the property. While visiting in May, Yerian photographed their two newest additions: Whoopi, a 2 1/2-week-old miniature donkey, and Maxine, a 6-month-old miniature Australian shepherd. “Whoopi and Maxine became fast friends,” Yerian says. “We’re still not sure if they realize they are different species, as they run and play together in the corral.”
Tehama County Farm Bureau
Randel’s husband looks after a walnut orchard in Tehama County. The Los Molinos couple were walking through the property in September, a week before harvest, when she looked up and spotted this walnut hanging on a tree. It had a split-open husk, making it look almost like a flower. “It caught my eye that the nut was barely hanging on inside the husk,” she says. Thinking it would be an unusual shot, she was inspired to pull out her phone and take the picture.
Solano County Farm Bureau
Mercado-Martín of Fairfield, who grows winegrapes in Green Valley, was out shopping one day at her favorite produce stand, the nearby Erickson Ranch, when this rustic door displaying a hodgepodge of colorful signs caught her eye. Intrigued, she pulled the phone out of her pocket and snapped the picture. She says she never paid much attention to photography until she got her first smartphone. “The ability to capture a great image in the spur of the moment made this photo possible.”
Lane Toledo, age 12,
Tulare County Farm Bureau
Lane is an Angus breeder from Visalia who has been honing his photography skills for the past four years. He’s taken a 4-H course and online classes and earned a Best of Show at the Kings Fair for a sunset picture. When his family was ready to wean calves in September, he brought his camera along. “I got this shot of my cow that I showed at California Jr. Angus shows a few years back that has her second calf. I called to her by name and she picked up her head and looked over the fence at me. So, with a long lens, I was able to get the closeup.”
Natalie Webb, age 9,
Sonoma County Farm Bureau
For the third year in a row, Natalie has earned second place in the Budding Artists category for a photo shot in the vineyards near her St. Helena home. While her other photos were of grapes in the summer, this year, she captured the spring bud break (when vines begin to wake up from their winter dormancy). “I asked my mom to stop the car on the way home from school so I could take some pictures,” she says. She squatted down and pointed her smartphone upward so she could capture the foggy mountain in the background. She likes how the gray and foggy afternoon made her photo “all cool and swirly.”