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Awards given to county Farm Bureau offices

Local organizations honored for outreach, community service.

Farm Press Staff

January 5, 2024

6 Min Read
Flooded farmland
Farmland in Monterey County, Calif., is flooded in spring 2023. The county's Farm Bureau was recently honored for its crisis management during the floods.California Strawberry Commission

Local Farm Bureau organizations from four California counties were among those given awards recently by their statewide counterpart, which honored them for facing up to major challenges for agriculture.

Those challenges included historic flooding, Colorado River water supply issues, massive acquisitions of farmland by a development group and state regulations affecting farmers and ranchers.

The four county offices – in Monterey, Solano, Imperial and Stanislaus counties – were among honorees announced at the California Farm Bureau’s 105th annual meeting last month in Reno.

Here is a rundown of the honorees, according to CFB releases.

Top local Farm Bureaus

The Monterey County Farm Bureau was honored in the small Farm Bureau category for its crisis management during 2023’s devastating atmospheric storms, which caused more than $600 million in damages to the regional agricultural sector.

The county Farm Bureau engaged with seven public agencies on improving Salinas River maintenance and flood control systems. It also worked closely with the California Office of Emergency Services on flood response and emergency communications and conducted scores of media interviews, drawing international attention to the region’s agricultural importance.

The Monterey County Farm Bureau additionally awarded $16,000 in scholarships to college students pursuing agricultural degrees and held three “Farm Day” events for local third graders and their parents.

The Solano County Farm Bureau was also honored in the small Farm Bureau category for efforts including securing $10 million in grants for regional farmers from the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program and the Healthy Soils Program of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The Farm Bureau also brought in $383,000 in funding in micro-grants for small farmers.

Meanwhile, the Solano County Farm Bureau engaged in extensive advocacy to protect the local agricultural character in the face of efforts by Silicon Valley billionaires seeking to rezone 55,000 acres of farmland to build a new city. The Solano County Farm Bureau additionally increased its membership by 33%.

The Imperial County Farm Bureau was awarded top honors for mid-sized Farm Bureaus in recognition of its outreach efforts on Colorado River issues. The Farm Bureau worked with the late California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, hosting a staff delegation for discussions on water needs for the region’s $3 billion agricultural sector.

The Imperial County Farm Bureau also raised more than $12,000 for a public relations outreach campaign to educate other elected officials and the public. Farm Bureau board members were additionally featured in a documentary, “The Green Desert,” on farmers in the Imperial and Coachella valleys who depend on the Colorado River to supply America with produce during the winter months.

Among large county Farm Bureaus, the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau was recognized for its “Farm News” publications, political activities and membership efforts, which included a membership retention rate of more than 90%. In addition, it was honored for working with farmers and ranchers on compliance matters, including irrigated lands, pesticides, stock pond and trucking regulations. The Stanislaus County Farm Bureau also partnered with the Modesto Rotary to present a “Farmworker of the Year” award, recognizing the critical contributions of agricultural employees. Additionally, the group hosted 1,200 elementary school students for its annual “Ag EdVenture Day,” providing hands-on experiences in agriculture.

Hometown Heroes

Bill and Dana Power, operators of Modesto-based energy and water conservation companies, have received the California Farm Bureau’s Hometown Heroes Award in recognition of their support of the Young Farmers & Ranchers program in Stanislaus County.

The Stanislaus County YF&R Committee nominated the Powers for the award.

The Powers, members of the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau, were nominated for the award in recognition of their efforts “to enhance knowledge and educational opportunities” for YF&R members. Those efforts included offering training to young agriculturalists in pumping and irrigation technologies and efficient water use for farming.

The couple, owners of Power Services Inc. and Power Hydrodynamics Inc., were also recognized for their longtime financial support of Young Farmers & Ranchers.

YF&R Awards

Young farmers from Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties have been awarded top prizes for agricultural achievement and excellence as well as their commitment to the California Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers & Ranchers program.

Mark Avilla, a farm manager for family walnut orchards in Stanislaus County who has engaged with state legislators on agricultural issues and used his multimedia skills in encouraging students to pursue farming careers, is the winner of the YF&R Excellence in Agriculture Award.

Avilla, of Modesto, was also honored with the YF&R Star Member Award for his contributions to the program. A graduate of Kansas State University, where he studied agricultural communications and journalism, Avilla served as president of the Stanislaus County YF&R Committee from 2019 to 2021.

Jacob Samuel, an almond and walnut farmer from San Joaquin County who also helped develop his family’s dried-fruit brand into a top seller of unsweetened cherries on Amazon, is the winner of the Young Farmers & Ranchers Achievement Award.

Samuel, a graduate of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and a resident of Farmington, is part-owner of Shade Tree Farming, which he helped found in 2016. He also helps manage walnut, cherry and almond production for the family-owned Samuel Farms and has played a key marketing role in the family’s dried-fruit business, Sunrise Fresh.

In other awards, the Kern County YF&R Committee took home the Committee of the Year Award. The Sonoma-Marin YF&R Committee was honored for Harvest for All projects in collaboration with local food charities. The Napa County YF&R Committee won the Most Innovative Event prize and the Gold Country YF&R Committee won the top award for Community Involvement.

YF&R Discussion Meet

A high school teacher from Kern County earned top honors in the California Young Farmers & Ranchers Open Discussion Meet for his discussion on the tools available and programs needed to help young farmers and ranchers gain access to capital to start an agricultural business.

Timothy Collins, who teaches agricultural mechanics in Bakersfield and who said he hopes to farm in the future, emerged as the winner in the competition held during the California Farm Bureau YF&R Annual Meeting in Reno, Nevada.

The Open Discussion Meet featured YF&R participants from across the state. They advanced to the final competition from earlier rounds in which they were challenged to demonstrate their abilities in exchanging ideas and offering detailed opinions on important issues for agriculture.

Cheyenne Erickson of Antioch in Contra Costa County was first runner-up in the contest. The other finalists were Daniel Jones of Dixon in Solano County and Lillian Smith of Wheatland in Yuba County.

As the winner of the Open Discussion Meet, Collins earned $5,000. First runner-up Erickson received $1,000, and finalists Jones and Smith each received $500. The winner will represent California in the national contest during the American Farm Bureau Federation annual conference Jan. 19-24 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Clayton Merrill, who majors in agricultural communications at California State University, Fresno, was named the winner of the Collegiate Discussion Meet, which was also held during the Farm Bureau Annual Meeting.

During the collegiate contest, 13 YF&R members from four colleges competed in discussing a question on how Farm Bureau can address water management challenges and seek long-term solutions for farmers and ranchers.

As winner, Merrill earns $1,250 and will represent California in the national competition during the American Farm Bureau Federation’s YF&R Leadership Conference set for March 8-11 in Omaha, Neb.

Source: California Farm Bureau

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