We all can learn from our elders. Today you can connect with an 80 year-old California lemon farmer, a true leader in agriculture who farms just 50 miles north of Los Angeles. Learn from her about love for family as she shares about the recent passing of her husband of 58 years and the 1997 bank robbery murder of her daughter. Read about her dedicated passion for agriculture, food and cooking, her willingness to speak out on issues and try new things as well as her deep faith in Jesus, who she came to know at the age of 55.
Elaine Cavaletto is originally from Nipomo-Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo County, California and currently resides on a 50 acre lemon farm in Somis, Ventura County, California. I first met Elaine through California Women for Agriculture (CWA) when I worked frequently in California and was based in Sacramento but commuted from North Dakota. Delta Airlines loved me in those years. Two friends and both CWA leaders, Celeste Settrini and Karri Hammerstrom connected us.
That was more than three or four years ago and Elaine has become from a mentor to me through social media. When I tackle a tough topic on my blog, Elaine chimes in with an encouraging word. She is not afraid of voice her opinion. She takes the time to share her support of me and she always reminds of God’s plan in my life. Elaine is a really special lady. I’m one of hundreds of women I know she encourages and supports.
I am grateful for women, generations ahead of me that have laid a foundation and blazed a trail for women in agriculture like me to follow. I am thankful for an elder like Mrs. Elaine Cavaletto we all can grow from by reading her words and living out her example as a woman who is dedicated to her family, her business and her faith.
Below are Elaine’s words that fill me with the hope, joy and the goodness of this life. She has faced tragedy and heart ache and yet she doesn’t stop working and fighting for her passions and trying new things in life. I can only pray I get to live out my loves and passions and never stop growing as a person like Elaine has in a lifetime.
Parents, Chris and Helen, are deceased and I am very thankful for the life they gave me and my sister on a ranch in San Luis Obispo County, California. I married my husband, Al on 9/24/1955. He was a lemon/avocado farmer. Al was Ventura County Farm Bureau President in 1973-74 and we attended meetings/met people throughout California. He supported me in my 40 years of banking and supported me in my farm organizations and Church activities. Sunday morning, December 29, 2013, my husband of 58 years, Al passed away after having back surgery and 4+ weeks of rehab/back to hospital several times.
Oh boy – – has my life changed. Still on the farm, learning all the things I didn’t know plus doing all the regular things that a farm wife does.
Lucky to have a gentleman who I hire, so I don’t have to do the heavy stuff. Life is deciding when to —— , what to——, how to—— and meetings to go to and new/updated regulations to study. WATER we need badly, GAP Certification (Food Safety), Immigration and Farm Labor Housing are the hot topics right now.
>Son, Richard 9/26/1956 – Associate Dean, School of Agriculture Food and Environmental Sciences, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, CA. Married to Melanie 4 sons and 1 daughter.Daughter, Monica 9/15/1957 (forever 39) Banker, murdered at work, 4/28/1997 in a bank robbery. 1 son and 1 daughter, 2 stepsons. Husband Floyd now married to Christine. Floyd and family continue to be part of our family.Daughter, Christina 3/13/1960 – Supervisor at Child Development Center in Visalia Ca. Married to Ag Teacher Greg, 1 daughter and 1 son who are both Ag Teachers. 9 grandkids: 3 involved in agriculture, 2 step-grandkids and 3 great grandkids and 7 step-grandkids.
What is your role in agriculture today? At the age of 80, my role is telling people about the daily life of a farmer; hard work, not having a regular paycheck, but also the wonderful life our family continues to have on the farm. New regulations are sometimes hard to accept and trying to explain that organic farmed food and conventional farmed food is a choice that each person makes. They are not that different. Land, water, immigration and government regulations of where/what we can farm, the pesticides we can use, the equipment we use, the noise/dust/smells all have to be dealt with. Continued learning is a must and once a farmer always a farmerWe support the agriculture organizations that we belong to: Farm Bureau, CA Women for Agriculture, CoLab of Ventura County. I always encourage consumers as well as farmers to become involved in these types of groups – we can all learn from each other.
How has agriculture shaped your life? As far back as I have researched, each generation of my families have been in farming. Hard work, save money as you never can be sure your crops will bring in enough money for the next year, be a good steward of the land you are farming, be kind to your neighbors and always answer questions from those who don’t know anything about agriculture. Tell your story.
What excites you about your community? A small town 3 miles east and our local school 3 miles west define what we think of as our valley community. 50 miles north of Los Angeles. A CA state highway (118) goes right down the center of the valley but we still farm.
When was the last time you tried something for the first time? I feel like I am always trying something that I never have done before. Now it is my family’s old Ford tractor – I plan to restore. My son-in-law and several friends will help but I told them that I want to be involved – a hands on experience. I hope to learn many things.
What do you do to encourage others? Who/what serves as a source of encouragement for you? Every day there are people to encourage you. When I was 55 I gave my life to Jesus and a whole new life opened up to me. I knew there was something missing in my life and at last I found it. It certainly helped me get through the early deaths of my only sister and our daughter. These experiences have helped me encourage others. I love little kids and encourage them to look at the things that are growing in our fields and gardens and to try all kinds of things.
Which children’s book best describes your childhood/life? Heidi My Dad read this to me when I had pneumonia. What a great time of bonding.
What is your favorite home-cooked meal? Bar-B-Que, Aebleskivers (Danish pancakes), Chocolate pie/cake and of course, ice cream. My Mother was an excellent cook and I still miss her dinners. She would make 50 different kinds of cookies for Christmas presents. Our oldest grandson and I make ravoli a recipe from the Giorgi/Cavaletto family cookbook. We had 500 frozen last year for various Christmas events. Farm families know how to cook!
If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor? My Dad. He would plant seeds and several weeks later would scratch the ground and show us the seed and explain the process of life of that seed. That always remained with me, as that is life.
If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be? Enjoy life, laugh often, love others and it’s OK to cry. Life is too short to be miserable. Listen for opportunities to tell your story. Each one is different and together we tell the world what agriculture is all about.
What makes you smile? So proud of our family and the many, many things they have accomplished. Love having grandchildren and great-grandchildren, seeing them on Skype wishing we could live closer. Feel so lucky that they all want to come to the farm and the telephone calls we have between us all. Our friends, who have seen all our bad and our good. Meeting strangers and hearing their story. Blessings from God.
Thank you, Elaine, for inspiring and being an elder, mentor and woman in agriculture we all can learn from through her words and example! Below are every feature in this 30 Days of Women in Agriculture series. Each story is valuable and unique. I treasure each one and hope you take the time to pick out a few from below to read and share. Day 22: 5th Generation Florida Peanut and Herb Farmer Sarah Carte