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Leadership class
A past leadership class attends a session. The California Farm Bureau Federation has graduated its latest leadership class.

Farm Bureau hands out awards, graduates leadership class

Outstanding young farmers, discussion meet winners announced at 100th meeting in San Diego.

A diversified farmer from Tulare County and a farm couple from Glenn County have earned awards for achievement and excellence among young farmers and ranchers in California. They received the awards today during the 100th California Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting in San Diego.

Zack Stuller of Exeter received the Young Farmers and Ranchers Achievement Award, which recognizes accomplishments in production agriculture and leadership activity.

Shannon and Kelly Douglass of Orland received the Excellence in Agriculture Award, presented to young agricultural professionals who contribute through involvement in agriculture, leadership activities and Farm Bureau.

A first-generation farmer, Stuller became interested in agriculture while growing up in Northern California, eventually earning agricultural degrees from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. After working for several years as a farm manager in the San Joaquin Valley, he started his own operation last year, farming and managing citrus fruit, kiwifruit and walnuts. His company also helps develop farmland for permanent crops. Stuller serves as treasurer of the Tulare County Farm Bureau and has taken a particular interest in water policy, serving on the county water commission and on the stakeholder committees for two local groundwater-sustainability agencies.

Shannon Douglass operates an agricultural recruitment business. She was elected last year as CFBF first vice president and also serves as a member of the Glenn County Farm Bureau board. Her husband Kelly is a seed sales representative. Together, the couple raise beef cattle and grow sunflowers, watermelons, squash, pumpkins, corn and hay.

Asked to name three important issues facing agriculture, the Douglasses cited regulation, the shortage of qualified agricultural employees, and the need to increase awareness of agriculture among non-farm residents. As farmers, they said, “we feel the pain of each and every regulation with which we must comply,” noting that paperwork becomes “a heavy burden and daunting task” for people trying to start a farming operation.

As winners of their respective awards, Stuller and the Douglasses each earned a $4,000 cash prize sponsored by Farm Credit, Kubota and K·Coe Isom. Stuller also earned 250 hours’ use of a Kubota tractor, furnished by Kubota Tractor Corp.

The winners will represent California in national competitions to be held next month at the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention in New Orleans.

Discussion meet winner

In discussing the future of California agriculture in a world becoming more reliant on new technology, a contestant from Yolo County earned top honors in the California Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers and Ranchers Discussion Meet, held at the 100th CFBF Annual Meeting in San Diego.

Garrett Driver of Knights Landing emerged as the winner after addressing the topic of how the agriculture business can attract the best and brightest minds from science, technology, engineering and mathematics into agricultural careers.

In discussing how agriculture can increase its use of technology to solve challenges, Driver and other contestants suggested reaching out to companies, students and others to help with identifying STEM-based technological solutions.

“In our county,” Driver said, “an Ag Start program is exploring options and opportunities for entrepreneurs or people established in the industry to do something different, whether it be a product or a service.”

In discussing what Driver described as “the evolution of technology in agriculture,” the contestants identified areas of agriculture in need of high-tech solutions such as in mechanization or to help with reducing inputs.

Driver, a sixth-generation farmer and supply chain manager for Nuseed, will represent California at the American Farm Bureau Federation Open Discussion Meet, to be held next month at the AFBF Annual Convention in New Orleans.

Alysha Stehly of San Diego County was first runner-up in the contest. The other finalists were Brie Hunt of San Joaquin County and Tony Lopes of Merced County. 

As the winner of the Open Discussion Meet, Driver earned $5,000 courtesy of sponsors Farm Credit, Kubota and K·Coe Isom. The first runner-up received $1,000, and the other two finalists each earned $500.

Leadership class graduates

Nine Farm Bureau members from around California have ended an intensive, months-long training program as participants in the Leadership Farm Bureau Program. The LFB Class of 2018 graduated today during the 100th California Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting in San Diego.

Sponsored by CFBF, the Leadership Farm Bureau Program offers more than 250 hours of training during seven sessions. The 2018 class received personal-development, teambuilding and communications training, and advocated on behalf of Farm Bureau in both Sacramento and Washington, D.C. The class members took field-studies trips to both Northern and Southern California, to deepen their knowledge of agricultural issues.

Graduates of the Leadership Farm Bureau Class of 2018 included:

  • Joseph Alexandre of Ferndale, a dairy farmer, CEO of the family dairy-products business and second vice president of the Humboldt County Farm Bureau;
  • Brittany Blankenship of Visalia, an underwriting analyst for Great American Insurance Group;
  • Joe Ferrari of Linden, a walnut farmer and member of the San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation board of directors;
  • Rachael Fleming of Lodi, a program director for the San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation;
  • Brad Fowler of Penn Valley, a cattle rancher and president of the Nevada County Farm Bureau;
  • Jason Giannelli of Bakersfield, a farm manager specializing in almonds and row crops, and a member of the Kern County Farm Bureau board of directors;
  • Erin Johnson of Anderson, executive director of the Shasta County Farm Bureau;
  • Jessica Sweeten of Hilmar, a sales representative for an agricultural products company who is active in the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee;
  • Taylor Zumstein of Fallbrook, owner of a breeding-sheep business and event and marketing coordinator for the San Diego County Farm Bureau.

The class represented the 19th group to graduate from the Leadership Farm Bureau program since it was inaugurated in 2000.

Applications for the 2019 Leadership Farm Bureau class will be accepted through Dec. 21. For information, see

The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of nearly 36,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of more than 5.5 million Farm Bureau members.

Source: California Farm Bureau Federation

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