Support Petaluma butter, egg producers

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This is normally the week we celebrate Petaluma’s agricultural heritage. We would normally be preparing the city with all things butter and eggs, closing down streets and adding last minute flourishes to parade floats.

This Saturday, we would normally flock 60,000 strong to downtown to witness the Butter and Egg Days parade, crown the Cutest Little Chick, see who can throw a cow chip the farthest, and hopefully not drink too much at the Lagunitas beer tent.

But this is not a normal year.

Like everything else in life right now, the Butter and Egg Days festivities have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic. While there will be no outward display of support for our dairy and poultry industry, which formed the backbone of Petaluma’s early development, it is still a good opportunity to support the local family farmers who continue to put food on our tables.

While the outbreak has crippled most industries, many of our local dairy and egg producers are thriving. With more people at home cooking and baking, and essential grocery stores open, there is still a huge demand for these products.

Many farmers in other parts of the world, and indeed some in Sonoma County, are suffering from supply chain issues and can’t get their products to market. As a result, some dairy farmers are reportedly dumping milk even as dairy aisles remain bare.

Sonoma County is lucky to have somewhat of a closed ecosystem. Our producers, led by Petaluma-based Clover Sonoma, can get their products to market, and the small dairy farmers who have contracts with Clover can continue to supply them with milk.

Egg farmers are in an even better position, enjoying a spike in egg prices as grocery stores can’t stock them fast enough.

It was this 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. Besides Clover Sonoma, Straus Family Creamery, McClelland’s Dairy and others call Petaluma home.

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.

The coronavirus has certainly been a disruption to normal life, but our resilient agricultural producers will weather it and come out stronger on the other side.

Agriculture has always been a key part of Petaluma’s economy and a major source of jobs. It is critical for residents to recognize the importance of local food producers and support them whenever possible.

Now is a good time to pour a cold glass of Clover milk or crack a couple of Petaluma Farms eggs and support local producers just as we need to support all of our local businesses in these uncertain times.

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