Wasco High School Students Attend Bakersfield College

High School Students Gain Interest in Agriculture

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Sophia Marin is a lab assistant at UC Cooperative Extension Kern County, and she also is an adjunct professor at Bakersfield College in a dual enrollment program with Wasco High School. She is helping high school students attend Bakersfield college at the same time.

“The students are in the 11th grade, so by the time that they’re done with high school, they’ll have their high school diploma plus an Associate Degree from Bakersfield College,” Marin said. “They’re essentially doing two schools in one,  and at the college, they attend lectures and they have a lab.

California Ag Today met Marin and her students at a California Fresh Carrot Advisory Board meeting in Kern County.

“We have been discussing different pathogens that affect plant growth. The carrot meeting was a great opportunity to actually hear the researchers, instead of reading a textbook and me going over it,” Marin said. “They got to see it real life, and I thought it would be a more memorable and something that they could grasp.”

Wasco High School Students Who Also Attend Bakersfield College

Marin explained that since the students come from the rural area of Wasco, most have an interest in agriculture.

“And by the end of this next year, they will all receive an agricultural business degree from Bakersfield College,” she said.

“It will depend on them what the students do the degree. So whatever I can instill or spark in them to whatever career path they want to go to. It may be agronomy, pathology or research, it’s all on them,” Marin said. “It’s nice to open their eyes to see more.”

She noted that most of the kids have plans to go to a university. “I am very impressed with them. Some of the terminology that I mention, I might say I wonder if they know about this or that,” she said. “But they do know. When I’m speaking to them, they understand, and if they don’t, they will research an idea themselves. I am very impressed.”

“These students work very hard. They have weekend classes and summer classes. I am very proud of these students,” Marin said.

2019-05-01T17:21:26-07:00May 1st, 2019|

Army Vet Finds Purpose in Farmer Veteran Coalition

Organization Uses Ag to Help Veterans

By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor

California Ag Today is proud to announce a partnership in support of Farmer Veteran Coalition by featuring stories about their members on a monthly basis. This is the first story in a series that will carry over into the next year.

Agriculture is important in countless ways. In the broadest sense, California’s agricultural industry feeds the world and provides many jobs. But on a smaller level, farming can change one life at a time, whether it’s educating a child or giving purpose to a veteran. That’s what Randy Ryan discovered since he retired from military service with the U.S. Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps. 

“I volunteered to help some kids grow some food. They said, ‘Man, you’re really good with these kids.’ That started me on the path to teaching kids in the Southern

tgn Randy Ryan, Farmer Veteran Coalition

Randy Ryan (center) said, “There’s nothing that gives you purpose like serving. And I can’t think of a better way for veterans to serve than to grow food.”

California area about growing food,” Ryan said.

Ryan, who grew up on a farm in Tennessee, began working with Teaching Gardens, a program funded by the American Heart Association that fights childhood obesity by teaching kids how to plant seeds, nurture growing plants, harvest produce and understand the value of good eating habits.

“I used to go into classrooms and say, ‘Let’s try some broccoli. Let’s try some kale.’ They were like, ‘Ew,’” Ryan recalled. “But if they grow it, they are going to desire it. And if they desire it, they are going to buy it locally.”

While working with Teaching Gardens, Ryan also connected with the Farmer Veteran Coalition. The non-profit organization’s mission is to “cultivate a new generation of farmers and food leaders and develop viable employment and meaningful careers through the collaboration of the farming and military communities.” The Coalition believes “agriculture offers veterans purpose, opportunity, and physical and psychological benefits.”

Now, Ryan has become the manager of a new California initiative with the Farmer Veteran Coalition. “We’re going to focus on the state of California and get more veterans involved” Ryan said. The Coalition aims to reach more veterans with information on how to get involved and to encourage more farmers to provide internships to veterans.

Ryan recognizes it can be hard to ask a farmer to train a veteran because they do not necessarily have the time or resources. That’s why Ryan is focused on getting fellowships and grants. Already, many partners have come aboard, including Newman’s Own and the Bob Woodruff Foundation.

farmer_veteran_coalition_logo“There are also a lot of opportunities in the industry other than starting your own farm,” Ryan pointed out. He encourages veterans to consider opportunities in farm management, vineyard management and food safety, among other jobs. “The skills from being a veteran and those from being in the food and agriculture industry—they are so similar to me,” he said.

