Want to explore the wide variety of California wines? Come to Oakland on August 21

Family Winemakers of California to host major tasting event, sponsored in part by Farm Credit

When you’re a small, family-owned winery without a large advertising budget, the best way to spread the word about the quality of your wines is to have key influencers taste them. But since the 300 members of the Family Winemakers of California are located from Eureka to San Diego and many points in between, it can be difficult to get these influencers to come to you.

Photo courtesy of the Family Winemakers of California, taken at the Del Mar Fairgrounds tasting event in March

Which is why the trade association holds two large tastings each year, one at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego County in the spring and one in the Bay Area in the summer. This year, the Bay Area event will be held on Sunday, August 21, at BLOC15 in Jack London Square in Oakland – the first time a Bay Area tasting will be held outside of San Francisco.

A total of 52 producers who sell fewer than 5,000 cases a year will be pouring more than 350 different wines at the event, which is expected to draw about 250 people from the wine trade – retailers and writers for trade publications – and another 150 or so discerning consumers.

“We host two events to connect small producers with the wine trade they wouldn’t normally have an opportunity to formulate a relationship with,” said Kathy Spallas, the association’s vice president of administration. “A lot of tastings are like a festival, but ours is just a wine tasting. It’s about meeting the winemaker and the winery owner and allowing them to learn what they want to learn about the wines.

Farm Credit has been a sponsor of the events for many years, which Spallas said “means the world to us.” Mark Littlefield, President and CEO of Farm Credit West, said Farm Credit was proud to help showcase wines from smaller producers, especially after the disruptions caused by COVID-19.

“The pandemic has been very difficult for many small producers in the wine industry, as many were selling their wines only to restaurants or relied on visitors to their tasting rooms for wine sales,” Littlefield said.  “These wineries are eager to get back to pouring their fabulous wines for consumers and especially for the trade accounts that are back in business and ready to restock their wine lists.”

Farm Credit West, American AgCredit and CoBank provide funding. The organizations are part of the nationwide Farm Credit System – the largest provider of credit to U.S. agriculture.

Besides helping member companies market their wines, the association also is a strong advocate for family-owned wineries at the state Capitol. Besides the labor and regulatory issues affecting most businesses, the biggest issue affecting smaller wineries is their ability to sell directly to consumers – the main reason the association was formed in 1990.

“We’ve spent more than 30 years working to loosen up the post-Prohibition restrictions in California law and broaden access to domestic markets,” Spallas said. “We’ve pursued legislation for many years to create numerous sales channels that now allow wine to be sold at certified farmers’ markets, at fairs and festivals and through order-taking at non-profit wine tasting events.”

Julie Renner, food and wine agribusiness team lead with American AgCredit, said Farm Credit is pleased to have the opportunity to support advocacy efforts that benefit agriculture.

“The Family Winemakers of California have made significant contributions to the California wine industry since its founding, by helping to spearhead efforts that now make it easier for California wineries to sell directly to consumers in other states,” Renner said. “Organizations like the Family Winemakers are great examples of how cross-industry collaboration and partnership can advance agricultural interests.”

Spallas noted that small wineries that market directly to consumers fared better during the pandemic than their counterparts that focused on relationships with restaurants and retailers because of the decline in eating out.

Doors will open for the Oakland Tasting at noon for specially ticketed consumers and at 2 p.m. for the general consumer. The event ends at 4 p.m. Consumer tickets are on sale now https://familywinemakers.org/taste (click on the Consumer button) for $55. Early admission tickets are $75. The cost at the door will be $60 and $80. Orders can be placed that day for wines you like for shipment to your home, and many wineries will be offering special prices.

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About the Family Winemakers of California:

Small, family-owned wine producers across the state are the foundation of Family Winemakers of California. Formed in 1990 to lobby for the rights of its members to freely produce, market and sell their products, we currently represent over 300 producers. Our legislative and regulatory work is augmented by the tastings we organize for our members to help them succeed in a highly competitive marketplace.

Family Winemakers … Taste California!

 

 

Students learn about commodities grown almost exclusively in the Golden State

Funded in part by Farm Credit, the Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom educated 16,000 students about “the 99% club” this year

California’s farmers grow more than 400 commodities each year, making the state the nation’s breadbasket. And for 36 years, the nonprofit California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom has been educating students around the state that the nutritious and tasty fruits and vegetables they eat don’t just come from the supermarket.

Live video presentation to students

During the past school year, Executive Director Judy Culbertson said the focus of the educational program was highlighting the “99% club” – 16 commodities grown almost exclusively in the Golden State.

“On April 1 we held our second annual California Farm Day virtually, with presenters talking about a different one of the commodities for 10 minutes, providing information, activities, recipes and ‘did you know’ segments,” Culbertson said.

“Nearly 500 teachers registered, and we sent out a box of goodies for each class, with snacks, resources for students and teachers and the What’s Growin’ On? newspaper. We put the video package on YouTube, and 16,000 kids registered!” She added that 45 counties had at least one school participating this year.

