Farm Bureau Foundation’s New Year Message 2018

Written By: Tito Sasaki, President, Farm Bureau Foundation
Published: January 1, 2018

Why not! We have all the right ingredients: top-notch farmers and ranchers, and dynamic SRJC, SSU, and UCCE. Our high schools and elementary schools are enthusiastic about agriculture thanks to the activities of 4-H, FFA, YF&R, and the FB’s Ag Education Committee. For the Farm Bureau, education has always been a top priority. Sonoma County is the agricultural powerhouse of the Bay Area, and our civic leaders are committed to keep it as the most dependable economic force of the county.

Yet, when it comes to the time to choose a college, we see many promising future farmers and ranchers leave Sonoma for Davis, San Luis Obispo, Fresno, or even to Oklahoma or New York. If they stayed here for better education, they would more likely rejoin the farms and ranches here and contribute to the brighter future of our local agriculture.

In the spring of 2005, Sonoma County Farm Bureau created a separate nonprofit public benefit corporation “to partner with public and private agencies and organizations, to develop, promote, manage and sustain the health, safety, and welfare of our agricultural community through research, evaluation, education and advocacy.” (Articles of Incorporation, Sec. II-1.) The Farm Bureau named it Farm Bureau Foundation of Sonoma County. In terms of the Internal Revenue Code Section 501-c-3, the Foundation was organized for educational purposes.

The Foundation has been diligently cultivating its sponsor base to raise funds for scholarships. Thanks to your generous donations, our annual scholarship awards grew from a few thousand dollars a decade ago to over $125,000 today, helping some forty local students to advance to higher education in agriculture. Many of our volunteer board members spend countless hours every year interviewing the applicants and evaluating them so that your donations may go to the worthiest recipients. The raising and awarding of scholarship funds has been the core function of the Foundation, and it must continue to grow. The coming SCFB Annual Crab and Wine Fest is one of the few public opportunities where we will be asking for your donation — scholarship funds to help our local agricultural students to develop their full potentials through higher education. Please come to the Crab Feed, and participate in the live auction that will feature among others our fundraising.

While the scholarship activities are on the right track, we should expand our horizons. As stated at the beginning, we have all the reasons to make Sonoma County the agricultural education center of excellence. Neither SCFB nor the Foundation is an educational institution. But SRJC with its crown jewel, Shone Farm, is renowned for its hands-on ag education. SSU already offers business economic courses in wine marketing and strategies, and the curriculum could be expanded. By partnering with these institutions, we could effectively support their quest for excellence. Both the Farm Bureau and the Foundation have had extensive collaboration with SRJC in addition to the Foundation awarding many scholarships to those who enroll in the JC. So, it would be the natural first step for us to explore a new focused program with SRJC. Our board will start such a discussion in January.

Our county has never been an ordinary farming county. We made it the national and international capital of apples, poultry, dairy, and premium wine grapes and wines. Now we can make it the capital of unique ag education befitting our tradition of innovative leadership, resilience, and diversity. It will take not only a good amount of funding but also a lot of creative thinking. We need all your help to launch this new endeavor.

Please share your thoughts with us. Contact us through the Farm Bureau or directly to any of the Foundation’s board members. The current board members are: Jeff James, VP; BJ Bertacco, Treasurer; Tawny Tesconi, Secretary; Robert Muelrath, Past President; Chris Donatiello;; Annette O’Kelley; Sally Manoukian; and Marcia Mickelson;, besides myself.

Let’s together make our county a shining center of ag education!
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