In 2016, my husband and I opened Rolling Hills Bookkeeping in San Andreas. We invested everything, cashed out our retirement and took a leap of faith. For the first 14 months, business was booming and by December 2017, we were providing services to more than 160 clients. We worked to give back to this community by joining Rotary, coordinating with the Resource Connection to donate and raise funds for the food bank and for Toys for Tots. We were looking to purchase a home in Valley Springs and raise our three boys here since we felt we’d finally found a community to call home.

Then the rug was pulled out from under us. With the (cannabis) ban vote came daily visits from clients to cancel services and ask how to dissolve their corporations. In just five months, we lost over 75 clients, all due to the cultivation ban.

Anyone who runs their own small business knows the first two years are the hardest, scariest moments of your life, especially when you have a family and employees depending on you. And now, because of the vote of three men, our ability to pay our staff and care for our family has been ripped away.

Fortunately, we hadn’t transplanted our family yet and have the option to move our business to a county whose leadership majority doesn’t despise our industry. But the farmers we are leaving behind don’t have that choice. They’re stuck with land they invested thousands in to that won’t sell for a quarter of the cost.

This is the most heartbreaking experience of my life as we are walking away from some of the best people I’ve ever known as they watch their livelihoods crumble before their eyes. I can’t express the sadness and anger I feel for them all.

We will continue to work with the few farmers remaining to fight this disaster at the polls in November. With luck and progressive changes, maybe we’ll be able to reopen here someday. In the meantime, adieu, Calaveras. We shall miss you.

Meg Gonsalves

Rolling Hills Bookkeeping, San Andreas