Awards honor county farm groups for creative outreach
By TIM HEARDEN
REDDING, Calif. -- A national award has been the culmination of a long road to emotional recovery for members of the Shasta County Farm Bureau.
In May, former manager Melissa Lockie was sentenced to two years in prison for embezzling $78,248 from the organization over a seven-year period. Not only did its members feel betrayed by a friend, the episode left a gaping hole in their budget.
Among its efforts to replenish its coffers was a three-day ranch rodeo in March that drew youngsters from throughout Northern California and Southern Oregon.
"We were in dire need of funds," said Henry Giacomini, the Shasta County Farm Bureau's president. "We had to get something going again and start generating funds quickly. We didn't know if it would be successful, but it turned out to be really, really successful."
The rodeo also earned the local organization a distinction as one of 25 county Farm Bureaus throughout the country -- including four in the West -- that won the American Farm Bureau Federation's County Activities of Excellence Awards.
The awards recognize creative programs that support local agriculture and invite people not familiar with farming and ranching to learn more about the bounty of their area, according to a news release. Among the other winners, which will be showcased during the AFBF Annual Meeting in January in Honolulu, Hawaii:
* The Santa Barbara County, Calif., Farm Bureau noticed that some area students were wearing borrowed FFA jackets and gathered donations to purchase new ones. Students with financial need submit applications that explain what earning a new jacket would mean to them.
"We want to know what they want their legacy to be," said Teri Bontrager, the local Farm Bureau's executive director. "We want them to stretch their minds and have them grow."
* The Santa Cruz County, Calif., Farm Bureau won its second consecutive award for a 10-minute "Local Agriculture" DVD that it unveiled at a movie-premiere-style gala at a local community college.
"To be recognized two years in a row is really unusual," said Bill Ringe, president of a partner organization called Agri-Culture.
* The Ada County, Idaho, Farm Bureau was honored for setting up a farm kiosk at Zoo Boise.
The Shasta County Farm Bureau's event was held in McArthur, Calif. At the three-day rodeo, 16 teams competed in seven different events, and the weekend also included a ranch horse competition, a children's rodeo and a dog trial.
Organizers say they hope to make it an annual event.
"It's pretty exciting for us to win a national award," Giacomini said. "We didn't set out to win an award. We set out to put on a good ranch rodeo that people enjoyed and wanted to see. It turned out great."
American Farm Bureau Federation: www.fb.org