I left my heart in – well, everywhere.

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I may have mentioned a time or two that I have the best job in the world. Technically, I’m the news director for AgNet West, which provides farm news to radio stations around California. I get to hang out with farmers and ranchers (a pretty cool group of people), learn about the intricacies of agriculture, share what I’ve learned with others, and do it all while traveling around my favorite state in the U.S.

[Sure, there’s a lot more to it, but it’s a quiet Saturday morning and I don’t feel like thinking about the stressful parts.]

I recently got to share my job and my state with a newcomer to both. BrayAnna, an adorable farm girl from Georgia, was sent to California to train with me for a week. My mission was to teach her a bit about farm broadcasting, show her how I work on the road, and get to know her so I can be a mentor to her as she grows in her career.

milk interview

BrayAnna is fresh out of college, and was hired on by our sister network, Southeast Agnet, which covers ag in Georgia, Alabama and Florida. She’s got a sunny smile, hilarious sense of humor, and a quick mind (all great in our business). She also has the thickest, sweetest, Georgia peach accent you’ve ever heard.

And she’s got a selfie stick.

She was a little embarrassed to pull it out at first. “My mama got it for me when she heard I was coming to California,” she apologized. But, after a couple shots, the girl was shameless with it.

bray and cows

I’ll admit, I may have encouraged a few of the selfies. When you’re traveling around California, pictures are a must. This really is a magnificent state.

BrayAnna flew in to Fresno on a Tuesday evening. The next morning, we drove up to San Francisco, where I had a couple of interviews with the California Milk Advisory Board.
BrayAnna watched and helped with the interviews, but I think the most exciting part for her was the “Happy California Cows”. Apparently, they’re famous even in Georgia.

golden gate selfieA trip to San Francisco isn’t complete without a visit to the Golden Gate Bridge. Also on BrayAnna’s “must see” list – the house from the TV series Full House. Though we had a tight schedule, we were able to spend some time walking through the shops on Pier 39 and stopped for some famous San Francisco sourdough. I get to visit San Francisco a couple times a year, so seeing it again through the eyes of a first-timer is fun.

After San Francisco, it was back to the Central Valley, home of some of the best agriculture in the world. And some pretty fun events, too. That weekend, the country radio station in Tulare (KJUG) was having its annual music festival. I gathered the girls and headed down the 99 to the International AgriCenter along with a few thousand other people. The music line up was fantastic – headliner Christ Young, Big & Rich and some amazing lesser-known performers – Craig Campbell, Chase Bryant, and Lauren Alaina.

The next morning, we were on the road again, this time with my daughter along. The three of us headed west over the beautiful Pacheco Pass, painted golden from the once-green grass that has dried from the heat and drought. It’s here that I’m reminded why California is “The Golden State”. It once referred to the valuable mineral found in our mountains and soil. And then, perhaps to the rich soil itself. And of course, fields of our beautiful golden poppies. But these days, with the serious lack of water, we are golden from all the dry vegetation covering the state. It’s beautiful, yes, but also a visual reminder of the danger we’re in.

I explained this to the ladies as we headed over the hills. There are many places along Pacheco where I would stop and take some pictures, if only it didn’t mean causing a terrible crash and possibly killing several people. Instead, I wait until we are well past – nearly to Gilroy, in fact – where this is such a beautiful sight to me, I must stop and get a quick photo or two.

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[Side bar: I am very fond of cattle and open spaces.]

Our destination is Santa Cruz, but I have us staying someplace I’ve never been: The Santa Cruz mountains. We’ve just made it into the area when I fall in love. It’s breathtakingly beautiful. With majestic California redwoods, charming little mountain towns, and the beautiful California coast just a short drive away, I could stay here forever.

It’s here that I realize every time I visit someplace new in California, I often feel that I’ve found my new favorite spot. From small towns to big cities, whether it’s Bonny Doon, Ferndale, Auburn, San Diego, Hanford, Old Sacramento, San Francisco, or a hundred other places – California really is amazing.

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I have a good friend who I’ve started sending post cards to while I’m traveling. I tease this friend about coming to California someday for a grand tour of my beautiful state, and all the places I would put on the tour. That list gets longer every time I get in the car.

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