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Kevin Merrill

Kevin Merrill

As I start writing this column for yet another new year, I decided to look back and see when I wrote my first column for the newspaper.

In August 2004 my friend Victor Tognazzini, who wrote the weekly “On the Farm” column for the Santa Maria Times, asked me to fill in for him while he ran for a seat on the Santa Maria High School District Board of Trustees. Victor told me I would need to fill in for a couple of weeks until the election was over.

Well, Victor won a seat on the school board and subsequently moved to Wyoming. My initial two weeks of writing the farm column is now in its 15th year.

I try to write a new column every two weeks. Sometimes I miss a week due to work but I haven’t missed too many over the years. I enjoy hearing from the readers via email or sometimes in person. It’s enough of a nudge to keep me writing. I recall only one negative comment over the years, all the rest have been positive, and I really do appreciate that. Let’s see where 2019 takes us.

Last week North County farmers and ranchers were blessed with a half inch of rain for Christmas. The weatherman is forecasting more rainfall for the second week of January. We will say a prayer and keep our fingers crossed that the rain makes its way to us.

Winter officially began on Dec. 21, and a week later cold, early-morning temperatures dropped to 28 degrees in the vineyard below our house, leaving a blanket of white frost covering the ground. It is exactly what our vines needed to help them go into dormancy, which is good timing, as our pruning crews will be in the fields beginning today.

Last week I drove into Los Alamos early one morning to get our mail at the post office. I drove by Charlie’s Restaurant where a few farmers and ranchers’ pickups were parked outside. I couldn’t help but notice all the new white paint on the newly-resurfaced main road going through town. It’s been there for a while but I really noticed it that morning, almost out of place for Los Alamos.

The ornaments on the Christmas tree in Ferrini Park a little further up the road sparkled in the early morning sunlight as I made my way past the Los Alamos Market, now owned by my long-time friends Mike and Dominica Valencia, whose family roots run deep in both the Los Alamos and Santa Ynez Valleys. There are quite a few new businesses and faces in Los alamos these days, which I guess is a good thing. It’s great to see local tradition carried on.

Mike and his family were running a small deli in the back of the market known as Aye Chihuahua that served really good authentic Mexican food before purchasing the rest of the Market. Mike and Dominica were successful in keeping some of the equipment Henry Gonzalez used when the deli portion was used to process and store local beef for ranchers living in the area years ago.

I had a great visit with Mike and his daughter last time I stopped in for lunch at the deli. Next time you are in Los Alamos, stop in and say hello to the new, friendly owners at the Los Alamos Market.

Happy New Year everyone.

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Kevin Merrill of Mesa Vineyard Management is as board member of the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau and a director on the Santa Barbara county Fair board. He can be reached at kmerrill@mesavineayrd.com

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