Mark Littlefield, President and CEO of Farm Credit West, said Farm Credit organizations have given the foundation over $250,000 since 2002 to help educate students in urban and rural areas alike about the importance of agriculture to California.

“California’s climate makes it ideal for growing a large variety of crops, many of which can’t be grown anywhere else in the U.S.,” Littlefield said. “It’s important to educate Californians about how much of their food is grown here and why agriculture is so vital to the state’s economy. Farm Credit is proud to be a longtime sponsor of the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, which has done a great job over the years providing that education.”

Farm Credit West, American AgCredit, CoBank, Colusa-Glenn Farm Credit, Fresno Madera Farm Credit and Yosemite Farm Credit all provide funding. The organizations are part of the nationwide Farm Credit System – the largest provider of credit to U.S. agriculture.

Besides talking about the 99% club commodities during the two-hour virtual event, there was also a half-page devoted to each commodity in the newspaper – which celebrated its 20th anniversary this school year – that provided information about their history, nutrition, and little-known facts.

The commodities are almonds, artichokes, celery, clover, figs, garlic, honeydew melons, nectarines, olives, peaches, pistachios, raisins, medium- and short-grain rice and walnuts. Among the fun facts included in the publication are:

  • Celery has many health benefits and that bunches of celery were presented to ancient Greek athletes, much as a bouquet of roses would be today.
  • Almonds, roses, and peaches are distant cousins, members of the rose family.
  • Garlic was used as a first aid compound in World War II to kill bacteria and germs on the battlefield.

Among the Farm Day video presenters was Ag in the Classroom Foundation President Jamie Johansson, an Oroville olive grower who also is president of the California Farm Bureau.

“It’s a fruit, right, like a cherry or a peach, but it’s one of the few fruits you can’t pick off the tree and just eat,” he told the students. “The first time I tasted an olive off the tree it was so bitter I wondered what I was doing and how I failed.” He later explained that you have to cure the olives by soaking them in lye or brine to remove the bitter compounds. You can view the entire Farm Day presentation here.

Culbertson said the response from teachers and students was overwhelmingly positive.

“One teacher wrote back to say, ‘It really gave our students a better understanding of the impact that California’s agriculture has on our state, country, and the world.’ Another wrote, ‘They learned so much about their home state and came back from the weekend telling me what they taught their parents about California agriculture. Thank you so much,’” Culbertson said.

This year, Ag in the Classroom began working with the Fresno Unified School District to promote the commodities grown in the heart of California’s farm belt. The district received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Department of Food and Agriculture to provide locally grown fruits and vegetables to the school lunch program and to provide education about the importance of agriculture.

“We are providing the education side of the nutrition grant,” Culbertson said. “We produced classroom materials including a monthly Fresno Farms to You newsletter, along with posters for each school’s cafeteria. Both feature information about what’s in season in the Fresno area that month.

“There are 70,000 kids in Fresno Unified, and everybody goes through the cafeteria and learns about the commodities. We’re going through evaluation now, but it’s a two-year grant, and we’re planning to do it again next year.”

The poster for October, for example, featured table grapes, informing students that eating them benefits the heart, brain, and skin. And each month’s poster includes a joke about that month’s commodity, which she said she hopes helps capture their attention. For October, it was, “What happened when the grape was promoted? It got a raisin pay.”

Keith Hesterberg, president and CEO of Fresno Madera Farm Credit, said he was especially pleased that California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom was able to help promote agriculture in his community.

“The Fresno area has grown tremendously in recent years, and many people moving here from other parts of the state don’t have the same understanding about the importance of agriculture as people who grew up here. This program is a great way of giving students information as well as a taste of how delicious locally grown fruits and vegetables are,” he said.

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About Farm Credit:

American AgCredit, CoBank, Colusa Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit, and Yosemite Farm Credit are cooperatively owned lending institutions providing agriculture and rural communities with a dependable source of credit. For more than 100 years, the Farm Credit System has specialized in financing farmers, ranchers, farmer-owned cooperatives, rural utilities and agribusinesses. Farm Credit offers a broad range of loan products and financial services, including long-term real estate loans, operating lines of credit, equipment and facility loans, cash management and appraisal and leasing services…everything a “growing” business needs. For more information, visit www.farmcreditalliance.com

 

About the Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom:

The California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating youth throughout California about the importance of agriculture in their daily lives. We do this through:

  • Developing materials that are accurate, teacher-tested and scientifically sound to enhance the educational experience of K-12 students.
  • Providing programs, inspiration and training opportunities for educators.
  • Partnering with like-minded organizations to create awareness about the significance of agriculture in our everyday lives.
  • Recognizing teachers and students for their achievements in agricultural literacy.
  • Supporting the pursuit of agricultural careers and continuing education.

Our mission is to increase awareness and understanding of agriculture among California’s educators and students. Our vision is an appreciation of agriculture by all. Learn more at https://learnaboutag.org.

