By Will McCarthy, The Mercury News, March 29, 2023
Editorial Team Note:
“From certain places on Darrel Sweet’s ranch near Altamont Pass, the world looks no different than it did 150 years ago. Wildflowers blanket the hillside. A ranch dog named J.J. chases squirrels across a muddy dirt track. Cows stand near a cattle pond, looking out at a range of rolling hills that seem to act as a bulwark against time.
“In the metropolitan Bay Area, Livermore stands out as a place where, as one long-time resident put it, you can find ‘a physicist, a rancher, and a gravel pit worker all sitting together at the bar’.
“Livermore, one of the last ag dominos to topple in the Bay Area, could be seen as proof of how the remnants of ranching culture that once thrived in this region have been pushed out to the edge of Alameda County. Or it might be an example of how a heritage industry can find a way to evolve in a modern environment.
“In the past 40 years, the nine-county Bay Area has lost more than 200,000 acres of agricultural land to development. Crop and animal production establishments declined by nearly 50 percent between 1995 and 2015.”
“The torchbearers of Livermore’s agricultural heritage see the high school’s ag program as one of the keys to its preservation.
“The county and town have also taken steps to support agriculture. Measure D, passed by voters in 2000 and revised last year, put a limit on urban sprawl into open space or ranch lands. The county has a Right to Farm Policy which is intended to ‘support, encourage, and protect agricultural operations… within the county’. The county fair serves as a community hub.
“Although much of the Bay Area is heavily urbanized, there are still tens of thousands of acres of grazing land in Alameda County alone – and more in the surrounding region.”