Worth a thousand words
January/February 2017 California Bountiful magazine
Story by Christine Souza
Photo contest captures, celebrates California's bounty
Share a moment between a cow and her newborn calf on the North Coast. Catch a glimpse of the early-morning Napa Valley winegrape harvest. And feel like a kid again watching children around the state enjoy life on the farm.
Camera enthusiasts and smartphone photographers who participated in the 2016 California Farm Bureau Federation Photo Contest allow us to experience the abundance of California agriculture—its crops, livestock and lifestyle. The 35th annual competition included a $1,000 Grand Prize, three top awards and six honorable mentions. The Budding Artists category, presented by the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, honored photographers ages 13 and younger.
The 2016 theme, "Fresh Perspectives," encouraged participants to explore unique viewpoints. We invite you to take a visual journey through a variety of perspectives on California farm country and meet the photographers behind the winning images.
Grand Prize: Andrew Lincoln, Napa County
The vineyard before first light "makes for a very surreal environment and very dramatic moments," said Andrew Lincoln of this view of the chardonnay winegrape harvest. "What really matters is the collective process behind the (wine) product—everything from the farmers who manage the crop to the stories of the laborers and to the wildlife who call it their home."
First Place: Hannah Gbeh, San Diego County
Hannah Gbeh captured her husband, Mannah Gbeh, carefully tending peanuts on their 8-acre farm. She said he's a disabled U.S. Navy veteran originally from Liberia who loves working the land. "I'm trying to tell Mannah's story," she said. "In West Africa, a civil war broke out when he was 10, so he lived in a refugee camp when he was 17, and he knows what it is to not have food."
Second Place: Becky Hanson, San Joaquin County
Driving through Clements, the beauty of a golden walnut orchard stopped Becky Hanson in her tracks. "It was one of those afternoons where you just want to roll the windows down and be outside," Hanson said. Photography has become a passion for Hanson, who became slightly disabled from a spinal tumor a few years ago. "My new philosophy is: There will never be another today."
Third Place: Mary Heffernan, Siskiyou County
Mary Heffernan, a former restaurateur, and her lawyer husband made a major change when they moved 2 1/2 years ago from Silicon Valley to a Northern California ranch with their four daughters. "The wide open spaces and having the kids out, barefoot, playing with animals and growing our own food and raising our own animals really epitomizes what agriculture is for our family," Heffernan said.
Julie Thornton, Mendocino County: Julie Thornton, who lives on a family ranch in Potter Valley, was perched on a hill overlooking a winery as part of a photography workshop when she discovered this landscape. "It's gorgeous with the green oak trees, brown hills and the golden color of harvest time," she said. "It was quite cloudy that day, but it was just a perfect reflection. It's a beautiful spot."
Becky Reisdorf, Monterey County: Becky Reisdorf often goes along with her husband and teenage son, a beekeeper, to check on the honeybees. Bees dancing outside of the hive, she said, is a typical occurrence. "It's just so mesmerizing to hear them buzzing and gives you a sense of calmness," she said. "Beekeeping takes a ton of focus to make sure that you aren't damaging any bees."
Vanessa Alexandre, Del Norte County: Atop her four-wheeler, Vanessa Alexandre took a spin through her lush organic dairy farm just a mile from the Pacific Ocean and discovered an hours-old calf with its mother. "She was very pretty in the grass," Alexandre said. "It's easy to capture something spectacular" when living in an area that is so beautiful, she said.
Jenny Manuelli, Stanislaus County: Originally from Los Angeles, Jenny Manuelli said she now feels most in her element "where it's all farmland, horse and cattle country." She snapped this photo while admiring a herd of longhorn cattle in Copperopolis. "It was a calm and quiet moment, with me and the cattle, and there was just stillness," she said. "They are just really majestic, gorgeous creatures, but they will let me scratch their faces and in between their ears."
Becky Hanson, San Joaquin County: When Becky Hanson suggested a fun outdoor photo shoot featuring California vegetables, her friend, an aspiring photographer, was a little hesitant, but quickly became enthusiastic. "They looked so pretty. It's just vegetables and people love them," Hanson said of the colorful produce. "I turned the photos into notecards. It felt so 'California' to me."
Susana Velasco, Tulare County: To capture the colorful sunset in a newly planted cotton field, Susana Velasco hit the ground to achieve the right vantage point. Velasco said she is passionate about the beauty of clouds, especially those taking on brilliant hues at sunset: "It's like having the most delicious cake to me, with your eyes."
First Place: Chelsea Davis (13 years old), Fresno County
While spending a morning feeding calves, Chelsea Davis captured brother Colin, age 2, sitting on a hay bale and playing with his toys, miniature versions of the family's tractor and baler visible in the background. "I really like photography because it expresses how you are looking at things from your point of view," Davis said. "I want to do something that no one has seen before."
Second Place: Bella Locke (13 years old), Tulare County
One afternoon when Bella Locke got home from school, she headed straight for the barn to work with her 4-H heifer, Famke (Dutch for "girl"). "I tried to get her to pose and took a selfie with her. It probably took me like five tries," Locke said. "Cows always clean off their mouths and put their tongue in their noses. I was trying to be funny."