Ultimately, Farmer Veteran Coalition aims to give returning veterans a purpose after serving their country in the military. “Veterans come home with a feeling of needing to serve,” Ryan said. “Veterans want to serve. There is nothing that gives you purpose like serving. And I cannot think of a better way for veterans to serve than to grow food.”

Click on the link to learn more how you can support Farmer Veteran Coalition.

2016-11-11T17:54:25-08:00November 11th, 2016|

Fresno County 4-H Hosts Color Me Green 5K Run

On March 14, 2015, Fresno County 4-H members will host Color Me Green 5K Runs at California State University, Fresno. Fresno County 4-H is partnering with the Fresno State’s Jordan College of Agriculture and Science Technology for the Color Me Green 5K Run.

The Color Me Green 5K Runs are five kilometer runs designed to encourage youths and community members to increase their physical activity while also having fun! During each run, participants are showered with colored dye as they pass through each marker point. This run, hosted by 4-H youth members and Fresno State students, will be great opportunity for communities to come together and celebrate healthy living and being physically active.

 Through the Color Me Green 5K Runs, 4-H youth members and Fresno State students will encourage the health of Fresno County. In addition to planning, organizing, and leading the run, 4-H clubs and youth members will host interactive 4-H booths highlighting various project areas.

Online registration opened on February 1, 2015. Here is the link for the registration: http://ucanr.edu/colormegreenfresno4h


2016-05-31T19:30:31-07:00February 10th, 2015|

CVCWA Encourages Valley Residents to Join Chapter

Written By: Monique Bienvenue; Cal Ag Today Communications Manager

With the California Women for Agriculture recently celebrating its 40th anniversary, it’s no surprise that the Central Valley Chapter (CVCWA) is taking initiative to recruit new members.

“The CWA has been an integral part of my life,” said Central Valley Co-President Jane Bedrosian. “I may not have been present at the last Statewide Meeting in San Luis Obispo, but I saw renewed excitement about the CWA on the faces of the ladies who did get to go. I want to help share that excitement about agriculture with our friends and neighbors here in the Central Valley.”

The CWA is a statewide organization dedicated to bringing women together to “speak on behalf of agriculture in an intelligent, informative, direct and truthful manner.” Beginning in 1975, the CWA has been an instrumental organization in shedding positive light on what the agriculture industry is all about. From planning community events, speaking to politicians in Sacramento and promoting agriculture education – CWA members are determined to bridge the gap between agriculturalists and those removed from the industry.

“There is power in numbers,” said Central Valley Co-Presdient Marlene Miyasaki. “I believe that the stronger our presence is in our community, the easier it will be for us to inform others of the hard work necessary to provide food for the world.”

With 18 CWA chapters located throughout the state, there are ample opportunities for women to become advocates for agriculture within their communities. And the kindred spirit doesn’t end there; various statewide meetings are held annually, bringing together hundreds of CWA members from all over California.

The CVCWA has approximately 30 active members, but is looking to expand its membership. With issues like the California Drought and Immigration Reform currently taking the Central Valley by storm, agriculture literacy has never been more crucial.

The CVCWA is planning to make an appearance at the World Ag Expo in Tulare and Farm and Nutrition Day in Fresno; they are also currently working with Fresno County 4-H for other community events.

For more information about the CWA and its many chapters, click here.


2016-05-31T19:30:33-07:00January 30th, 2015|

Afghanistan vet presents flag at Jordan College Assembly

Fresno State mechanic Danny Sexton marked his return from an eight-month deployment to Afghanistan by presenting an American flag to the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology Tuesday.

The 10th-year mechanic is based full-time out of the Ag Operations office and presented the 3×5 flag to his co-workers as a thank-you for their support while on active duty with the U.S. Navy last year.

The E6 Petty Officer 1st Class returned to Fresno in late November after an eight-month stint at Bagram Air Base near Charikar, Afghanistan as an equipment operator after two months of training in Kentucky, New Jersey and Virginia.

