America often seems to be a place in search of a bit of solid middle ground. That requires compromise, which these days is in short supply.

The biggest and most obvious example of this concept is our federal government and elected leaders, torn as they are by partisan politics and blatant self-interest. The result is the nation’s common interest is forgotten, or simply ignored. That idea also seems to be creeping into lower levels of government, and into the general population.

Maybe, because of America’s vastness and the diversity of its human inhabitants, we are functionally incapable of finding middle ground, where people can agree to disagree, then proceed to the problem-solving phase of the relationship.

Whatever the reasons and motives it is clear, at times, that we are tearing ourselves apart with personal insults and vitriol. The more distant from each other we become, the more difficult it will be to repair the damage and bridge the gap.

That notion could be what’s behind a meeting of the minds between local wine grape and cannabis growers, a panel of whom will sit down and talk about their differences — and their common goals — on Wednesday. The discussion will include a potential partnership between the two industries to push for a new tourism resource in this region.

The “Together We Thrive Community Forum” panel discussion is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. in the Industrial Eats Grand Ballroom, 181 Industrial Way in Buellton. It’s interesting that so many of these sorts of conversations take place in the middle of the county. Supporting the middle-ground philosophy perhaps?

The meeting should be interesting, in large part because both sides already agree the county’s unique climate and other factors make for ideal conditions for both wine grape and cannabis cultivation.

The ultimate goal might be characterized as getting local residents and businesses together to identify innovative ways to enhance Santa Barbara County agri-tourism.

Agriculture already is this county’s most powerful industry. The almighty strawberry is the king of local crops, year in and year out, but wine grapes come in at a solid No. 3 spot behind broccoli. Cannabis didn’t make the top-crops list for 2018, but almost certainly will be climbing into prominence in the years ahead. According to various reports, this county is one of the most attractive in California for cannabis agriculture.

And therein lies part of the problem. Overlooking moral or philosophical objections to the legalization of marijuana, the industry presents other issues, among them odors wafting from grow farms.

Wednesday’s gathering in Buellton should truly be a collection of community and agriculture-sector leaders. The aim is to discuss ways to bring two important industries together with a common purpose.

There apparently already is a model for such a collaboration in Sonoma County far to our north, where such happenings as the Happy Travelers Wine & Weed Tours, Wine Country Weed Trips and the Sonoma County Experience are taking hold.

We expect stand-up comedians and late-night TV talk show hosts will have some fun with the Sonoma concept. We also can anticipate these business collaboration experiments will ripen into something economically beneficial.

In fact, the success of the local finding-common-ground effort among growers could defy the laws of gravity and flow uphill, perhaps paving the way for our elected leaders to take a hint, move beyond partisan politics and self-interest, to focus on the very real problem of bringing America and Americans back together.

Stranger things have happened.


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