 

FARM CREDIT PROVIDED NEARLY $900,000 TO CALIFORNIA NON-PROFITS IN 2021

Leading Lender to California agriculture focused heavily on diversity, equity and inclusion

Farm Credit organizations serving California’s farmers and ranchers contributed $870,000 during 2021 to nonprofit organizations working to support the industry, preserve agriculture, and raise awareness of the importance of agriculture.

In addition, the participating members of the nationwide Farm Credit System – American Ag Credit, CoBank, Colusa-Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit, Golden State Farm Credit and Yosemite Farm Credit, provided critical funding to several nonprofits working to strengthen efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the state’s agricultural community.

“Both at the national level and here in California, Farm Credit is committed to supporting people of color in agriculture and rural communities,” said Mark Littlefield, President and CEO of Farm Credit West. “By supporting these organizations, we are reaffirming our commitment to that mission.”

Keith Hesterberg, President and CEO of Fresno Madera Farm Credit, added that it is particularly important for California agriculture to become more inclusive to ensure the state’s farmers and ranchers continue to help feed the nation and the world in the years to come.

“Latinos now comprise the state’s largest single ethnic group in California but are underrepresented in agricultural ownership and management,” Hesterberg said. “That’s why Farm Credit is proud to support the Latino Farmer Conference, the Multicultural Scholars in Agriculture program at Fresno State University, and numerous other programs promoting diversity in farming and ranching.”

Organizations promoting diversity that were supported by Farm Credit in 2021 included:

  • The Latino Farmer Conference, which brings together Spanish-speaking farmers from around California to share their experiences, network with other farmers, and attend workshops about marketing, production practices, farm finances and other topics.
  • The Multicultural Scholars in Agriculture program at Fresno State, which was established by Farm Credit in 2013. Funds are used for a variety of academic and student success activities as determined by the Dean of the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, including student mentors, outreach to middle schools, high schools and rural communities across the Central Valley and student scholarships.
  • Women of the Vine, a symposium that attracts 750 attendees from five countries. The organization empowers and equips women to advance their careers and fostering gender diversity and talent development.

 

Farm Credit helps give veterans what they love — free tacos

Fresno State’s Student Veteran Organization sees strong turnout for annual veterans’ tailgate

Veterans love tacos. At least veterans at California State University, Fresno, love tacos. Especially when they’re free.

ROTC cadets and Farm Credit volunteers wait for the tacos to be ready at the annual Fresno State veterans’ tailgate.

That’s what Eliza Hernandez, the president of the university’s Student Veteran Organization, attributed the larger-than-usual attendance for the annual veterans’ tailgate, which has been sponsored by Farm Credit since 2018.

Hernandez said 130 veterans attending Fresno State, their family members, and ROTC cadets gathered for the 2021 tailgate, held prior to Fresno State’s 34-7 victory over New Mexico.

“It was one of the biggest turnouts we’ve had, and it had to do with the tacos, which were free for attendees,” Hernandez said. “This year I chose to do catering from Mi Linda Tierra, a taco place in Sanger, to help a small business.”

Keith Hesterberg, President and CEO of Fresno Madera Farm Credit, said Farm Credit sponsors the annual event because of the university’s strong support of its veteran students.

“Veterans make up a much smaller proportion of college students than in years past, but it’s just as important to support their transition to civilian life and to help them prepare for their future,” Hesterberg said. “Through its Veterans Resource Center Student and Veteran Organization, Fresno State has made that commitment, and Farm Credit is proud to help support this annual event to recognize veterans.”

Besides Fresno Madera Farm Credit, American AgCredit, CoBank, Colusa-Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, and Yosemite Farm Credit provide funding. The organizations are part of the nationwide Farm Credit System – the largest provider of credit to U.S. agriculture.

Mark Littlefield, President and CEO of Farm Credit West, said the 2021 tailgate was particularly meaningful as the campus – along with the rest of the state and nation – began to rebound from the COVID-19 restrictions.

“This was the first semester since the pandemic hit that students were back on campus, allowing the Student Veteran Organization to hold the tailgate and provide free tickets to the football game,” Littlefield said. “Farm Credit was particularly glad to be able to sponsor the event this year for students who are returning to some semblance of normal.”

Hernandez, an Army reservist who recently graduated with a degree in criminology and law enforcement, said the ticket department donated 700 tickets to the game.

 

About Farm Credit:

American AgCredit, CoBank, Colusa Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit, and Yosemite Farm Credit are cooperatively owned lending institutions providing agriculture and rural communities with a dependable source of credit. For more than 100 years, the Farm Credit System has specialized in financing farmers, ranchers, farmer-owned cooperatives, rural utilities and agribusinesses. Farm Credit offers a broad range of loan products and financial services, including long-term real estate loans, operating lines of credit, equipment and facility loans, cash management and appraisal and leasing services…everything a “growing” business needs. For more information, visit www.farmcreditalliance.com

 

About the Student Veterans Organization

Today’s veterans face tremendous obstacles in their path of attaining a college degree. These challenges range from a missing sense of camaraderie to a lack of understanding by university faculty and peers. When coupled with the visible and invisible wounds of war, a college degree seems to be an elusive goal for men and women returning from military service. Student Veterans Organization (SVO) makes that goal a reality.

