Have you ever wondered what crops are growing as you drive along the freeway in Yolo? Art & Ag Project partner, Anna Fricke, does too. Thus began Art & Ag’s latest project, Yolo County Crop Signs. For the last several months, Anna has worked with the Art & Ag committee to conceptualize, plan and begin the early stages of implementing an idea that would display large signs identifying a variety of crops along the major thoroughfares in Yolo County.
YoloArts Creative Director, Janice Purnell talked to Anna about her inspiration for this idea and to get an update on the project’s progress.
How did you come up with the idea for crop signs? I have always enjoyed seeing the wide variety of crops being grown in Yolo County and watching them change throughout the season. I noticed that while I was driving with others, the conversation often turned to discussing what was being grown in the fields we were passing. Much like my parents did to me as a child, I found myself quizzing my kids to see if they knew what was growing outside their window.
A couple of years ago , my family and I took a road trip north along Interstate 5 through Oregon and we enjoyed trying to identify the crops that we weren’t used to seeing at home. I started to wonder if other travelers were doing the same as they drove through Yolo County. In Oregon, the Oregon Women for Agriculture have created a crop and breed identification sign program to help travelers identify what is growing or being raised along roadways throughout the state. I loved the idea of the signs and the educational aspect of the program and thought this would be a great way for the Yolo County Farm Bureau to promote Yolo County agriculture.
Why partner with the Art & Ag Project? I wanted the signs to be informative, but also visually appealing and highlight Yolo County’s unique landscape. The Art & Ag Project seemed like the perfect partner to collaborate with on the crop sign design because of their expertise and our mutual goal of connecting farmers and the public through art. We are considering different graphic designers and artists to help us come up with a prototype for a design which is reminiscent of vintage produce crate labels, colorful and eye catching.
What is your goal for implementing the project? My immediate goal is to get at least 10 signs up along Interstate 5 between the Sacramento River and Countyline Road with the future potential of expanding the program along Hwy 113 and 505. The idea is to first showcase long term crops like almonds, walnuts, alfalfa. These crops don’t rotate every year so the signs will remain in one place and get the public used to seeing these identifiers.
The second phase of the project will include adding signs for fields planted to row crops that will need to be rotated each year. My goal is to have crop signs in place for the top ten crops based on gross value in Yolo County.
What are next steps? Funding! Once we get a design and budget in place, then the plan is to approach different organizations who might want to underwrite this project and help us get it off the ground. There may be potential for both local or bigger commodity organizations.
Why is this project important to you? Agriculture is a vital part of our community and our history. The Yolo Crop Sign Project will help educate the community and people traveling through our beautiful county by highlighting the amazing crops being grown right here in Yolo County. I also feel like it’s a great way to honor the farmers who are working hard to produce their crops.
Are there any plans to involve the community? As we transition to the second phase of the project, which will require the signs to be changed depending on the crops being grown each year, we will be looking to involve other community organizations to help with the ongoing needs and maintenance.
Once the project is underway, how can a farmer get a sign? We hope to make the signs available for purchase online for a nominal fee and are looking at options for sponsorship opportunities. These signs can be reused as appropriate. We know that Yolo County farmers take pride in their crops and think they will be open to the opportunity for them to showcase Yolo County agriculture.
Anna Fricke is Vice President, of Farm Credit West and has been a YoloArts Art & Ag Committee member since 2014. Each year she offers her time and talents to support Art Farm, Yolo County’s signature event celebrating the visual arts and farmlands of Yolo County. Among the many contributions she brings to the event is her creativity in designing and installing all of the event decorations. In addition, as a Yolo County Farm Bureau director she serves as a liaison facilitating a partnership that highlights the next generation of Yolo county artists through the annual display of Farm Bureau’s student contest winners at Gallery 625.
Learn more about the Yolo County Farm Bureau HERE