Meet a Farmer: Chris Sayer of Petty Ranch
Chris Sayer is a fifth generation farmer based in Ventura County, California where he farms citrus and avocados. He’s just as passionate about educating his neighbors on agriculture as he is about soil health! Sayer is also a host farmer for Ventura County Farm Day, an annual event that encourages folks to get out and visit the farms and learn about agriculture up close up. This year’s Ventura County Farm Day takes place November 9, you can learn more here.
CA GROWN: Can you tell us about Ventura Farm Day?
Chris: It is the one day out of the year when 20 farms and ranches are open to the public where they have an opportunity to see the $2 billion agricultural industry that is an economic driver in Ventura County.
CA GROWN: Why is it important?
Chris: Agriculture is a big part of our local economy. We have so many residents who are not familiar because they are not engaged in agriculture. We get one day a year to try and bridge the gap and educate our residents about our industry. County wide we get about 3,000 – 4,000 visitors on Farm Day. We usually get about 300 visitors to our ranch.
CA GROWN: What are you doing today?
Chris: Today is not an exciting day as I am in the office taking care of month-end paperwork and payroll. I am also working on our food safety audit that is coming up in the next month. Our guys in the field are staking our young avocado trees for next year’s crop.
CA GROWN: What is your favorite thing about farming?
Chris: What I really enjoy most of the time is the challenge. There are always things that are coming up that have to be dealt with such as weather and market conditions. It’s a continual exercise in problem solving.
CA GROWN: How do you give back to the community?
Chris: Our biggest project this year is our partnership with See Ag, the organizers of Ventura Farm Day. They also run an education program for about 2,000 third graders that we host on our ranch. The students learn about soil science and plant life. They also learn about the kinds of insects that live on the farm, both beneficial and pest types.
CA GROWN: What drew you into the farming profession?
Chris: I’m fortunate to be part of the 5th generation of family farming here in Ventura County. I had the good fortune about 20 years ago to get back on the family farm full time. After college, I was a pilot in the Navy for a few years. From there my wife and I both worked in Silicon Valley and finally came back to the farm in 2001.
CA GROWN: What are your hobbies or past times when you are not farming?
Chris: I love to run; although I haven’t had the opportunity to do much running this summer. I enjoy writing and have a blog. Farming fortunately gives me plenty to write about. (You can find a link to Chris’ blog here.)
CA GROWN: What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into farming?
Chris: I think they should be ready to be patient and flexible. Embrace that fixing things and improvising will be a large part of the job. No matter how well you have things planned out, the nature of the business has many unexpected challenges popping up. Be ready to be flexible.
CA GROWN: What is one thing you do on the farm to be sustainable?
Chris: What we focus on the most is soil health. We use cover crops and other strategies to improve the quality of our soil. The organic matter quality content of soil is normally measured at about 2 to 3 percent. Our ranch is close to 6 percent because we have been able to build up matter in the soil which helps us retain the water and keep the overall soil healthy through the hot and dry summers.
CA GROWN: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Chris: I encourage people to come out and see the diversity of Ventura County agriculture on November 9 for Ventura County Farm Day. We have large and small farms. There is just about every kind of farm available to visit from goat farms to strawberry farms.
Learn more about Ventura County Farm Day here.