Westands Water District Scholarships

Westands Water District Awards Agricultural Scholarships

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Gayle Holman
Gayle Holman, Westlands Water District

As part of their educational outreach to the community to raise awareness about agricultural issues and to reward exceptional academic achievement and leadership, the Westlands Water District awarded six scholarships to local high school graduates who are on their way to college. Gayle Holman, public affairs representative for the district, offered some insight about the scholarship application process.

“We go out to each of the six area high schools each year,” said Holman. “We provide them with information, the application, and instructions, and they provide us with an essay on an agricultural-related topic, letters of reference and their transcripts by our deadline. We work with the guidance counselors at each of the schools to make sure those materials are received,” she added.

“A scholarship review committee goes through the applications and selects one person per school based on their academic performance, school activities and community leadership,” Holman said. “Each award recipient is an incredibly highly motivated student, who, we are hopeful, will take that education, bring it back, and apply it to their community in the future,” she said.

Tom Birmingham, general manager of the Westlands Water District noted, “Westlands is honored to provide this assistance for these outstanding student leaders. These scholarships represent a small gesture of thanks and support to the communities on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley that make our region such a productive and vibrant place.”

Holman continued, “Each scholarship recipient will receive $1,000 to be used for community college or university expenses. In addition, many local elected offices will send them congratulatory letters, or certificates. This really emphasizes to the students how important their academic endeavors are.” 

The 2016 scholarship recipients are:
 
Kristina Raulino, a Lemoore High School graduating honors student who plans to attend West Hills Community College to pursue a degree in Psychology,  has been actively involved in tennis and the Future Farmers of America and has served as the Club Secretary for the California Scholarship Federation.
Jonathan Sanchez, a Riverdale High School graduate who will attend California Polytechnic State University to pursue a degree in Agricultural Engineering, has received awards for honor roll and student of the month, and is heavily involved in soccer, cross country, baseball and football. Additionally, he is a member of the California Scholarship Federation and AVID.
Delaney Walker, a graduating senior from Coalinga High School, will attend University of California, Los Angeles to pursue a degree in Education/English. She has been actively involved in basketball and tennis and received awards for honor roll and mock trial. She is also a member of the California Scholarship Federation.
Jonathan Guzman, a graduate of Tranquillity High School, plans to attend the University of California, Irvine to pursue a degree in Business and Finance. He is an honors student actively involved in football and basketball and has received awards for bi-literacy and the Principal’s Honor Roll for all four high school years.
Savannah Rodriguez, a graduating honors student at Mendota High School, plans to attend University of California, Santa Cruz to pursue a degree in Feminist Studies. She has been involved in softball and badminton and received awards for perfect attendance, leadership and MESA.
Fatima Gamino, a Firebaugh High School graduate, will attend University of California, Merced to pursue a degree in Chemical Sciences. She has received several awards including Senior of the Month, Top Academic Athlete and Superintendent’s List. Additionally, she has been involved in the Spanish Club, cross country and Academic Decathlon.
 

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California Farmer… ‘The New Endangered Species’

Ambitious filmmaker documents plight of the California Farmer from a new perspective

Simba Temba Hove grew up on a farm in the rural area of Zimbabwe in Africa. “[Farming] is all we did in my childhood. My father had ten kids, and all we did in the morning was wake up, go to the fields, work the fields the whole day and into the evening, and then go home. Everyday we did this, every day except Sundays. So, farming is very close to me. That’s all we did. I was in the rural area of Africa, so we were all subsistence farmers.”

Simba Temba Hove
Simba Temba Hove

Hove is intimately aquainted with droughts, having lived through the devastating 1982 drought in his country: “When the drought hits, there is nothing that you can do. There is no water system, and everyone is on their own. The drought hits your livestock, your fields, your plantations, your wells, your rivers, everything is gone.” Soon after, Hove came to America, went to college and became a registered nurse in the Bay Area.

When this epic drought hit California, Mr. Hove decided to combine his interest and experience with drought with his passion for filming. “The drought is the worst in a hundred years. If it were not the worst in a hundred years, I probably wouldn’t have filmed it…I want to see how the American farmer survives.”

He spoke to several farmers including Joel and Todd Allen and Vaughn Von Allman of Firebaugh in western Fresno County.  Also prominent in the film is Gayle Holman, public affairs representative for Westlands Water District in Fresno.

Simba Temba Hove, left, with those in Movie
Simba Temba Hove, left, with individuals featured in movie

Hove used these interviews to let African farmers compare their experiences: “I wanted to do a documentary like this one so I could show African farmers. When I first talked to Joel, my idea was to show this to African farmers so they could see what an American farmer’s life is like through the drought, and how he survives.”

Hove was shocked that California adheres environmental restrictions to save an endangered species of fish, the Delta Smelt, even in one of the worst draughts on record: “Honestly it would be unthinkable in Africa—to protect an endangered species when the draught is that bad. In Africa it is all about survival, it’s all about human survival.”

