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65 Years of Calaveras County Farm Bureau 

by Eloise Fischer, written in 2014

Norm Hertlein is the longest serving member on the Calaveras County Farm Bureau Board of Directors, he was elected to the Board in 1983 or 1984. I was elected to the Board in 1990, so that makes me the second longest serving Director. I joined Farm Bureau in 1978. This was largely due to persistence of Nat Giannini. Nat worked hard at getting members for Farm Bureau. I was elected President of CCFB in November 1995 and served for two years until November 1997 and have remained on the Board ever since.


Bill Spence’s Step-Mom, Louise Giannini Spence, passed away earlier this year and the family had to look through her files and clippings. They found a little booklet published when CCFB celebrated its 40th Anniversary in 1989. Much of the history of CCFB came from this little booklet.


Calaveras County Farm Bureau was officially started in January 1949 and could have a total of 26 Board Members. Among those listed as Charters Members were my father, Gus Hawver and Bill Spence’s father, Bud Spence. In 1949 & 1950 there were 85 members and by 1988 there were 531 members. Today we have 454 members, 178 of which are Ag (voting) members. In 2013 we achieved Ag membership goal all four quarters, largely due to our hard-working Manager, Crissy Huey.


What is a Farm Bureau? The booklet states “Farm Bureau is a voluntary, non-governmental, bipartisan organization of farmers and ranchers, designed to accomplish cooperatively that which they cannot do alone. Farm Bureau helps farmers and ranchers help themselves.” Farm Bureau today has the added purpose of educating the general public about agriculture~Where Food Comes From~and what it takes to produce the food and fiber that people eat and use every day.


In our role of educating people about where their food and fiber comes from, CCFB initialed an Ag Awareness Day in 1997. You might ask “What happens on Ag Awareness Day?” On that day, usually the fourth Thursday of March, all 4th & 5th grade students in Calaveras County are invited to the Fairgrounds to hear eight short presentations about some phase of agriculture. The presentations are given by more than 20 volunteers who talk about their particular ag involvement. Many come year after year to talk to the students. An interesting and informative article about Ag Day appeared in our last newsletter. Teachers go home with a bag of educational materials and activities to continue ag education in their classrooms. SPI, Sierra Pacific Industries, donates a tree sapling for each student attending.


JoAnne Randall came up with the idea for Ag Day and was chairman of the event for 2 years; Kim Landreth was chairman for 1 year and I was in charge for 6 years. In 2006, Toni Ann Fischer took over as coordinator and has done it ever since. This year we had 750 students participate. Calaveras County Fair is co-sponsor of the event and provides the venue at no cost, while CCFB pays for busing for all students. FFA students from both high schools, Bret Harte and Calaveras High, are tour guides for each group of students. At the close of the last session at 1 p.m., CCFB serves a tri-tip sandwich lunch to all the volunteers and FFA guides. CCFB has also sponsored teachers to attend the annual Ag in the Classroom Conference. This conference helps teachers to teach their students about agriculture and can provide them with teaching aids and lesson plans that are sufficient for state standards.


For several years our local Farm Bureau has awarded scholarships to students from our county high schools who have been involved in agriculture programs in high school, and plan to attend college. Although the amounts have varied over the years, we awarded 4 $500.00 scholarships in 2013 and also in 2014.


We are very proud of the graduates who have participated in the Ag programs at Bret Harte and Calaveras. There was an article in the July newsletter issue that highlighted all of our recipients for the last two years and a few highlights from other Calaveras County students that have gone on to pursue Agricultural careers. Two of our local members, Steve Kafka and Toni Ann Fischer, have participated in Leadership Farm Bureau, a leadership development program sponsored by CFBF, California Farm Bureau Federation. The program is a nearly year-long commitment providing more than 250 hours of instruction over seven sessions in the areas of personal development, public speaking, working with media, political advocacy and government structure. The program involves a trip to Washington, D.C.; a tour of another state’s agriculture and tours of California agriculture. Toni Ann’s class visited North Carolina. When the leadership group from North Carolina came to California, they visited President Paul Wenger’s operation in Modesto and our local FB cooked them a tri-tip in the barrel dinner. They were intrigued by the cooking barrel and planned to make their own when they got home. It was a lot of fun to talk to them and hear about their ag operations and problems too.


Several board members have participated in trips to Washington, D.C. where they met with legislators and presented agriculture’s perspective on many issues affecting our livelihood. I was privileged to go on one of these trips in 2012. It was truly an awesome experience. I met with 3 legislators, a staff person for the House Natural Resources Subcommittee for Public Lands, and several of us met with a D.C. staff person for the Environmental Defense Fund. She seemed to agree with our standpoint regarding endangered species when we were with her, but I don’t know if we had a lasting effect on their policies. I don’t know if we made any progress, but if we keep at it long enough maybe we can change some opinions!


The CFBF Board of Directors is made up of 21 District Directors, most Districts have 2 county Farm Bureaus-a few have 3 and one has 5. CCFB is in District 12 (Calaveras & San Joaquin). Two CCFB members have been State Directors-Jack Kuhl and Michael David Fischer, Jr. Michael David served in that capacity for 7 years; just ending his term last year.


Locally we have a Calaveras County Ag Coalition made up of 4 organizations-CC Farm Bureau, CC Cattlemen’s Assn, Calaveras Grown and the Calaveras Winegrape Alliance. Stuart Mast and Steve Kafka are our representatives on this coalition. The Coalition did a lot of work preparing an Ag Element for the inclusion in the General Plan, but as it stands right now it has not been included as a stand-alone element. And of course the new General Plan has still not been adopted. Maybe early next year.


Our local by-laws allow us to have 20 directors with the power to vote. We have 13 directors at the present time. Several of the Directors serve on a CFBF Commodity Advisory Committee. These committees meet once a year to discuss issues affecting their commodity and to make recommendations to the CFBF Board of Directors on steps to take to try and resolve these issues. We try to attend the meeting held each year, this is generally in the spring.


Our board tries to keep up with what is going on at the Board of Supervisors, but we could use more help in this area. If any of you have income derived from agriculture, and you would like to see Calaveras County retain its rural character and support our agriculture operations, we would love to have you be nominated for election to our Board of Directors.


For more information about what Farm Bureau does, please contact our County manager, Toni Ann Fischer.

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