New FFA Program helps students make the leap into college

Two-day Change Makers Summit, with support from Farm Credit, opens eyes to the wide range of ag-related career pathways.

 

Going off to college is a big leap into the unknown for most college-bound high school seniors – especially when they’re doing so in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. To help ease the transition, the California Association of Future Farmers of America (FFA) has introduced a new program to make that leap a little more manageable – and to remind the students that there are many pathways to a career in California agriculture.

Funded in part by grants from Farm Credit, the Change Makers Summit: The Future Awaits! is a two-day program aimed at incoming high school seniors, explained Maureen Funk, the California FFA Foundation’s development director.

“The original plan, pre-pandemic, was that prior to their senior year, seniors would take time out and go to a conference at a college campus, experience life in the dorms, and have conversations with FFA alums about what skills they need to develop during their senior year to get ready for their next steps,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for them to stop and reflect for a bit – you’re almost done with this program, what’s next?”

Of course, due to COVID-19, the conference had to be virtual. The first one was held in the spring of 2021 for students about to graduate from high school, with a second session held in August for incoming seniors. FFA is planning to hold the program again this year, but plans are not yet final.

Rob Faris, President and CEO of Golden State Farm Credit, said the program is designed to help students use the skills they have gained and fulfill their life’s purpose after leaving the FFA blue and gold.

“The FFA alumni volunteers help students identify the specific skills they have gained from their FFA education and help them create a career plan that highlights how those skills will help them find success,” Faris said. “The volunteers also outline specific service projects seniors can undertake in their home communities or at college, and the seniors will leave knowing how capable, valuable and marketable they are.”

Farm Credit institutions supporting the California FFA are American AgCredit, CoBank, Colusa-Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit, Golden State Farm Credit and Yosemite Farm Credit. They are all part of the nationwide Farm Credit System, the largest provider of credit to American agriculture.

Curt Hudnutt, President and CEO of American AgCredit, noted that another key part of the summit is outlining all the careers they can pursue in agriculture.

“Whether a student pursues a career in finance, joins their family farm or has an innovative business idea they want to bring forward, California agriculture – and U.S. agriculture –  needs them,” Hudnutt said. “In 2022, the plan is to amplify this message by bringing in former FFA students now working in ag-related businesses to tell the students how they got where they are and help them understand the opportunities that are open to them.”

Funk said 164 students participated last April and another 207 did so in August.

“Our target was 150 participants at each session, so we were very pleased with the outcomes. Both sessions included a broad band of students from all our areas and participation was very good. The interns and volunteers all felt they got really good feedback and that it was a valuable experience.”

Farm Credit has supported FFA for more than 20 years, during which it has contributed well over $550,000. Funk said Farm Credit’s strong support has been extremely important to helping FFA provide programs like the summit.

“Farm Credit is our most generous donor. They commit year over year to the organization, which helps us plan new things, knowing that those funds are coming in. And sponsors like Farm Credit keep our programs affordable for our students. We really value their support,” she said.

For more information about the summit, visit https://calaged.org/change-makers-summit.

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About Farm Credit: 

American AgCredit, CoBank, Colusa-Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit, Golden State Farm Credit and Yosemite Farm Credit are cooperatively owned lending institutions providing agriculture and rural communities with a dependable source of credit. For more than 100 years, the Farm Credit System has specialized in financing farmers, ranchers, farmer-owned cooperatives, rural utilities and agribusinesses. Farm Credit offers a broad range of loan products and financial services, including long-term real estate loans, operating lines of credit, equipment and facility loans, cash management and appraisal and leasing services…everything a “growing” business needs. For more information, visit www.farmcreditalliance.com.

About California Association FFA and California FFA Foundation:

California FFA’s school-based agricultural education program prepares students for successful careers and a lifetime of informed choices in the global agriculture, food, fiber and natural resource systems.

California FFA Foundation provides individuals, businesses, foundations and others the opportunity to invest in the premier secondary Agricultural Education leadership development program in California FFA. For more information, visit https://www.calaged.org.

 

 

New Sacramento museum educates residents about farms’ water needs

Farm Credit helps fund three exhibits on Museum of Science and Curiosity that demonstrate why farms need water and how farmers are conserving this precious resource

 

Despite recent heavy rains, California is still experiencing one of its worst droughts in history, so reminding the public and policy makers that food does not grow without water is a critical need for the state’s agricultural community. That’s why Mike Wade and Farm Credit were excited to see the new SMUD Museum of Science and Curiosity open recently.

 

Graphic of interactive exhibit that shows how much water is needed to produce a meal and the nutritional value of the food

The $52 million state-of-the-art science center in Sacramento contains dozens of interactive exhibits that allows visitors to explore the wonders of science, technology, engineering and math and specifically address global and local issues relating energy, water, health, nature, space and design engineering.

 

Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, said the three water exhibits the coalition is sponsoring bring home the fact that water is essential to grow our food and that California farmers are leading the world in conserving the precious resource.

