The following opinion piece was developed by prominent agriculture leaders throughout the Central Valley in an effort to highlight the importance of agriculture education and the immediate need for agriculture leadership in the Valley. George Soares of Kahn, Soares and Conway, LLP led efforts to bring together the signatories on this letter
Dear Community Friends:
Development of the next generation of agricultural leaders is as important to California agriculture as the crops we grow that feed and clothe the nation and world.
Today, like never before, the viability and relevancy of our industry is challenged by many issues including ever expanding regulations and a growing urban population that mostly does not understand what we do and why we do it even though they enjoy what we have done. Understanding our dilemma and seeking out pathways that reverse course is essential before more damage is done.
Therein lies our focus on the next generation. They must be better than we have ever been before.
Certainly, their proficiency in production, processing and marketing practices must rise to the next level as must their sophistication in bridging between rural and urban mindsets; developing relationships and communication skills that facilitate dispute resolution; and embracing leadership traits of vision, compassion, involvement and critical thinking.
Knowledge is power and once empowered in this manner, our future will become more secure. That is why we are so pleased that West Hills College Lemoore has been awarded state funding to launch a valley-wide Ag leadership initiative to foster the next generation of Ag leaders. The course is scheduled to be launched on January 23, 2019 and is the initial offering of a broader Central Valley Community College Agricultural Leadership program initiative. The program will be available to all community college students in the region. Students will produce reports on significant issues affecting agriculture and meet weekly with agriculture leaders in a classroom setting and culminates with a visit to Sacramento where the students will interact with legislators, gubernatorial appointees, consultants and others.
We greatly appreciate the state funding in advancing this much needed program which will benefit students and agriculture for decades to come.
George H. Soares, Partner, Kahn, Soares and Conway, LLP
Richard Matoian, Executive Director American Pistachio Growers
Joel Nelsen, President California Citrus Mutual
Roger Isom, President/CEO Cal. Cotton Ginners and Growers Association, Western Agricultural Processors Association
George Radanovich, President, California Fresh Fruit Association
Karen Musson, CEO, Gar & Ester Tootelian Charitable Foundation
Ruthann Anderson, President/CEO California Association of Pest Control Advisers
Greg Musson, President, Gar Tootelian, Inc.
Manuel Cunha, President Nisei Farmers League
Dusty Ference, Executive Director, Kings County Farm Bureau
Tricia Stever Blattler, Executive Director Tulare County Farm Bureau
Darrin Monteiro, Director Member and Government Relations California Dairies Inc.
Ryan Jacobsen, Executive Director Fresno County Farm Bureau
Laura Brown, Director, State Legislative Affairs California Women for Agriculture
Christina Beckstead, Executive Director Madera County Farm Bureau
Todd Sanders, Executive Director California Apple Commission, California Blueberry Commission, Olive Growers Council of California
Will Scott, President African American Farmers of California