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the political will to support ag, not just open space. The people of South County need to fight for us, for the economics of farming, for our industry to survive here in the future. When people shop, we hope they take the time to look at food packaging and labels in stores, and buy local. Buy California.” While Gilroy has its garlic fest, Morgan Hill celebrates the mushroom. The weekend-long Mushroom Mardi Gras is held every May in downtown Morgan Hill. According to Executive Director Sunday Minnich, “Even though we compete with hot weather, major televised sporting events, graduations and vacations, Mushroom Mardi Gras still attracts tens of thousands of visitors eager to sample dishes with sautéed, stuffed, or deep-fried mushrooms. This year’s event also included cooking dem- onstrations, wine tastings, amusement rides for the kids, and live music. During its 37 years as a non-profit organization, Mushroom Mardi Gras has awarded more than $1,000,000 in scholarships to seniors in the Morgan Hill Unified School District, and donated more than $500,000 to other local non-profits.” Grass Farm Erin Gil is the owner of Grass Farm, President of the Santa Clara County Farm Bureau, and a past member of the Landscape Advisory Committee of the Santa Clara Valley Water District. He has a unique and important perspective on agriculture. “My father left a management position in the industrial gas industry to start up the Grass Farm in 1969,” Erin said. “The work was hard and he had to develop new skill sets to grow the business. I went to UC Santa Barbara to study tele- communications and realized I wanted to be outside and work the land. I began helping my father and found I loved the industry and what it contributes to quality of life by way of environmental and psychological benefits.” “When it comes to agriculture my concern is that people have become too far removed from it and they won’t realize what they have until they’ve lost it.” Gil pointed out that continued loss of ag land means increased dependence on food imported from outside California and the U.S. in general, which means the loss of access to fresh, high-quality fruits, vegetables and other plants at affordable prices. “We also need more living plant materi- al in our environment to offset the heat generated by urban development with its concentration of rooftops, concrete and asphalt. On a hot summer day it may be 98 degrees when you’re standing on turf grass, and 120 degrees when you step onto nearby asphalt. We’re not only seeing higher temperatures, but the heat persists longer into the evening hours so there’s less cooling.” “Families want a nice yard at home that’s healthy and safe for their children to play in. Grasses and other live plants and trees act to reduce heat, improve groundwater recharge and provide other benefits. With the continuing drought and rising water costs, we all need to think differently about landscape and irrigation system design and maintenance, to make it more efficient.” “Over the past four years I’ve been involved with subsurface drip irrigation systems that provide a good solution for green urban landscapes that support water conservation and environmental benefits. We also need to move toward more use of recycled water resources. These are opportunities to make a positive difference if our community is willing to invest in change.” GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN JULY / AUGUST 2016 Loma Linda Ranch James Simoni is a cattle rancher and a Gilroy attorney. The Loma Linda has been a cattle ranch since the turn of century and it’s been in his family since the late 1950s. Simoni’s sister has property in Gilroy where she grows hay. “We run cattle up here, both ours and others. Ours is a commercial herd, pre- dominantly Angus beef cattle. When the drought took hold, we reduced our herd by about 50 percent of its usual size. With enough water, we’ll continue building it back up.” Simoni’s cattle are pasture grazed and supplemented with alfalfa. No antibiotics or steroids are used. They are sold through a sales yard once they reach the desired weight. Simoni said that while he would have liked to develop a business selling beef direct to local restaurants, Loma Linda doesn’t have the onsite facilities to butcher or conduct inspections. “We still use horses for gathering the herd and we brand the cattle using traditional methods. Our focus is on the safety of the cowboy and the animal.” “Water will always be an issue in our region, but over the years we’ve put in stock ponds and we have natural springs on the ranch. Trespassers are probably our biggest problem. But it’s a tough business with different issues to solve every day. That’s what we do.” 63