By Elizabeth Jonasson, Westlands Water District
Today, the Westlands Water District Board of Directors appointed Jeff Fortune as president of the District. Mr. Fortune succeeds Ryan Ferguson. Mr. Fortune is a third generation California farmer and second generation Westlands farmer. He is a “boots on the ground” farmer with more than four decades of farming experience. Mr. Fortune works alongside his father and two brothers at their family farm growing tomatoes, almonds, and pistachios.
At the Special Board Meeting today, Mr. Fortune was joined by four new Board members who were elected to the Board in November: Ernie B. Costamagna, Justin Diener, Donald Ross Franson III, and Jeremy Hughes. Each new Board member will serve a four-year term.
Ernie Costamagna is a third generation family farmer in California. He began farming in Westland’s in the 1980’s. His farming operation is comprised of nuts, wine grapes, cherries, garlic, onions, cotton and processing tomatoes. He is a resident of Hanford CA with his wife and has 7 children.
Justin Diener continues to work in the same area his family began farming in the 1930s. Mr. Diener, with his family, grows processing tomatoes, garlic, almonds, and lemons and raises lambs. Mr. Diener is responsible for the financial management of his family’s farming operation. He is a graduate of Stanford University with a degree in Economics with Honors. Before returning to the farming operation, Mr. Diener spent more than a decade of his career working for JP Morgan Securities, Wells Fargo Bank, and Bank of the West. Mr. Diener lives in Five Points, where he was born and raised, with his wife and daughter.
Ross Franson’s family has farmed in Westlands since the District’s formation in 1952. Mr. Franson currently serves as VP of Strategy at his family business, Woolf Farming & Processing, which grows almonds, pistachios, tomatoes, and other row crops. His family business also operates almond and tomato processing facilities within the District. Over the years Mr. Franson has served on various agricultural-related Boards, including Woolf Farming & Processing, Harris Woolf California Almonds, Cal-West Rain, and Aliso Water District. Mr. Franson currently resides in Fresno with his wife and three children.
Jeremy Hughes, a fifth-generation farmer, has farmed in the District for over 25 years with his family. Since his father started the operation in the mid-1970s with a one-quarter section of land, the farm has steadily increased. Mr. Hughes started the company that bears his name in 1997, farming various row crops including processing tomatoes, almonds, and pistachios. Mr. Hughes lives in Clovis with his wife and two children.