Field & Pond Owner Responds to Ongoing Legal Battle

Dahvie James sitting in the living room at Field & Pond

The owners of Field + Pond have been successful both in securing approval from the county as well as the court itself.  But the fight is taking a toll on Dahvie James and Philip Watt, both financially and emotionally.

In January, Judge Kathleen White denied most of a suit filed by the Farmland Protection Alliance, Tuleyome, and the Yolo County Farm Bureau, but the one cause of action she upheld, the further study and EIR (Environmental Impact Report) to address “only the potential impacts of the Project on the Tricolored Blackbird, Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle, and the Golden Eagle,” not only cost them in terms of costs for an EIR, but also court fees because the plaintiffs ended up with a ruling in their favor.

Judge White did, however, allow that the project approval and mitigation measures “remain in effect during this period of further environmental analysis,” which means they can continue operations.

Dahvie James explained to the Vanguard, “We are grateful that we have continued to receive successful outcomes in this process.

“Despite numerous filings by the Petitioners to attempt forced cancellation of weddings from out of town visitors and local farming families alike, we have been able to continue our operations and business services uninterrupted and with full licensing,” he continued.  “We are proud that, through the diligent efforts by the local courts, and our county supervisors, to uphold justice and fairness, we have been blessed with a business that delivers high quality services that reflect the true value and sophistication that can be offered here in our beautiful county within the Sacramento Valley.”

Mr. James stated, “To date, we are celebrating our fourth wedding season, and we are privileged to not only have the opportunity to build our business, but to also build and contribute to the revenue and growth of other local businesses that have seen noteworthy halo benefits from our operations. “

Nevertheless, this process is clearly taking a toll.

“Of course we are saddened by what can only be characterized as shameless abuse of the county permitting and CEQA [California Environmental Quality Act] process, by people who are not only well outside of any area of impact from our business operations, but also known to host non-licensed events and activities themselves,” Dahvie James explained.

He continued: “The indisputable falsehood in their claims around concern with protecting ag land from development and saving endangered species are frustrating and truly embarrassing for our community. Not just because they lack integrity, but also because they truly don’t represent the viewpoints and upstanding character of the farming community that exist here.”

His dispute with the Romingers, interestingly enough, has been the anomaly, not the rule.

Mr. James said, “To date we have maintained not just friendly, but productive relationships with other neighboring farms and farmers, whether it be through collocation and partnership efforts, or through cooperation around spraying and harvesting schedules. The integrity behind our intent and actions has not wavered throughout this process.”

He said: “This is our fourth year operating across the street from a major walnut farming operation with not even one incident of disruption of their operations or ours. We agreed to a self-imposed blackout period, July 15 through September 15, to further mitigate any possibility of conflict with the alleged harvest schedules of the Petitioners. We use shuttles as a permanent means for mitigating, and in many cases eliminating traffic in the road that we pay unsubsidized taxes to have equal access to.”

He continued: “And any person with an element of curiosity about our views on protecting nature need only look as far as our business tag line, which is ‘Discover your true nature.’ We are a self-designated wildlife preserve.  One of the very few areas where the natural habitat has been preserved from intensive farming, and also where there is no permitted hunting. To date, not even one new structure has been built to merit any accusations of developing prime farm land.”

But the toll is mounting.

“I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t mention that efforts by Petitioners have taken a bit of a toll on my family. Times have been tough and much of the stress that they have placed on our personal lives, often when there are not even events taking place, has laid unnecessary and unkind burden on the health and mental moral of my family and our children.”

Mr. James explained: “We have endured constant court filings for unfounded complaints, resulting in extraordinary legal bills, despite all complaints being dismissed.  We have also weathered through constant stalking of our property, photographing of our business and family, and even the spreading of false information directly to our clients.

“Nevertheless, in this journey I stand still thankful, still blessed, still grateful, because despite what has been an exorbitant financial and emotional cost to pay only to gain fair legal treatment, fair access to opportunity, fair right to make a life and home for my family here in Yolo, we have still been successful. My prayer is that our children will look back on this time and be inspired by our endeavors and persistence in standing up for what has become a crusade for fairness, justice and equality. “

He concluded: “We are so grateful to the courts and the specific county Board of Supervisors who chose to step outside of the politics, and simply uphold the laws that are truly intended to establish a basis of fairness that everyone, no matter what their last name is, or what political posts their ancestors had served, should have access to.

“As the county staff report already indicates, we are in great standing from an environmental impact standpoint, and we look forward to finally completing this process and getting back to enjoying private and peace-filled lives.”

As the Vanguard reported, a Notice of Preparation has been filed, and they will now go through the EIR process.  The question now is whether the county will continue to back them and whether these efforts will be enough to satisfy those who have seemingly opposed them every step of the way.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Jim Hoch

    More throwing shade than providing light.

