Whether as a candidate for dairy princess as a Petaluma High School student, traveling the country for six years giving tours of livestock barns or serving as national secretary for American Agri-Women, Lynn Figone has always been an advocate for the agricultural industry. Even her license plate identifies her passion: TLK4AG.
On Jan. 11, when Figone is sworn in as president of the California Women for Agriculture at its convention in Petaluma, she will be able to draw from her wide range of experience in the industry to motivate members throughout the state. "I really see my role to be a coach, encouraging more women to get involved at the statewide level, so we can keep the excitement and passion for agriculture going," Figone says.
Born and raised in Petaluma, Figone was first introduced to the statewide organization when she was living in Lake County in 2002 through a good friend. "She thought it would be a good group for me to get involved with and I was welcomed with open arms," Figone says.
Before returning to Petaluma in 2007, Figone developed her leadership skills and began climbing the ranks of the CWA executive board eventually holding every position from district director to president elect. She also credits her involvement in CWA for creating a sisterhood of strong friendships that supported her through a difficult divorce.
"I could live a lifetime and not be able to give back to the organization and its members what it has meant to both me and my kids," she says.
CWA was started in the Coachella Valley almost 40 years ago by consumers, not farmers. Members of the all-volunteer organization are actively engaged in education, public relations and legislative advocacy on behalf of the state's agriculture industry.
The 2,000 members of CWA represent a diverse range of advocates, including bankers, marketing professionals, farmers and consumers who are interested in protecting a safe reliable food source. "I tell people that if you eat food and wear clothes, you're involved in agriculture," Figone says.
Although she works with people in agriculture in her job as an administrator at the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, Figone says that she is one of the first presidents of CWA in recent years who doesn't work in production agriculture. She sees having a perspective outside of the industry as an opportunity to "bring more people into the fold."
One of the primary goals of CWA is to bring agricultural issues to the attention of legislators. Each chapter has an "Adopt a Legislator" program and throughout the year, the chapters develop position papers on agricultural issues important to their area including land use, water rights and labor. In May, as many as 50 CWA representatives walk the halls of the state Capitol to present their issues to legislators. "We educate them on the issues and follow up with them throughout the year," she says.
Figone says in her term as president she will build on the work of past presidents and continue consumer outreach to educate the public and increase visibility of CWA. "We work to raise awareness that when you make a purchase you're voting with your dollars; people need to know why it's important to buy locally or California-grown products."
She also plans to bring more attention to the need for better produce at food banks. "My family and I had to rely on food banks during a tough time. It's a great opportunity for me to bring awareness to the need."