“The exhibits have been very popular with museum visitors so far. Both students and adults have been taking turns finding out about the water it takes to grow our food and how farmers use the latest technology to conserve it,” Wade said.

“It’s always been part of our mission to educate people about the connection between farm water and their food supply. It’s important that everyone know that farmers are using water in an efficient manner and that as consumers, we all depend on farmers.”

American AgCredit, CoBank and Farm Credit West collectively pledged $75,000 over five years to help build and maintain the exhibits. The organizations are part of the nationwide Farm Credit System – the largest provider of credit to U.S. agriculture.

Wade said one exhibit consists of a touchscreen monitor on which people can drag food items from an illustrated list to your plate. Once they’ve made their selections, they can click the “eat it” button and the display will show the nutrition value and water demand of the foods on the plate. And that in turn shows participants how close they are to meeting their nutritional needs and the amount of water needed to produce that food.

Mark Littlefield, President and CEO of Farm Credit West, said the exhibit will be an important learning tool for visitors.

“The exhibit helps people understand that it takes a significant amount of water to grow the food we eat. It’s eye-opening to select the right foods to eat and then see at the end of the game how much water it takes to grow that food,” he said.

Another interactive exhibit demonstrates how technology is helping farmers use just the right amount of water to grow their crops, said Curt Hudnutt, President and CEO of American AgCredit.

“The More Crop Per Drop exhibit lets visitors irrigate their field with a set water budget without giving them any information about how much water the crops need,” Hudnutt said. “Then they can try again after getting information from water sensors and then a third time with additional information from drones that pinpoint areas that have enough water and areas that need more. In most cases, participants will do better with additional information, making this a great way of showing how farmers are already at the cutting edge of technology.”

Wade said the third exhibit is a map of California that shows the state’s major water projects and conveyance facilities.

“The highlight here are quotes from five farmers from the five major ag regions who describe how storage and conveyance have made it possible for them to farm,” he said.

The exhibits will be on display for 15 years at the museum, located in a building that once housed a century-old powerplant on the banks of the Sacramento River. The building was rebuilt and modernized and a new wing added that includes a planetarium, offices, and a café. The agricultural water interactive exhibits are part of the Water Challenge Gallery, located in the historic power plant section of the museum.

Wade said Farm Credit’s support has been extremely valuable in making the exhibits a reality.

“None of this would be possible without Farm Credit and the other donors giving so generously,” he said. “Educating the public is a shared responsibility of the entire agricultural industry, and Farm Credit is leading by example.”

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About Farm Credit: American AgCredit, CoBank and Farm Credit West are cooperatively owned lending institutions providing agriculture and rural communities with a dependable source of credit. We specialize in financing farmers, ranchers, farmer-owned cooperatives, rural utilities and agribusinesses. Farm Credit offers a broad range of loan products and financial services, including long-term real estate loans, operating lines of credit, equipment and facility loans, cash management and appraisal and leasing services…everything a “growing” business needs. For more information, visit www.farmcreditalliance.com

 

About the California Farm Water Coalition: CFWC is a non-profit, educational organization formed in 1989 to provide fact-based information on farm water issues to the public. The organization works to help consumers, elected representatives, government officials and the media make the connection between farm water and our food supply. For more information, visit www.farmwater.org.

 

 

 

Cultivate California educates residents about farms’ need for water

Exceptional drought conditions mean Farm Credit’s support is crucial, as reminding people about link between water and their food is more important than ever

California is in the middle of one of its worst droughts on record. The federal government reports that showed that nearly half of the state – including the entire Central Valley – is in an exceptional drought as of mid-October. Overall, 2021 has been the ninth driest year in California since accurate records began being kept 127 years ago. Shasta Lake, the state’s largest reservoir, is at 23% of capacity and Lake Oroville, the second-largest reservoir, is at 22% of capacity.

No one knows how long these dry conditions will last, but the most recent drought lasted for 376 weeks, from December 2011 to March 2019. And the National Weather Service currently forecasts that drought conditions are likely to continue in California as a weak La Niña effect will likely see storms diverted to the Pacific Northwest this winter. And all of that is bad news for California agriculture.

 

Which is why Cultivate California’s program aimed at educating Californians about the connection between consumers, the food they love and the water needed to grow it is so important as its messaging reaches 16 million people a year.

Mike Wade, the program’s executive director, said getting out early this year with messaging about water was essential to counter messaging from other groups.

“Californians continue to get inundated with negative messages about farming,” Wade said. “The Cultivate California program was designed to help bolster the natural support people have for agriculture and farms and to continue providing them with facts and information about the connection between their food and the water supply.”

The need to counter misinformation about farmers’ use of water is why Farm Credit has been one of the program’s largest donors since 2018, said Curt Hudnutt, president and CEO of American AgCredit.

American AgCredit, along with CoBank, Colusa-Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit, Golden State Farm Credit and Yosemite Farm Credit, collectively contribute $100,000 a year to help Cultivate California inform Californians. The organizations are part of the nationwide Farm Credit System – the largest provider of credit to U.S. agriculture.

