Dedication, innovation earn awards for young farmers and ranchers
» December 7, 2009 «
An almond farmer from Denair and a lettuce marketer from Salinas earned statewide honors for achievement and service, as the California Farm Bureau Federation recognized award winners from its Young Farmers and Ranchers program.
Benina Montes, a member of the Merced County Farm Bureau, won the Young Farmers and Ranchers Achievement Award. Jesse Lopez, a member of the Monterey County Farm Bureau, received the Excellence in Agriculture Award. Both awards were presented today during the 91st California Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in Anaheim.
Montes earned the achievement award for her farm management skills, leadership abilities and service to Farm Bureau and community. She farms 950 acres of almonds in partnership with her parents and has moved to diversify the operation through production of organic almonds and creation of a direct-marketing business.
About 15 percent of the farm's acreage has been converted to organic production, with another 15 percent in transition to organic. In addition, Montes has begun marketing flavored almonds online and at farmers markets. Her farm has incorporated compost as a fertilizer and now makes all of its own compost, using ingredients including manure from a neighboring dairy and wood chips from fallen or dead trees.
"It is a life and business I know and love," Montes wrote in her application. "I want to continue farming here for as long as I am able."
As winner of the Excellence in Agriculture award, Lopez won recognition for service among people who derive a majority of their income outside the farm or ranch. He is Western sales service manager for Tanimura & Antle, a family-owned grower, packer and shipper of lettuce and other produce.
In his application, Lopez said he promotes the sustainability of agriculture by advocating for energy efficiency, water conservation and other practices. He called water supply a key issue for the future of agriculture, noting that water shortages forced Tanimura & Antle to fallow thousands of acres of land this year.
"Safe and reliable sources of irrigation and drinking water need to be secured for our future existence to feed ourselves," Lopez said.
An agricultural loan officer from Woodland, Anna Fricke, was named a runner-up for the Excellence in Agriculture Award.
Both Montes and Lopez will represent California in national competitions to be held next month during the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting in Seattle.
As part of her award, Montes will receive use of a Kubota tractor for one year, furnished by Kubota Tractor Corp., and a cash prize of $4,000 from program sponsors Bank of America, California Farm Bureau Federation, California Farm Credit Associations, Dodge Trucks and State Compensation Insurance Fund. For his award, Lopez earns a $4,000 cash prize and as runner-up, Fricke earns $1,000.
The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of more than 80,000 members statewide. The Young Farmers and Ranchers program encourages members aged 18 to 35 to be active leaders in agriculture.
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