“Fresno State was very supportive and held my job while I’m gone,” Sexton said. “I wanted to give one of the flags we flew back to the College to show how much I appreciated their support.”

In Afghanistan, he served on the logistics task force for transportation, and his main duties involved moving cargo and soldiers to other nearby destinations. Vehicles are also at the core of his Fresno State duties as he maintains campus vehicles ranging in all sizes.

“I enjoy both jobs because I’ve always liked working on equipment,” Sexton said. “They are complimentary since I can fix things on campus job and operate machinery in the military. I can also use the other position’s skills when necessary without missing a beat.”

While away last year, he still kept in close contact with his family and friends through Facebook, cell phones, texting and mail, and watched his granddaughter grow up on Skype. He also tracked the Bulldogs football team online and emailed with co-workers to keep updated on office news.

He first enlisted in the Navy in 1986 after high school to follow the career path of an uncle who had also served in the military. That move began a 20-plus year stint that began with five years of active duty in Europe and Florida. After a 10-year break, he re-enlisted in July 2001 and has been a naval reservist ever since.

He has served two other 10-month deployments in Iraq (2003) and in Kuwait (2009-10). In those stints, he served as a heavy equipment operator in the construction battalion, and operated all types of equipment used to build or dig camps, roadways, level & clear land for buildings, dig trenches, and roll out/pave roads.

Navy training will continue to be an active part of his life with his once-a-month weekends of service and a two-week stint during the year. Down the road, he hopes to deploy again before he retires from the Navy.

When he returned home the day before Thanksgiving, it made the holidays even more special for his wife Kathy, stepson and granddaughter Victoria.

“My wife hadn’t planned on me being there for Thanksgiving so it was pretty special when I texted her a couple days before,” Sexton said. “She was a little shocked and went into overdrive to get everything ready for an early return. On that afternoon, she was worried nobody would be there when we arrived because our dogs had gotten out and she ran into some traffic problems. But it all turned out fine, and she was there with plenty of time with some of our friends and family, including my 14-month old granddaughter.”

2016-05-31T19:30:34-07:00January 14th, 2015|

More than just a job to do

The following was written by CDFA Secretary Karen Ross

Our general counsel here at CDFA, Michele Dias, came into my office last Friday with an excitable look on her face. I think most people in positions of organizational leadership would agree that when your lawyer does that, it may not be a good thing … Thankfully, this time was different.

Michele was proudly carrying her newly minted, California agriculture-themed license plate proclaiming her to be “MAD4AG”, matching her initials (middle name Ann). She had ordered it online from the DMV as part of a great program we’ve worked on in recent years that generates funding for agricultural education. Aside from the welcome bit of levity in an otherwise busy Friday, this moment gave me pause to reflect on the remarkable workforce that makes this department run.

It isn’t unusual for someone to have a personalized license plate related to their work, especially when they sincerely enjoy the job as much as Michele does. Part of the reason is a very real connection to agriculture that makes this more than a job. Michele grew up on a small, family-run dairy in Turlock and, as any farm kid can tell you, there is no education quite like the one you get on a farm. From biology to math to engine repair, I’m betting on the kid with the dirty boots.

Fortunately, CDFA has quite a few folks who share that upbringing and awareness. We have livestock inspectors who, when their work day is done, trade in the pickup for a saddle as they start their second job as cattle ranchers. We have administrators and field staff who take a detour on the way home to check their walnut grove, walk a few rows of vegetables, or move sprinkler pipes to the other side of the alfalfa field. We have PhDs, technicians and support staff who grew up on the farm and now volunteer their time in support of worthy causes like water conservation and habitat restoration on ag lands. We have scientists who take the time to talk to local elementary school students about farms and food, passing on their own experience to the next generation.

Of course, CDFA also has many staff members who did not have ag experience before joining this organization. Whether they are new or long-term employees, the common thread is that they develop a passion for our mission to protect agriculture, from the farms and families we work with every day to the food supply that they produce and provide.

More than 17,000 California agriculture-themed license plates are already on the road in California, and that says a lot about this community’s support for agricultural education. The program is currently accepting proposals for grant projects to promote ag education and leadership activities for students at the K-12, post-secondary and adult education levels. As more and more of our neighbors have less and less direct exposure to farming, this investment in agricultural literacy is an important step toward helping all of our citizens become informed consumers and voters who understand what goes into producing our food.