“This year, many California farms had just 5% of their water supply this year to grow our food,” Hudnutt said. “Cultivate California is one of the most successful groups we have to educate people about the impacts the drought has on our food supply, and the need to improve our water storage to protect all of us in future droughts, and we are proud to help support them in their efforts.”

Wade said one important message this year is that farmers and irrigation districts need to have flexibility to transfer water supplies to areas in greater need without burdensome red tape. And he said improving the state’s water supply system is crucial.

“We need to look long-term, which we should have done after the last drought,” he said. “Eighteen trillion gallons of water fell in February 2019 when the last drought ended, but we didn’t have the facilities to capture it and recharge our groundwater so we would have more supply available now. Hopefully our leaders will act so next time a drought occurs we will be better prepared.”

Rob Faris, President and CEO, Golden State Farm Credit, said it’s essential that more Californians are exposed to one of Cultivate California’s key messages – that the state’s farmers are producing more food but using much less water.

“The value of the state’s farm production increased by 38% between 1980 and 2015 while our farmers used 14% less water,” Faris said. “Farmers continually invest in irrigation technology, such as new drip and micro-irrigation systems, soil moisture monitoring, remote sensing, and computerized irrigation controls. Today, nearly half of our 8.4 million acres of irrigated farmland use drip, micro or subsurface irrigation, and more savings are on the way. Farm Credit is committed to help our members finance these improvements.”

Wade said Farm Credit’s support has been invaluable.

“The support we get from Farm Credit is amazing and critically important,” he said. “It has helped attract other supporters as well, and the support and leadership we get from Farm Credit has been instrumental in helping this program succeed.”

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About Farm Credit: 

American AgCredit, CoBank, Colusa-Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit, Golden State Farm Credit and Yosemite Farm Credit are cooperatively owned lending institutions providing agriculture and rural communities with a dependable source of credit. For more than 100 years, the Farm Credit System has specialized in financing farmers, ranchers, farmer-owned cooperatives, rural utilities and agribusinesses. Farm Credit offers a broad range of loan products and financial services, including long-term real estate loans, operating lines of credit, equipment and facility loans, cash management and appraisal and leasing services…everything a “growing” business needs. For more information, visit www.farmcreditalliance.com.

About Cultivate California:

The Cultivate California program was formed following Governor Brown’s 2014 drought proclamation. It is an educational effort, composed of agricultural industry partners, designed to educate the public about the connection between farm water and our food supply, using media insights, social media analytics, paid advertising and fact-based myth-busting. Cultivate California is managed on behalf of its industry partners by the California Farm Water Coalition.

New Explorer Course gives aspiring farmers a quick introduction to what they can expect

Farm Credit grant helps Center for Land-Based Learning launch new program to complement its existing Beginning Farmer Training course

 

Since 2013, the Center for Land-Based Learning in Woodland has offered Beginning Farmer Training through its California Farm Academy. The intensive seven-month program combines lectures by farmers and agricultural professionals, hands-on field experience, and farm visits to expose students to topics critical for a future in farming.

Ric Murphy, left, the farm incubator program manager for the Center for Land-Based Learning, teaches Explorer Course participants Samuel Chiu of West Sacramento and Stephanie Parent of Sacramento about how to harvest and process storage onions during this spring’s inaugural session

The program went virtual in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions and this year it was canceled. In its place is a new Explorer Course, which ran for just six weeks when launched this spring. But while the pandemic helped jump-start the new program, it’s not just a temporary replacement, explained Dr. Sri Sethuratnam, the Farm Academy director.

“We’ve been considering running an Explorer program for five years,” he said. “The main reason is that every year, a large percentage of the participants aren’t ready for a seven-month program. You really need a fairly narrowed down idea of what kind of farming you want to do before you begin.

“This program is for people who haven’t made the commitment that the (seven-month participants) have. They don’t really know what steps they’ll have to take so it helps to organize them and move forward toward their farm dream. Because of COVID, we had to take a break from the regular program, so we thought, why not run the Explorer course and see how it works.”

Supporting the next generation of farmers is a top priority, which is why Farm Credit has sponsored the Farm Academy since 2018, said Curt Hudnutt, President and CEO of American AgCredit.

“The USDA reports that the average age of an American farmer today is nearly 60, so programs like the Farm Academy that educate and encourage people with an interest in farming are crucial,” Hudnutt said. “Farm Credit has provided $40,000 to support the Farm Academy and believes this new program can introduce even more prospective farmers to agriculture.”

Additionally, Farm Credit’s support of the Center for Land-Based Learning extends beyond just the Farm Academy, noted Mark Littlefield, President and CEO of Farm Credit West.

“Farm Credit is now in the third year of a five-year commitment that will give the Center $100,000 to fund its new state-of-the-art workforce development campus and statewide hub,” Littlefield said. “The Center is the largest organization of its kind in California and operates programs in 27 counties. We look forward to continuing our partnership into the future.”

Supporting Farm Credit Institutions American Ag Credit, CoBank, Colusa Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit, Golden State Farm Credit, and Yosemite Farm Credit are part of the nationwide Farm Credit System, the largest provider of credit to American agriculture.

