Farm Bureau honors young California agriculturalists
» December 6, 2011 «
A Sacramento County farming couple and a dairy veterinarian from Tulare County will represent California in a national recognition program for young farmers and ranchers, after earning statewide awards last night at the 93rd California Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting in Sparks, Nev.
Michael and Amber McDowell of Walnut Grove won the Young Farmers and Ranchers Achievement Award, which recognizes farm management skills, leadership qualities and service.
Dr. Jennifer Wessel of Tipton earned the Excellence in Agriculture Award, for young people who actively contribute through involvement in agriculture and Farm Bureau, but who do not derive the majority of income from an owned farming operation.
The McDowells operate a diversified farm where they grow pears, alfalfa, wheat and corn, and sell farm-fresh eggs. The pear orchard includes both commercial and U-Pick operations. Michael McDowell also operates a hunting preserve on the property, where he raises game birds and sells guided hunting trips following harvest.
"The hunting preserve grew out of an FFA project I started as a teenager," he said. "Over the years, I have expanded it and now raise more than 1,200 pheasants and turkeys on the property. It has provided another revenue stream for my family and given us another use for the land."
He has built all of the facilities for the birds and also customizes his farm equipment to work more efficiently in the unique delta silt soil found on the farm.
Amber McDowell works as a high school agriculture teacher, and the couple helps FFA students by providing the facilities to raise their poultry projects. Amber also introduces her fellow teachers to farming by selling eggs produced by the family's chickens. She uses the eggs to engage in conversations with fellow teachers about where food comes from.
Wessel, a partner in a dairy veterinary clinic, plays an integral role in the health and safety of the state's milk supply. Her job includes monitoring herd health and milk quality, animal welfare, performing surgical procedures and inspecting animals prior to their transportation out of the state. She chairs the California Farm Bureau Federation Animal Health and Welfare Committee and is certified as an assessor for the Validus FARM Animal Welfare Audit program, evaluating farms' animal care practices and providing recommendations to ensure animal welfare meets the highest standards.
Wessel works within organizations including the California Veterinary Medical Association, where she serves on its Agricultural Advisory Committee and House of Delegates. The House of Delegates is comprised mostly of small-animal veterinarians, and Wessel is one of the few food-animal practitioners in the group. She calls upon her experiences and expertise to discuss food-animal issues that other veterinarians may not be familiar with.
The McDowells and Wessel will represent California in national competitions to be held next month at the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting in Honolulu.
As winners of the Achievement Award, the McDowells 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, Cathie and Dick Bradley, the California Association of Pest Control Advisers, Farm Credit West, CoBank, American AgCredit and State Compensation Insurance Fund. For her award, Wessel earns a $4,000 cash prize.
The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of more than 74,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of nearly 6.3 million Farm Bureau members.
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