At the capitol building in Sacramento, more than one thousand farmers and other stakeholders attended a big rally to protest the California State Water Resources Control Board’s proposed water grab of 40 percent of the water from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced rivers to increase flows for salmon. California Ag Today met with Steve Malanca, co-founder of My Job Depends on Ag, as he explained the concerns for water storage.
“Being in western Fresno County at Ground Zero, where the water take has been going on for 30 years, we have continually asked for more storage,” he said.
The lack of surface delivery water and the lack of storage in the state of California is not good for anyone.
“The fish need water. The farms need water. We need fresh drinking water, and the problem continues to get worse with the amount of water we lose every winter out to the ocean,” Malanca said. “If that water could be saved and properly stored … this would generate more cold water for the salmon to live and spawn in. We just want them to know that we need help, but we need more water.”
U.S. Representative for the 16th district Jim Costa also attended the water rally and explained the devastating impact of the water restrictions.
“If there are 40 percent unimpeded flows were allowed to go through, it would have a devastating impact on those counties,” Costa said.
California has reallocated water in the past and has not had very good results.
“What we have really got to do is talk about other proposals that take into account habitat, non-native predator species, non-point discharge and a balance that makes sense,” Costa said.
The “My Job Depends on Ag” Movement has more than just decals and a potential festival in the making. Erik Wilson, co-founder of “My Job Depends on Ag” with Steve Malanca, explained at the group’s meeting earlier this month, they hope to become a non-profit and use proceeds from decal sales to provide scholarships for students in agriculture. “We would like to keep young people connected to agriculture through scholarships and education,” Wilson said, “and foster their creative ideas about how their food is grown and processed.”
Wilson wants to see the movement grow to become an educational resource for agricultural topics directly from those involved in Ag. “I would really like to see anyone who is curious about how their food evolves from field to fork view our Facebook page as a open source of first-hand information—not from a news desk miles away from a field—but from the people in the field who are cultivating it. Because the people who do it and their kids, eat the same food and yet their stories haven’t been told.”
Wilson would like people to see that phrase My job depends on Ag, “and ask themselves if their own job depends on Ag. For me it would be a win-win for the public to grasp the value in growing food. I think growing food is the most honorable industry in the world.”
Steve Malanca on the Future of “My Job Depends on Ag”
By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor
Three months ago, a grassroots effort to spread the word of agriculturalists began in the form of the movement, My Job Depends on Ag. The organization held its first meeting this week at Harris Ranch in Coalinga with 50 members in attendance to discuss the future of the group.
Steve Malanca, co-founder of the movement, said his hope for the organization is to educate the consumer, as well as to unite the ag community. Malanca also sells agriculture equipment for AGCO.
“We really feel that educating the non-ag community about who we are and where our food comes from is very important,” Malanca said.
“We want to unite the ag community so that we all are represented together,” Malanca continued. “We want to encompass everybody—the organic farmer, the commercial farmer, the trucking company, the logging industry. But everybody that’s involved in ag we want them to know that we all have a stake in this, and if we can all come together and be as one, I think that we’ll be able to hopefully give a message to the general public that we have a need for people knowing where their food comes from.”
Malanca hopes to host a My Job Depends on Ag Festival in the future. The group is considering Los Banos as a location for the potential festival due to its accessibility with an airport, several hotels and a nearby fairgrounds for the event.
“We’re considering a festival in order to bring everybody together,” Malanca said, “and we’re considering combining the Salinas Valley growers with the San Joaquin Valley growers in a town for example like Los Banos.”
“We want to, perhaps, have ag tours around the city of Los Banos,” Malanca suggested, “and have buses available for people who aren’t familiar with ag to take a ride and come see what kind of crops are grown and how they’re done.”
“An historical pavilion would be nice to show people the history of agriculture, and California—not just central California, but the entire state,” Malanca stated, “and we’d bring in some big time entertainment and food, of course. And we’d have a way for everybody to be proud of what they do and to show people where their food comes from.”
Malanca said he hoped the group’s decal could be an icon that symbolized the importance of agriculture.
“We’re grateful for the response we’ve had with our decals,” Malanca said. “We hope that little decal being shown on people’s vehicles and equipment will be a sign or a vision for people to see where they’re food comes from and know that we are a huge community and that we are good people. Ag is good, and ag is where you’re food comes from.”
It was a vision by Steve Malanca a tractor, salesman, and Erik Wilson, pest control operator and honeydew melon farmer, both working in around Dos Palos in Merced County.
“The fact that California agriculture is only 2 percent of the gross domestic product of the state was offensive to agriculture,” said Wilson. “because we all know it goes way beyond the gross receipts.”
