Farming keeps Lynn and Sally Shafer connected; to their youths, to nature, to friends and family, and even to people they’ll never meet. Their love for growing food extends far beyond their first experiences on the farm in the Central Valley.
Sally grew up digging for clams, enjoying her father’s vegetable garden, and canning the fruit from the trees at her childhood home in the Puget Sound and Lynn spent his college summers doing farm work outdoors in Northern California.
The couple got their start in farming through a family connection in 1981. They cut their teeth on crops of olives and citrus. Currently, their navel oranges, mandarins, and six varieties of blueberries share a view of the Sierra Nevada and are teaming with honeybees, grasses, and microbial life in the soil.
“This is a wonderful life. It’s a wonderful place to raise your children. It teaches them a lot of things that you want to teach them—hard work, and being honest, and realizing that nature is a lot stronger than you are,” Sally said. She delights in the occasional roadrunner sightings that take place on the country roads and in the beauty of the changing seasons. Lynn’s favorite pastime on the farm, he jokes, is listening to the trees grow.
“I like the silence,” he said looking out over the rows of blueberries, “The silence is to me a renewing thing, and I listen to it more as I get older.”
The thought process and decision-making that go into planning ahead for a crop, and the excitement of the unknown are fun for the Shafers, but the friendships that have sprung up from their time on the farm have proven to be among the ranch’s best fruits.
Farming affects everyone, and the end connection for the Shafers are the families who bring their fruit home from the grocery store. It’s a connection that exists even if they never meet and the Shafers would encourage others, especially young people, to learn more not only about the biological process of growing, but also about the food system’s legal and economic aspects.
“Farming is not for the faint hearted, you have to be able to make it through a few bad years,” Lynn said about what he’s learned over the last 30 years. Sally agreed, “It keeps you humble, the weather always keeps you humble.”
Though Lynn and Sally’s two adult children are living far from the Valley with families of their own now, they’re both finding ways to get involved, and the future for continuing the Shafer family connection to the farm is wide open for them.