There is something special about agriculture, and it’s important to remember that it’s something we all share: If you go back even a handful of generations on just about anyone’s family tree, you’ll find a farmer. I am proud to say you’ll find quite a few of them working for you here at CDFA as well.

2016-05-31T19:32:10-07:00December 22nd, 2014|

Atwater High’s agriculture department getting national recognition

Source: Doane Yawger; The Merced Sun-Star

Atwater High School’s agriculture program is in the running to be named the top such endeavor in the nation.

By virtue of being named the top ag program in the state this year by the California Agricultural Teachers Association, the Atwater program was nominated for the national award and should be notified soon, Principal Alan Peterson said.

“They’re getting the recognition they deserve,” Peterson said. “They deserve it. They are a hardworking staff with a lot of motivated students.”

The national ag teachers association holds its annual conference Nov. 18 in Nashville, Tenn.

Dave Gossman, AHS agriculture department chairman, said at least half of the school’s 1,800 students have taken one or more agricultural courses. Last year it became the largest single high school ag program in the nation.

“We’re excited,” Gossman said. “We’ve got a supportive school, district, community and ag industry. The credit should go to all.”

There are five directions ag students can take. They can take pathways in agricultural mechanics, which includes welding, engines and woodworking. Or they can take agricultural science, ag biology and life science courses. Then there is floriculture; animal science and veterinary skills; and leadership and agribusiness, Gossman said.

Makala Navarro, a senior and an ag student, said she didn’t have many expectations when she took agriculture as a freshman.

“I was quiet and shy. I had no ag background,” Navarro said. “Through the past three-plus years, I have gained confidence and direction in life, and my goal is to enter a four-year university and major in agriculture education with the desire to be an agriculture teacher.

Natalie Borba, ag instructor, said the reason so many students get involved in agriculture education and Future Farmers of America is because it has personal value, it’s fun, and gets them participating in activities and events that extend beyond the classroom.

“For the parents and guardians, ag ed serves as a vehicle toward academic interest and success. For the community and ag industry, it keeps kids focused on something positive and provides a future pipeline of leaders and industry employment,” Borba said.

Gossman said if Atwater High is selected as the Region 1 winner of the State Outstanding Middle/Secondary School Agricultural Education Program Award, a teacher from its agriculture program will receive an expense-paid trip to attend the 2014 NAAE convention, where the program will be recognized during a general session. The Atwater program also received the top state award four years ago.

The Outstanding Middle/Secondary School Agricultural Education Program award is partially sponsored by Monsanto as a special project of the National FFA Foundation. Applicants are judged on teaching philosophy, effective classroom and experiential instruction, development of partnerships, and professional growth.

“The award and recognition is something we take pride in. However, it reflects the positive difference agricultural education makes on young people in terms of personal growth, academic success and career exploration,” Gossman said. “It is a proven education model that is for all kids. It provides value to both agriculture and non-agriculture-directed students.”

Gossman said the same success stories can be found in all high school agriculture programs throughout the state.

“It’s all about making a positive difference in the lives of young people,” Gossman said. “Ag ed is a great vehicle to accomplish this task.”

The National Association of Agricultural Educators, the professional organization in the United States for agricultural educators, provides its nearly 8,000 members with professional networking and development opportunities, professional liability coverage, and extensive awards and recognition programs.


2016-05-31T19:33:27-07:00September 9th, 2014|

Navy Vet Shows Children the Value of Work and Education Through Farming

Surrounded by crime, inequality and a lack of opportunity is a quarter-acre farm in East Oakland, California. U.S. Navy veteran and Oakland native Kelly Carlisle is trying to change all that by inspiring a young group of local children through farming.

Growing up in East Oakland, Carlisle said she remembers feeling hopeless at a young age.

“At 9 years old there’s nothing to do, there’s nowhere to go, no program that my family can afford, or for me to engage in,” Carlisle said. “It was hard, you couldn’t go outside, we had a one-block radius that we can play in and I remember feeling and asking, what I am going to be and where I’m going to go?”

