Meet a Farmer: Matt Bozzo of Golden Gate Hop Ranch
Matt Bozzo is the farm manager for Golden Gate Hop Ranch in Yuba City. Don’t let the name of the ranch fool you. The farm no longer produces hops, but is home to 130 acres of prunes and another 180 acres of walnuts. Meet this fourth generation California farmer, who learned to drive a tractor before a car!
CA GROWN: What are you doing today?
Matt: Managing a pruning crew in our prune orchards, servicing tractors, sprayers, and other farm equipment. I’m also updating all of my shelves of worker safety and food safety manuals.
CA GROWN: What is your favorite part of farming?
Matt: When time permits, jumping out on a tractor for the day. Sometimes I’m mowing or spraying and other times just surveying the orchards. It’s a great opportunity to look at the orchards closely and gives me a chance to think about family, friends, and life. It’s very relaxing. Some farmers call it “meditating.”
CA GROWN: How do you give back to the community?
Matt: I like to help out our local Farm Bureau by giving tours of our orchards and operations. It gives me the opportunity to educate regulators and other non-Ag groups from Sacramento on how current and even proposed regulations affect local farmers.
We’ve had several groups out here to include Federal Emergency Mangement Agency, Department of Water Resources, Irrigated Lands staff and local county officials. I put together gift bags with local crop goodies as a thank you for their time and also to give them a sample of what our industry has to offer. While educating some of these groups, we are also building relationships.
Regulations change every year, and sometimes those regulations are made without going out to the actual industry where they are affecting folks. It’s very important to educate people on what we do on a day-to-day basis. I enjoy it greatly. I also leave open-ended invitations to folks if they want to come visit us again.
In addition to this, I am part of a local Spray Safe Committee for the Yuba-Sutter area (grower to grower solutions). In partnership with local Ag Chemical and Business companies, other growers, Ag Community offices and the County Farm Advisors office, plus the local Farm Bureau office we put on a seminar to help growers source tools on how to develop safety programs with current pesticide safety regulations and even with California Occupational Safety and Helath Agnecy regulationss Each year those regulations change a little bit and growers have to stay current.
CA GROWN: What drew you into farming?
Matt: I grew up on a farm in Gridley, CA that was established by my great-grandfather. My sister, brother, a good number of cousins, and I worked closely with my mom, dad, uncle, and grandfather in prune orchards, kiwi vineyards, and our prune dehydrator. I learned how to drive a tractor first, then a 1960’s dump truck, and THEN an actual car at 16. Agriculture has been my passion for a very long time. No matter what jobs I have had in the past, I have always wanted to stay in or close to agriculture.
CA GROWN: What are your hobbies or past times when you are not farming?
Matt: Gardening with my wife, Amber (she has an awesome Sunflower Fort in the summer time). I enjoy fishing up in the Sierras with family and friends, and I would like to start getting into restoring pre-1945 farm tractors.
CA GROWN: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start farming?
Matt: Be willing to start on the ground floor first. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. My first job growing up was painting trees and suckering kiwi vines. Today, I white wash trees and sucker walnut trees and I have a college degree. Do your research in the crop you want to get into. Bend some ears and get involved in the community.
CA GROWN: What are one or two things you do on the farm to be sustainable?
Matt: Build relationships with the companies or individuals that purchase your crops. Educate them on what you do on the farm. Do your best to be open to new ideas or concepts. We converted over half of the farm to micro-sprinklers 4 years ago. We installed soil moisture sensors to monitor our soil profile during irrigations. It allows us to determine when to start irrigations and watch for high water tables.