He kept thinking how this situation would play out in Africa, “Everyone would think you’re are crazy. Everyone would think you were out of your mind to think of protecting an endangered species like a fish.”

“California Farmer… ‘The New Endangered Species'” is a riveting and powerful documentary film that illustrates the challengers and the struggles faced by Central California Farmers and their communities.

Check back here to find a screening near you. To see a trailer of the film go to You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOk3PyOWT5M

Food donations underscore drought impact

By Kate Campbell; Ag Alert

Central Valley farmers and businesses donated and shipped about 30 tons of fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts last week to help address food shortages at California food banks. A newly organized grassroots coalition, “California Water Feeds Our Communities,” was joined by the California Community Food Bank, Westlands Water District, the California Water Alliance and El Agua Es Asunto De Todos to bring valley-grown produce to those in need across the state.

Fresno County farmer Bill Diedrich said the impact of fallowing hundreds of thousands of acres of irrigated cropland in the San Joaquin Valley this year translates into significant economic losses for the valley’s small farming communities.

“It’s the people—and the communities that depend on agricultural production—that are getting hurt,” Diedrich said at a news conference in Fresno to announce the donations. “For example, the schools are being hurt. If people are moving on, there’s no reimbursement for (school) attendance and the children of those families who’ve stayed are losing out. Besides the school districts, cities and counties also are being affected and their ability to help in this crisis is reduced.”

Diedrich said that when he drives through the valley’s small towns, he sees workers standing around idle, “because there’s so much fallowed ground there isn’t the normal demand for labor. We’re looking at a disaster and we’re hoping for regulatory relief,” noting that Congress will be considering drought-relief bills in coming weeks.

Kym Dildine with Fresno-based Community Food Bank said one in four people in Fresno, Kings, Madera, Kern and Tulare counties copes with food insecurity, a situation made worse by the ongoing drought.

Prior to the drought, she said the agency was serving about 220,000 people a month. With the drought, that number has increased by another 30,000 people a month in the five-county area.

“Every food bank we’ve spoken to is really grateful to be receiving an entire truckload of fresh produce grown right here in the valley,” she said. “Because less fruit is available, they’re having a harder time accessing it.”

To help address the problem, 15 trucks were loaded with boxes of fresh produce at Simonian Fruit Co. in Fowler before heading to food banks in Fresno, Merced, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, Watsonville, Salinas, Santa Maria, Oxnard, Riverside and San Diego.

“The food we grow here extends far and wide,” said Gayle Holman of the Westlands Water District. “In fact, most people don’t even realize the food they may be eating in other parts of the state, or across the United States, actually originates here.”

The Fresno County Farm Bureau, along with many valley farms and businesses, supported the food donation effort, as did irrigation districts and service groups such as the Girl Scouts of Central California-South and the Fresno Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, as well as California State University, Fresno.

Participants said the coalition hopes not only to bring attention to the impact of the drought and how far-reaching it is, but also to set the stage for future food donation drives as the crisis deepens during the winter. Diedrich said the effort also brings attention to the fact that an unreliable water supply jeopardizes everyone’s food security.

“The drought has impacted California’s food banks because they can no longer adapt to the spike in food prices resulting from a lack of water for farmers,” said Cannon Michael, president of Los Banos-based Bowles Farming Co. “This campaign has been launched to feed the needy and raise awareness about how the drought hurts the most vulnerable people in the state.”

Drought-related land fallowing brings “many unintended consequences,” Michael said.

“We hope raising awareness about the drought will bring all stakeholders together to find short- and long-term solutions,” he said.

Westside farmer Sarah Woolf said the coalition will continue to support food banks.

“This was just one small aspect of how we’re trying to help,” she said.

When the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced a zero water allocation for farm customers south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Mendota Mayor Robert Silva said his community knew it was facing “a terrible situation.” But he said the city learned from the drought in 2009 and immediately began preparing.

“We got service agencies and utilities to come in and set up assistance programs right away,” Silva said. “We’ve added recreational opportunities for our youth to keep them busy and we’ve been finding ways to support our schools.”

In 2009, Silva said water shortages led to severe social problems such as domestic violence and higher school dropout rates that might have been eased with adequate social services. The unemployment rate in Mendota today is in the range of 35 percent, he said, compared to 50 percent at the same time in 2009.

“Unemployment is still high, but not as bad as we feared,” Silva said. “But we’re not out of danger yet. I understand it’s going to be a short growing season this year, harvest is nearly over, and that means more people will be unemployed for a longer time. We haven’t seen the worst yet.”

He said Mendota residents have been planning ahead and “trying to get the resources they’ll need to get by until they can go back to work next year,” and more agencies are prepared to help.

“But it’s going to be a long winter,” Silva said.

 

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