Sethuratnam said Farm Credit’s support has been instrumental in helping achieve the Center’s goals.

“The sustained financial support we have received from Farm Credit has given us the capacity to build effective pathways into farming for people who are not connected to the farm sector. This support is valuable as these new farmers are the future of our farming and food systems,” he said.

Nine people participated in the spring Explorer session, participating in classroom lectures to get the basics of becoming an owner-operator, including marketing, how to develop a business plan, basic production information, soil science and irrigation practices. Participants also take tours of small farms and ask farmers questions to get real-life answers. Another seven enrolled in the fall Explorer course, which concluded in late September.

Jon Kupkowski, the beginning farmer training program manager, said the feedback from the spring session was generally positive.

“They got clarity and direction and developed a stronger understanding of what they want and how to get there. One thing we’ll look at going forward is how to provide more hands-on sessions. For example, they spent an hour pulling weeds and harvesting onions. We saw that as really positive, so we want to incorporate more time in the fields for the next course,” he said.

Sethuratnam said they are planning some changes when the Beginning Farmer course returns.

“For that program, we had people who were just interested in one kind of farming, such as livestock or horticulture. In the past, though, everyone worked as a group on a one-acre plot. Going forward, they will all still do generic coursework to start but for the latter part of the course we want to have tracks, like livestock, viticulture and seed production – we’re in the middle of a region that has produced seed for 80 years. And we want to add information about the use of technology, like sensors and drones.”

And of course, the program is geared to the Center’s mission – to inspire, educate and cultivate future generations of farmers, agricultural leaders and natural resource stewards.

“There are people who want to get into farming, and now I’m seeing first-generation immigrants wanting to do so. If we can give them the skills and knowledge they need, they can succeed,” Sethuratnam said.

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About Farm Credit:

American AgCredit, CoBank, Colusa Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit, Golden State Farm Credit and Yosemite Farm Credit are cooperatively owned lending institutions providing agriculture and rural communities with a dependable source of credit. For more than 100 years, the Farm Credit System has specialized in financing farmers, ranchers, farmer-owned cooperatives, rural utilities and agribusinesses. Farm Credit offers a broad range of loan products and financial services, including long-term real estate loans, operating lines of credit, equipment and facility loans, cash management and appraisal and leasing services…everything a “growing” business needs. For more information, visit www.farmcreditalliance.com

About the Center for Land-Based Learning:

The Center for Land-Based Learning’s mission is to inspire, educate, and cultivate future generations of farmers, agricultural leaders and natural resource stewards. To do this, we motivate people of all ages to promote a healthy interplay between agriculture, nature, and society through their actions and as leaders in their communities. It began in 1993 as the FARMS Leadership Program, out of concern for the growing disconnect between people, their food supply, and the land. In 2001, programs expanded, and CLBL was created as a 501(c)(3). Today, CLBL operates five distinct programs that advance our mission. One is the California Farm Academy, including the Explorer program, a beginning farmer training program and a farm business incubator program. For more information, visit www.landbasedlearning.org

Despite pandemic, Farm Credit continues to educate Congress about farm needs

Customers and staff discuss PPP, loan deferrals and infrastructure needs; set stage for in-person ‘farmers market’ in D.C. this Fall.

During the spring, hundreds of Farm Credit members and staff from California and around the country head to Washington, D.C., for the annual Farm Credit Fly-In. While at the Capitol, associates visit with their members of Congress and key federal regulators to discuss pending legislation and other important matters affecting agriculture.

This year, since COVID-19 restrictions were in effect and many lawmakers and their staff were working from home, the usual Fly-In was restructured to make it a virtual lobbying effort on behalf of the agricultural community. In addition, this offered an opportunity to set the stage for an in-person experience in November, which will include a “farmers market” reception that will give lawmakers and other policymakers a first-hand look at the wide array of products American farmers grow.

Tim Elrod, CEO of Colusa-Glenn Farm Credit, said lobbying during the pandemic was essential – especially this year, as the change in administrations and congressional leadership has led to numerous initiatives that could affect farmers and ranchers in California and elsewhere.

“COVID hasn’t stopped Farm Credit from advocating on behalf of agriculture and rural communities,” Elrod said. “We’re letting our members of Congress know what we have been doing as ag lenders to support our customers and others in the farming community. It’s an opportunity to begin introductions to new members and check into longstanding relationships we’ve made with existing members, and it’s an opportunity to tell our stories.”

Farm Credit members and officials have explained how the cooperative has supported its customers through loan deferrals and the Paycheck Protection Program, and how as a cooperative, patronage payments drive dollars back into community.

Curt Hudnutt, CEO of American AgCredit, said this year there have been additional issues for Congress to discuss.

“We believe it’s important that agriculture be involved in discussions on infrastructure. It’s essential that federal investments in infrastructure benefit rural areas as well as major population centers,” Hudnutt said. “That’s especially true as lawmakers discuss efforts to make broadband more available in rural areas. COVID-19 has really demonstrated the need for connectivity everywhere, and improved broadband service has to be part of infrastructure improvements.”

