May 4, 2022
I chose to study journalism in college with the money Uncle Sam helped me save. Perhaps I should have interviewed a few newspaper reporters early on and chose a better paying path, but I may be richer today for the relationships built over time.
The Fresno County Farm Bureau in California honored me recently with its first-place journalism award for a story I did on the shared efforts of the California rice industry and conservation groups to save endangered salmon. For that I'm not only grateful to the Fresno Farm Bureau, but to the California Rice Commission, several of its members, and the various conservation groups that agreed to sit for interviews.
The story idea was borne from my relationship with the rice commission. It was an easy pitch to Communications Director Jim Morris, who I trusted enough to run with picking the groups and representatives to interview. What started as one story became three. Along the way I interviewed rice commission staff, rice growers, representatives from California Trout, Ducks Unlimited, the Audubon Society, and the Nature Conservancy, and a university wildlife biologist. It was an interesting journey.
I wanted to talk about the collaborations between farmers and conservation groups – not something you see every day. From that came two facets of the same story: the efforts to protect habitat for birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway; and one on promoting healthy habitat for endangered salmon.
This is where I share my gratitude to a few of those who over 20 years ago showed their trust and willingness of a few agricultural leaders to sit for interviews and introduce me to others. They helped me build a valuable network with immeasurable value. I'll never forget longtime California dairy producer Ray Souza introducing me to agricultural and community leaders at an event where he went on to say genuinely kind things about me. There were others who patiently answered dumb questions and introduced me to those who could help me understand their issues. These include several founding members of Hilmar Cheese Company and former president of the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau, Ron Macedo.
I've heard it said many times that agriculture needs to do a better job of telling its story. I believe that the Fresno Farm Bureau may have a template for doing that. Fresno Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen not only has a genuinely positive working relationship with local reporters, he cites his relationship with various local media assignment editors as "incredibly important."
Also honored for their agricultural reporting by the Fresno Farm Bureau recently includes Patrick Cavanaugh of Ag Information Network, for an audio report on water issues; and a video by Aurora Gomez and Reuben Guerra of Fresno's ABC30 television station, for a report titled "Children first: Firebaugh High School's FFA program."
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