It’s the time of year when downtown Petaluma host its biggest annual event, a salute to the city’s agrarian roots and the farmers who have long been the backbone of the community.
The Butter and Egg Days festivities, beginning Saturday morning, will certainly feature plenty of references to the cows and chickens that established Petaluma as a food production center. There will be cow chip tossing, a cutest chick contest and plenty of dairy and poultry-themed floats in the parade.
It was the egg industry that first put Petaluma on the map, earning the city the title “Egg Basket of the World.” Petaluma Boulevard was once lined with egg hatcheries, and while their distinctive brick facades are now home to martial arts studios, chiropractic offices and auto body shops, egg ranchers continue that legacy, producing more than 1 million eggs per year.
The bucolic pastures surrounding Petaluma host some of California’s most renowned dairies, such as Clover Sonoma, Straus Family Creamery and McClelland’s Dairy, family-owned facilities that have been passed down through the generations.
Petaluma’s traditional agricultural producers have survived many changes in the industry. Despite laws requiring more humane conditions for chickens, and consumer demands for free-range eggs, poultry producers have adapted and continue to thrive. The local dairy industry meanwhile has embraced organic, GMO-free and sustainable practices.
While we pause to honor our agricultural history, we must also acknowledge the new agriculturalists, who represent the future of farming in Petaluma. An influx of young ag enthusiasts bent on farming organic grains and vegetables have created cooperative farms and community supported agriculture operations. These producers have infused the region with a culture of healthy eating while they supply local restaurants geared toward farm-to-table food.
This year’s Butter and Egg Days parade celebrates “makers,” those entrepreneurs who innovate the products that make Petaluma great. The region’s food and drink industry has expanded beyond eggs and milk, giving rise to craft brewers, wine grape growers, spirit distillers, olive oil producers and artisan cheese makers.
Agriculture has always been a key part of Petaluma’s economy and a major source of jobs. It is important for residents to recognize the importance of local food producers and support them whenever possible.