Supporting Farm Credit institutions American Ag Credit, CoBank, Colusa-Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit, Golden State Farm Credit and Yosemite Farm Credit are part of the nationwide Farm Credit System, the largest provider of credit to American agriculture.

Jeana Hultquist, Vice President for Legislative Affairs for American AgCredit, said other top priorities discussed with lawmakers this year include climate change, noting that Farm Credit members have embraced many practices over the years that contribute to sustainability and lower carbon emissions, such as no-till farming, using cover crops and drip irrigation.

“Of course, this year especially, water infrastructure is a top priority, as are proposals to eliminate stepped-up basis, which for estate tax purposes makes it possible to transfer family farms from one generation to the next,” she added. “I think these calls have been very effective. Members show up, whether they’re at home or in DC.”

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Farmer-Veteran Grant Helps Marine Transition into Beekeeping

Farm Credit support helps veterans like Jesus Toro build new lives in agriculture

 

Jesus Toro displays a tray of his bees

Jesus Toro is a man with a plan. The son of a farmworker and a former Marine helicopter mechanic, Toro’s goal is to become a fulltime beekeeper within three years, servicing orchards in California and the Pacific Northwest. A just-awarded Farmer Veteran Coalition grant – funded by Farm Credit – will be a big step toward achieving that goal.

The Coalition’s small grant program is designed to support veterans in their early years of farming and ranching by directly purchasing a piece of equipment the farmer has identified as being critical. In Toro’s case, that need was a trailer so he could haul his forklift to farms to unload and load his beehives during pollinating season.

“My goal is to have 1,000 hives within three years,” said Toro, a Madera native. “The hives will go on my flatbed truck, but I needed the trailer to haul around the forklift. The $5,000 grant made that happen.”

Keith Hesterberg, President and CEO of Fresno Madera Farm Credit, said grants like this one really make a difference.

“The Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund provides direct assistance to veterans like Jesus Toro who are in their beginning years of farming and ranching,” Hesterberg said. “The funds are given directly to third-party vendors for items the veteran has identified will make a crucial difference in the success of their farm business.”

As part of the nationwide Farm Credit System – the largest provider of credit to U.S. agriculture – Fresno Madera Farm Credit, along with American AgCredit, CoBank, Colusa Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West and Yosemite Farm Credit support numerous non-profits like the Farmer Veteran Coalition that provide assistance for beginning farmers.

Mark Littlefield, President and CEO of Farm Credit West, added that Farm Credit volunteers help review the grant applications as part of the Farmer Veteran Coalition’s efforts to identify recipients who are serious about becoming successful farmers.

“Veterans receiving these grants need to have an agricultural business in operation and a business plan. In addition, they must provide progress reports and must be willing to mentor other farmer veterans,” Littlefield said. “Farm Credit is proud to be able to help individuals who have served in our armed forces build a new life in agriculture.”

This year, more than 100 farmer veterans across the country received grants. Over the 11 years the program has been in place, more than 700 veterans have benefitted, with $3.5 million in equipment distributed.

Toro said when his enlistment ended, he enrolled at Reedley College to study engineering, until he took calculus and physics in the same semester and decided perhaps engineering wasn’t for him. But a new career path was soon found.

“While at Reedley, one of my close friends told me that the bee business was going to be big in a few years because established beekeepers were getting old and there weren’t enough new guys stepping up to replace them. Then when I got to Fresno State, a beekeeping and biology class popped out at me,” he said.

In fact, Toro is featured in a 2019 You Tube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7iYB853WTo about the course in which he outlined his goal of establishing his own business.

After graduating with his degree in plant science, he’s currently working for an area fertilizer business and working with bees on the side. He now has 50 hives – each with up to 40,000 bees – and is looking to ramp up.

“The goal for me is to buy some land in southern Oregon and take the bees up there for honey production,” he said. “I also want to get contracts for almond pollination in California and for apple and cherry growers in the Northwest, which flower later than trees in California.”

And no doubt the trailer funded with the Farm Credit grant will put on many miles in the process.

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About Farm Credit: 

American AgCredit, CoBank, Colusa Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit and Yosemite Farm Credit are cooperatively owned lending institutions providing agriculture and rural communities with a dependable source of credit. For more than 100 years, the Farm Credit System has specialized in financing farmers, ranchers, farmer-owned cooperatives, rural utilities and agribusinesses. Farm Credit offers a broad range of loan products and financial services, including long-term real estate loans, operating lines of credit, equipment and facility loans, cash management and appraisal and leasing services…everything a “growing” business needs. For more information, visit www.farmcreditalliance.com.

 

About the Farmer Veteran Coalition:

The mission of the Farmer Veteran Coalition is mobilizing veterans to feed America. The Coalition cultivates a new generation of farmers and food leaders and develops viable employment and meaningful careers through the collaboration of the farming and military communities. It believes that veterans possess the unique skills and character needed to strengthen rural communities and create sustainable food systems, and that agriculture offers purpose, opportunity, and physical and psychological benefits. For more information, visit https://farmvetco.org.