"Sherrie Kennedy, a 55-year-old former gym teacher from Gilroy, never saw herself as a farmer. She just knew that she was good at making good things come out of the Earth, and that people got so happy when they tasted her heirloom tomatoes.
But in the three years since she went into business selling the organic tomatoes she grows on eight acres below Pacheco Pass, Kennedy has seen her sales mushroom tenfold each year. Last year, boutique grocer Nob Hill Foods came calling, selling her produce in stores in San Jose and Gilroy.
"I treat my tomatoes like a box of Whitman samplers," said Kennedy, "where you open up that box and you say, 'I've got to have that.'"Excuse me. I am weeping.
It seems the USDA has counted the farmers, and found that they are younger, femaler, smaller and less-whiter than they were in 2002. Or are they?
"Part of the reason for the more diverse statistics, USDA officials acknowledge, is the agency tried harder to track down smaller, immigrant-run farms for the 2007 count."
Oops! But we won't let that ruin our story, will we? No!
"The aging of American farmers, along with Americans' changing palates, are driving the feminization of farming.
"You're seeing women taking over as the principal operator because their spouse has passed on," said Carol House of the National Agricultural Statistics Service. "You also see some women coming in and doing things like raising goats and selling organic specialty cheeses. The niche-type things — they weren't overrun by white male operators — and there is this role there.""Die, white male farmers, die!
Invigorated by their recent widowhood, the new breed of female, ethnic* farmers are bringing a certain je ne sais quoi to the lush valleys of central California. Mike Swift cannot really sais it either--he alludes to a vague benevolence spread through the land by the earth-loving ethnic-women, a "great mix," if you will. Although it might involve Asian long beans.
*Actual word used in story.