The former Navy Operation Specialist said she wants to be able to give “her kids” a chance at working towards a better future. Back in early 2010, Carlisle remembers hearing news reports about Oakland’s high crime rate, childhood obesity, school dropout rates and teen prostitution.

“My initial reaction was, thank God I don’t live there. Then the more I thought about it and the fact that I have a young child, it occurred to me that there’s one population that has no choice to decide where they live or what their community looks and feels like and that’s young people,” she said.

As a result, Carlisle founded Acta Non Verba: Youth Urban Farm Project, a nonprofit urban farm that focuses on serving at-risk youth from kindergarten to 8th grade, and their families. She launched Acta Non Verba to teach children how to invest in themselves and ultimately invest in their communities.

Children plant, harvest and sell produce and 100 percent of those proceeds go to savings accounts to pay for their education.

At first it was a lot of raised eyebrows and challenging to get others on board with the idea, she said. “They weren’t use to talk about farming in Oakland. But eventually people were really happy with the idea to have an urban farm in their neighborhood,” she said.

One of the ongoing challenges is to get people engaged, she said. “This is our third year of camp, fourth of growing and it’s still a challenge,” she said.

Last week, President Obama honored the work Carlisle is doing in Oakland at an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan in the State Dining Room at the White House. “Thanks to Kelly these boys and girls are not only learning the value of hard work at an early age, they’re changing how they think about themselves and opening their minds to what’s possible in their lives,” the president said.

Carlisle doesn’t come from a family of farmers but from a military family. Her father and grandfather both served in the military. She joined the Navy in 2001 shortly before 9/11 and was stationed aboard the USS Essex. She left active duty in 2005 and her transition was difficult, she said. She landed a corporate job and got married. But in 2009, she had to join the U.S. Navy Reserve after she ended up unemployed during the economic downturn. She left the Reserve in 2013.

Her first farming or growing experience was with a lemon tree she planted at home and that’s when she felt in love with growing, she said. Carlisle took a master gardeners course and it was there that she ran into the Farmer Veteran Coalition, a veteran outreach organization offering veteran employment and farm education programs. Carlisle is a recipient of the organization’s fellowship fund was instrumental in giving resources to Carlisle to become not only a farmer but a person with a mission to change her community.

“Most of the children here think that food comes from the grocery store. We’re giving the kids the whole experience, from seed to table, from raw to sandwich,” she said.

East Oakland is considered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture a food desert, where liquor stores and fast food restaurants outnumber supermarkets.

The City of Oakland Parks and Recreation leases the land to Acta Non Verba. The farm has cultivated beds of fruits and vegetables, including strawberries, green beans, cabbage, fava beans, sun flowers and tomatoes. It has also built a beehive.

“We like to work with kids because the excitement of seeing these seeds turn into actual fruit is magical for them and they don’t see it coming. The kids go wild,” she said.

For Carlisle, farming and providing a better future for these kids has become her life’s work. Carlisle said her dream for the farm is that children learn how to nurture the earth and themselves.

“As Oaklanders, I want them to be forward thinking about their future. I want them to remember this experience as something that at least gave them a window into something better and a different way to live,” she said.

2016-05-31T19:34:12-07:00August 1st, 2014|

Monterey County Farm Bureau & Central Coast YF&R Scholarships for 2014

Monterey County Farm Bureau and Central Coast Young Farmers and Ranchers offer scholarships to high school seniors and college students for the 2014 – 2015 academic year.

Students must have attended and graduated from a Monterey County or San Benito County High School and plan to attend or are attending a university or community college majoring in an Agricultural curriculum.  Scholarship award amounts are dependent on the number of applications and amount of awards given.

2014 Scholarship Winners

Erica Bianchi is the recipient of a $1,500 scholarship from CC YF&R and $1,000 scholarship from American Ag Credit.  Erica is a graduate of San Benito High School and attends California State University, Fresno majoring in AgriBusiness.

Jimmy Goudge is the recipient of a $1,500 scholarship from CC YF&R and a $1,000 scholarship from American Ag Credit.  Jimmy is graduate of Anzar High School and attends Cal Poly San Luis Obispo majoring in Agricultural Systems Management.

