Let's start with a confession. I did not grow up milking cows or driving tractors or shaking walnut trees.
I grew up in San Francisco, in a neighborhood built on sand dunes and often wrapped in fog.
And yet I have been The Bee's agriculture reporter for the past seven years. You have trusted me (right?) to tell you what's happening on the farms and at the processing plants that drive our local economy.
I will continue doing that, with one change: I now have a weekly column, a chance every Saturday to reflect on farming beyond the day-to-day stories.
I welcome suggestions from readers who farm and from readers who, like me, are city-bred people with an interest in ag.
They could be about farmers with new products or techniques, or a produce stand you love to visit. They could be about kids who excel in 4-H and FFA. It could be your 18-point plan to solve the milk pricing dilemma in the dairy industry.
If it makes for good photos, and for video on modbee.com, so much the better.
The column will stick with The Bee's general approach to covering agriculture. We do not get too deep into technical details of growing crops or making wine, cheese or frozen chicken nuggets. We do try, more than anything, to show how many jobs are created and money is generated (for farmers and city dwellers) by selling our agribusiness products across the nation and beyond.
Consumer issues matter, too, from the price of milk to the health benefits of almonds. And we're interested in how food producers treat workers, livestock and the environment.
You don't need to be a farmer to report on these issues, any more than you need to be a burglar to cover crime.
You do need a respect for farmers. They work hard, as do their hired hands. They take risks. They know the land and much of the history of those who came before them.
Above all, they want the public to know that food does not simply come from the supermarket.
Have an idea for the Farm Beat? Contact John Holland at The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352; email@example.com; or (209) 578-2385.