    The question of how to reconcile their business model with the predominate local industry is legitimate.

    The authors seem to blithely dismiss it.

    1. David Greenwald

      That’s not a question for this process. It’s a CEQA process and the only thing that the judge found lacking was an analysis of impacts on three species. The BOS already made their determination on the issue you are raising.

    1. Ken A

      Just like the “no student housing” people will fight to stop new student near their homes regardless of the race, sex or sexual orientation of the developer I’ve watched farmers over the years fight to stop non farming land used in farm areas regardless of the race, sex or sexual orientation of the landowner (I just finished reading a book where rich white straight Napa grape growers are fighting to stop other rich white straight grape growers from expanding since like the Davis apartment owners that had No on Nishi signs up they don’t want the competition)…

      P.S. Unlike John I don’t think the Winters farmers are anti-male bigots:

      1. Keith O

        I agree, some people will try and make everything about race and bigotry.

        I don’t think it mattered who tried to open an event site in the middle of their farms, they would be fighting them regardless of their race or sexual preference.

        1. Craig Ross

          I laugh when white people who don’t have to deal with issues of race and gender identity every day, put down the notion that race may play a role in people’s decisions.

        2. Ken A

          I agree that “race and gender identity” may “play a role in people’s decisions” but as a guy with a lot of (straight white) friends in the wine business in Sonoma and Napa counties I can’t think of a single non farming land use that was “welcomed” by the farmers in the area in the past 20 years.  I have mentioned that I had an openly gay roommate when I lived in SF (we had been friends since college when he was still in the closet and my girlfriend with an openly gay Dad said there was a 95% chance he was gay and I thought there was about a 75% chance).  My former roommate has joked that many of his gay friends actually have an easier time getting things approved since (almost) no one in Northern CA wants people calling them “bigots” for trying to stop the gay guys from adding a deck or opening a business that needs a zoning variance.

        3. David Greenwald

          There is not being welcomed and then there’s what’s happened here.  I’d be interested in the reception that Park Winters got versus this.

    2. Jeff M

      The only plain and simple point of bigotry today is the bias against people that claim every conflict is based in bigotry.

      These people that make the claim that every conflict is based in bigotry are clearly having trouble dealing with the loss of meaningful purpose in their lives having acquired an identity as advocate for certain victims.

      I doubt there is any real bigotry here.  It is just plain and simple NIMBYism.

      1. Howard P

        Somewhat disagree with your first two paragraphs, but on the third, strongly suspect it was 90% NIMBY-ism with a smattering of prejudice/bigotry thrown in for “flavoring”/intensity… so, basically agree.

        The CEQA stuff… hope they use Ag use of the adjoining properties as the “baseline”… am sure farming activities also affect the ‘species of concern’… and are far more extensive…

        1. Jeff M

          I have a principle that when the frequency and intensity of bias against another is not materially different than the bias against short men and gingers, then it is not worthy of continued activism.

          30+ years ago working in a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-gender division of a large company I would be sitting with my co-workers at break and lunch with the TVs on in the cafeteria and everyone commenting that the media and chattering class droning on about group conflict must live in a different world as civil rights had landed and institutional bias had materially and adequately left the stage.   So what the hell happened since then?

          What has happened since then is a Democrat party adopting more and more (“progressive”) left-leaning ideology that is the antithesis of the design of the American system and thus can only “sell” that dogma with a dose of amplified outrage at the remaining de minimis and more granular occurrence of singular incidents of bias against their favored protected group at the time.   Welcome Neo-Democrats.

          Today the bias is primary economic and education class… those having it looking down on those that don’t… plus some tribal warfare that results from a declining pool of economic opportunity.

          Humans naturally organize and form tribes to help them acquire and retain more resources.  When resources are plentiful (e.g., economic opportunity) the tribes are more likely to get along.  However, when resources are insufficient there is warfare against tribes that lack adequate access to those resources.

          The elites on the political left and their media pals cannot let go of the old civil rights story even though it is no longer relevant.  Institutional discrimination is against the law and it is WELL-enforced from the law… and also from the social-networking-powered mob that will destroy anyone in power that gets out of line.

          Increase economic opportunity for the lower socioeconomic classes and indications of group bias and bigotry will drop.  I believe this is why the Neo-Democrats are so intent to push globalism and unchecked immigration… because by keeping a large a healthy population of lower-class dependents there will be more tribal strife that Neo-Democrats can then work with their media pals to keep up the old fight, the old narrative and the only race-baiting money-making machine.   They cannot let it go because they have no back-up plan.

          There is no racial or sexual preference bias here… at least not enough to get worked up about.

          It is all NIMBY stuff.

        2. Alan Miller

          … am sure farming activities also affect the ‘species of concern’… and are far more extensive…

          Spraying hurts animals?   Moooooooo!!!!!

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