She grew up near a California beach, just down the road from Disneyland and today Karri Hammerstrom is a part of growing a majority of American peaches and plums. I think of Karri every time I buy a can of peaches, knowing they could be Hammerstrom peaches. Local food is relative. Often California produce is as local as I will find in North Dakota and I am thankful for the bounty of choices.
I became connected to Karri Hammerstrom and friends with her through California Women For Agriculture during a window of time that I worked in California. I fell in love with California agriculture because of people like Karri welcoming me in and making me feel right at home, literally. I have stayed in Karri’s family home and it is lovely, as is her entire family. While it’s now been nearly three years since I left working in California, I have deep relationships and friendships that have lived on with my California farm friends. I miss their faces, laughs, energy, stories, farms and truthfully despite all that I know is wrong with California, I miss California. Even though I am firmly rooted on the North Dakota prairie, I’ve always wanted to be a California girl.
My mom had always told me when I was a kid that God accidentally put me in the wrong family and that I really belonged on a California beach. As a child, I didn’t love North Dakota cold or agriculture very much. As an adult working in California, I learned I do love their beaches but I love their farmers and ranchers even more. I love their passion, their willingness to take on regulatory burdens and issues, to fight for a voice and a presence in their government and their long-term commitment to California agriculture which is so diverse. If California were a nation, it would be the fifth largest agricultural producing nation in the world. California raises 400 different crops. We ALL depend on California farms like that of Karri’s and many 80,000 others. Today, California is faced with the greatest disaster of our modern-day, a devastating drought.
As The New Yorker said earlier this fall, “Wells have gone dry, orchards have been left to perish, and those who came to California to work the fields stand idle.” Watch the video for an inside look.
But in the midst of devastation there are amazing stories vital to California agriculture and vital to our country I believe. Stories like Karri Hammerstrom from Kingsburg, California, married to Bill and the mom of Macey, age 15 and Cy, 9. Read below how Karri went from growing up near the beach and Disneyland to a passionate “God-fearing, gun toting” (her words below that I love) agriculture advocate, farmer and leader, one who will never stop fighting for California agriculture, for biotechnology and for her family’s livelihood.
What is your role in agriculture today? Grower/farmer of tree fruit & kids; community college Ag faculty/grant coordinator; Past State President, CA Women for Agriculture; biotechnology advocacy; #FeedThe9 advocate; CTE-ag careers proponent; high school ag boosters member; rural broadband accessibility advocate; supporter of ag-friendly policy makers and elected officials
How has agriculture shaped your life? I was not born into an Ag family. In fact, I spent my grade school and high school years growing up about five miles from the beach and 20 minutes from Disneyland…..and totally ignorant (and, truthfully, uncaring) of where my food, floral, fiber and fuel came from. In college, I was exposed to Ag and it changed my life…I first fell in love with the people involved with Ag There was something refreshingly different about them…and much different from a lot of the people I grew up with in “the OC” whose self-worth was tied up in who had or wore what. As I got to know my collegiate friends, I also started learning about Ag. My passion for Ag was planted and began to grow. As my undergraduate degree was in land planning and policy, little did I know how valuable my career pathway would compliment and foster my Ag passion into full-blown advocacy to help shape Ag policy and legislation at the local, state and federal level.
My husband and I farm stone fruit (cannery peaches and fresh sugar plums) and wine grapes. We’ve also grew round-up ready alfalfa for several years. My husband is also a former professional calf-roper; so, we always have horses around and he still ropes when he’s not being a produce broker or a coach or attending a boosters meeting. Our daughter was involved in 4-H for many years and is now heavily involved as a FFA chapter officer and has sights on being a state officer someday (and on Varsity tennis and JV softball)…which is pretty amazing since it was only a few years ago that she told me she wanted nothing to do with ag! Also, she has shown lambs for seven years and will begin showing steers next year. Our son, well, he’s not into 4-H and prefers to focus his efforts on football, water polo and baseball….loves to eat lamb and beef, as well as the fruit we grow!
As a mother and a wife, I feel a responsibility to be a truth seeker when it comes to providing for my family. That is especially relive at in my pursuit to share my passionate support for biotechnology and it’s benefits for agriculture and medicine, and for feeding my family and the world.
What excites you about your community? I live in rural America! Yes, I really do and love it! I live in a small town in California located in the heart of world’s most productive soil (but no broadband!). My husband likes to joke that we could grow whitewall tires in our soil. Along with our “neighbors”, we grow a majority of the U.S.’s peaches and plums. How cool is that? Having lived the majority of the first half of my life in one of California’s most populated areas void of any Ag and where houses were the only thing planted side by side, being able to live in the country and farm is so surreal. And the people in my community are so amazing in their own right and so real. We look out for each other’s kids and help those in need. We are a God-fearing, gun-toting (at least those not living in town) community. I feel blessed to be where I am at right now for my family! I would also add that the Ag community extends way beyond my physical community. The friendships and networking of the Ag community knows no boundaries and I consider that community to extend around the world.
When was the last time you tried something for the first time? Everyday! As a mother and life-long learner, I feel that I constantly doing things outside of my comfort zone or area of expertise. Most recently, this past summer, I incorporated a regular exercise routine into my life. As benign as it sounds, I really have a general distaste for exercise and have in the past made every excuse possible not to take care of my physical well-being. The benefits have been beyond my imagination and I’m happy to be setting a better example for my kids.
What do you do to encourage others? Who/what serves as a source of encouragement for you?
I try to be free with sincere complements and be readily available for my family and friends. On the flip side, I have some great friends and mentors and am involved with a women’s Bible study that involves some of the most amazing women I know and treasure of times of fellowship and prayer.
Which children’s book best describes your childhood/life? Put Me in the Zoo…it’s a Dr. Seuss series book and it’s about a finding your purpose in life. I feel that I’m constantly on a journey to find my purpose.
What is your favorite home-cooked meal? Ribeye steaks, rice pilaf, green beans, Caesar salad, garlic bread……or just bacon!….and always with CA red wine.
If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor? Ronald Reagan. Although I’ll never have the opportunity for Reagan to be my mentor, I have been fortunate to have been surrounded by some great men and women in my life who have taught me much about life and how to strive to be driven and honorable – always.
If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be? Biotechnology is safe. Biotechnology benefits us all. It should be that simple…
What makes you smile? Simplicity, sincerity, trustworthiness, humor, love and a gracious heart…the ah-ha moments when your children succeed, as well as those moments when they recover from disappointment with stronger determination and hope.
Thank you, Karri, for your bold voice in California agriculture and for your leadership that raises the bar for all women in agriculture. Stay connected with Karri on Twitter, Pinterest and through California Women For Ag.
I am sharing five giveaways this month in between the 30 Days of Women in Agriculture features. All features are listed below for you to visit and meet these fabulous ladies. You can leave a comment on this KLG Designs Giveaway on one Woman in Agriculture feature you have read and enjoy this month and be entered to win one of two pairs of handcrafted earrings this weekend!