Lauren Bellon is the recipient of a $1,250 scholarship from CC YF&R.  Lauren is a graduate of Anzar High School and attends Cal Poly San Luis Obispo majoring in Agricultural Science.

Heidi Morisoli is the recipient of a $750 scholarship from MCFB.  Heidi is a graduate of Salinas High School and plans to attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo majoring in Agricultural Science.

Cecilia Krogsgaard-Sanchez is the recipient of a $750 scholarship from MCFB.  Cecilia is a graduate of Salinas High School and attends Cal Poly San Luis Obispo majoring in Animal Science.

Jorge (Ben) Gomez is the recipient of a $500 scholarship from MCFB.  Ben is a graduate of Salinas High School and plans to attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo majoring in Ag Environmental Plant Science.

Karina Medrano is the recipient of a $500 scholarship from CC YF&R.  Karina is a graduate of Salinas High School and plans to attend Cuesta College (Ag major undeclared).

Lauren Ivey is the recipient of a $500 scholarship from CC YF&R.  Lauren is a graduate of Salinas High School and plans to attend Modesto Junior College majoring in Animal Science.

Justin Carroll is the recipient of a $500 scholarship from CC YF&R.  Justin is a graduate of Salinas High School and plans to attend Modesto Junior College (Ag major undeclared).

Justin Massa is the recipient of a $250 scholarship from CC YF&R.  Justin graduated from Soledad High School and plans to attend Hartnell College majoring in Food Safety.

MCFB and CC YF&R are pleased to award scholarships each year to deserving students who desire a career in food production or ranching.

Both organizations work hard to give back to the agricultural community through fundraisers, bar-b-ques and support of other agricultural non-profit organizations.

2016-05-31T19:35:23-07:00June 24th, 2014|

JCAST Faculty and Staff Provide Input for the Commission on the Future of Agriculture

Eight members of Fresno State President Joseph Castro’s Commission on the Future of Agriculture listened and shared during a campus gathering on a recent Friday afternoon to discuss strengths and challenges facing agricultural programs at Fresno State.

More than 40 faculty and staff from the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology met with the commission members during a special forum led by Andrew Hoff, interim provost and co-chair of the commission.

Faculty and staff were invited to voice what they see as the college’s greatest strengths, its foremost challenges, and what vision they have for where the college can be five, 10 and 15 years from now.

In brainstorming fashion, Hoff scrambled to list dozens of comments and ideas articulated by the group. Common themes emerging from the strengths discussion were the quality of highly- skilled and dedicated faculty and staff, along with the value of the campus University Agricultural Laboratory as a teaching and training ground for students.

Commonly voiced challenges were the need to increase faculty numbers, in order to give existing faculty more freedom to formulate and pursue visions that will further enhance programs and facilities for Fresno State students.

Commission members shared some of their own observations as “outside” agribusiness and community members. Many agreed with previously listed comments and some added additional thoughts.

Hoff called the gathering to help the commission complete its charge from President Castro:

1.Review Fresno State’s academic, applied research and public service programs that are focused on agriculture and/or serve the needs of the agricultural industry.

2. Identify areas of opportunity where Fresno State agricultural programs and facilities can be among the best in the nation.

3. Recommend strategies to strengthen partnerships between Fresno State, government agencies, private foundations, individual philanthropists and the agricultural industry in support of the campus’ agricultural programs.

Commission members already have toured the campus farm and met to discuss a variety of opportunities and challenges related to the college. The forum gave them an opportunity to hear directly from college faculty and staff.

The full 20-member commission is comprised of agribusiness and industry leaders from throughout the San Joaquin Valley and includes several Fresno State representatives. Co-chairing along with Hoff is dairyman, attorney and industry leader George Soares of Hanford.

Hoff said notes from the recent session will be compiled into a report to be presented to the full commission, which is meeting monthly. Based on all the information, input and ideas gained during its first months of activity, the commission will develop a preliminary report containing recommendations to be made to President Castro during a public forum May 9.

For more information on the President’s Commission or the forum, contact the provost’s office at 559.278.2636.

2016-05-31T19:38:02-07:00April 18th, 2014|
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