Earlier this year, one of the great boosters of home and locally grown food in Sonoma County passed away.
Bob Cannard’s family chose to counterpoint his rather noisy life with a quiet family funeral. But on what would have been his 83rd birthday, and with Fred and Nancy Cline’s help, they threw a party for anyone in Sonoma Valley who cared to see the old fella off.
They roasted an ox, fed maybe six hundred or so people with a fabulous meal, and fired a cannon.
Bob was not an organic grower, but the ox his sons roasted was grass fed, their produce way beyond organic, and the Cline wine came from grapes grown sustainably.
By anyone’s reckoning, this was an act of great generosity and inclusiveness. For me, that’s exactly what Bob was all about, and why the event was so special.
Depression era starvation was burned into his memory of childhood, as was his mother’s generosity toward the starving. The Cannards of Danville, Pennsylvania were growers, bottlers, canners, preservers, cordial makers and despite being a large family, gave a lot of it away.
Ever since, wherever he has lived and whatever he has made a living at, he has always had an orchard, grown produce in abundance, and kept chickens. More than that, he has urged, cajoled, and intimidated everyone around him to do the same.
“Don’t worry about the details, here’s some bean seeds, take a couple of these broccoli plants and this Ficus carica and get ‘em in the ground. Would you believe you can grow forty-seven vegetables on twenty square feet all year round. Why I can eat my own fresh peaches from May through to November! Try this raspberry, wonderful. Pull a few carrots and take this Camellia for Jeri Lynn, Do you need eggs?
It’s the last thing he said to me, or rather wrote, on his trademark yellow pad after his voice went. Take some eggs.
The fig tree gave us three sweet figs this fall. Go get some seed and grow some food.
You can visit the website for the Bob and Edna Cannard Fund for Agriculture for additional information about Bob Cannard, Sr..
Many more of his stories, history and memories have also been collected in Sonoma's Last Pioneer, which was jointly published in 2005 by the Sonoma Historical Society and Whitworth and I.