I attended a public workshop held by the City of Cotati regarding an open space called Veronda Falletti Ranch directly across from City Hall. The 4 acre area is mostly brush with a few large oak trees. It also contains a worn out farm house, barn, watertower, and a few other small structures. The workshop was held in order to get the opinion of citizens on what the city should do with the space. It started with the City Council giving folks an opportunity to address them about this topic. In which many people did tell the council they're opinions regarding this, and other issues Cotati is facing such as housing development and traffic increase. Then, the City Manager gave a presentation describing the history of the ranch. He explained that the city is looking for an organization to run the daily operations of the space, with oversight from the city.
A local nonprofit, Farmster, applied to be the city's partner and run the ranch in whichever way the council decides. Dustin DeMatteo, a founder of Farmster, spoke about his vision for the land,"We want to start small, this is a project that should last decades. First fundraise, second farm. Once we have community support then we can expand." In their proposal to the city, Farmster said some possible uses for the space were to teach local farmers best practices, produce and sell goods made on the land such as candles, milk, or butter, and a spot for people to observe and feed livestock such as sheeps or goats. Many citizens expressed interest in having grade school field trips and programs for children to show them how a working farm operates. Others suggested it could be a great spot to replace their community garden, because the current location has become heavily shaded. However, there was definite consensus amongst the more than 30 people in attendance, the space needs to be a low traffic, quiet, and calm area given the nature of Cotati's slow lifestyle.
The meeting made me anxious at times, one concerned citizen yelled out, "If you're not a resident of Cotati, you shouldn't be here!" I thought about getting up and leaving because I live in Rohnert Park. Then I realized that even though my address contains a different city's name, I am still a member of this community. Sonoma County now more than ever should not be making divisions across city lines. This open space is a resource for anyone passing by to enjoy. My idea for the space would be to have Farmster partner with SSU service-learning courses in Environmental Studies and Planning, Geography, or even Biology. Service-learning students could volunteer daily to work at the farm or support when there's school field trips or other programs are taking place. Farmster greatly benefits from the helping hands and the students are able to learn firsthand the topics they discuss in class. Even though I am not a Cotati resident, I learned a lot from the meeting and was glad to observe the way in which the council formed their procedures and eventual decision about the land. I want to work in the public sector and as someone who is interested in the common good, I think it was a very beneficial experience. I hope that everyone works towards being more inclusive even in their tight knit communities.