Back in 2013 Malanca, an equipment salesman with Duetz Allis in Kerman, Calif., came up with a decal with the message: My Job Depends on Ag. He made a few for his friends who slapped them on their trucks.
“The phrase was inspired by a video done by Mike Wade, California Farm Water Coalition, in which he asked several people how they depended on ag for their job,” Malanca said.
Malanca was born and raised in Firebaugh, where his grandfather settled after emigrating from Italy. “My grandfather worked for Miller and Lux ranch, which was one of the largest ranches in the United States in the late 1800s,” he said.
“My father was born and raised on the West Side and was a cotton gin manager for Producers Cotton Oil Company. I have an older brother who is in the cantaloupe business longer than I have been in the farm equipment business. He is part owner of Westside Produce, and my younger brother is a shipping clerk there.
For the last 40 years, starting in Firebaugh, Malanca has been selling farm equipment. “That community has been tremendous to our family. Being involved in the equipment business, and talking to our customers about the trials and tribulations about water was an inspiration to put the ‘I Depend on Ag’ video together.
“There was a local Firebaugh farmer who made a brown ‘V’ decal that was a spinoff of the green ‘V’ of former Fresno State Bulldog coach Pat Hill, signifying the green valley. The brown V of course signified no water,” said Melena. “I expanded the idea and generated the ‘I Depend on Ag Decal’ about a month ago.
“Then Erik immediately suggested that we put it on Facebook, and the two ideas were married–and here we are,” said Malanca. As of the afternoon of June 6, the number of connections were close to 21,000 members!
“We did not want to have a Facebook with statistics on the importance of agriculture in California,” said Wilson. “I have a friend named Brian Ervin who is on Facebook, and he posted an item unrelated to the ‘I Depend on Ag’ concept. He wanted to know about other people’s California…Was it raining?…Was there hail on the ground? There was also an image of a guy loading a hay truck.”
“Instead of pushing out information, I got the idea of just letting everyone tell their own story,” Wilson said. “If people have a job that depends on ag, then we should let them tell their own story. Let people get involved. They own the page, and the stories have been wonderful. In fact, Steve and I have gotten choked up on some. People are saying are some things you’ve never heard of, and it’s really kind of historical,” he said.
“There are a lot of old methods of farming that have been forgotten that are now being introduced on the page,” said Wilson.
“Also, I have encouraged any group or person who disagrees with our philosophy and farming methods to open up the conversation, and not yell or get profane. This is what everyone America has been crying for from our politicians. So, we are going around them. This is how civilized adults get things done.”
“There have been comments from the organic crowd regarding images of sprayers working in fields. Now if they want organic food to eat, we will be happy to give it to them at a higher cost; organic production costs us more in time, money and trips across the field because the materials that we are permitted to use are not as affective,” said Wilson.
“We had a conversation with Western Growers on June 4 in which they asked if we were having to delete a lot of entries from people bashing the web page,” said Malanca. “And Erik, who moderates the page, said only three posts had to be deleted.”
“I may have deleted something prematurely because I thought a comment might go south too fast, but I just do not want the nastiness or personal attacks to take over, because it often happens if you do not moderate–even if it’s a friend–if they throw F-bombs, their entries will be deleted.”
“We are hearing from so many people who understand that ag is part of their job. We had a guy who works in the tortilla chip factory in Los Angeles who depends on ag for his job because all the corn that goes into the chips is grown in the San Joaquin Valley,” said Wilson.
“Flower shops are connecting in because flowers are agriculture. A lavender grower also posted a comment.”
Trucking companies are chiming as well. “If we can’t grow and sell it, then these boys can’t haul it,” noted Wilson. “And if we can get the trucking industry behind us since they do haul a lot of ag products, suddenly we are uniting an even larger segment of people who depend on agriculture,” said Malanca.
“I’d like to see these truckers and the guys on the docks get as passionate as we are, and maybe decide not to haul freight to areas that are complaining about farmers. They need to say, ‘if you want what we have, then turn the water on for the farmers.'”
“This is giving farmers a voice,” said Malanca. “And it’s something that has been missing.”
“Our wives have said that we are preaching to the choir, and I say that we need to rally and embolden every single person in the industry. I want to champion them as their story has not been told in the media–other than the agricultural media,” said Wilson.
“Many fragments have beentrying to get something done, but now we are seeing farmers really coming together on ‘I Depend on Ag.’ This is what we have been trying to do since the beginning of time,” said Malanca.
While the scope of the facebook page focuses on California, plans are germinating to roll out a national campaign. “After all, there are millions across the country who depend on agriculture,” said Wilson.