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Donation Buoys Ag Programs
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Sophomore Jenna Solari, an FFA member at Escalon High, offers a handful of feed to Diesel, the pig she is raising at the FFA farm adjacent to the school. - photo by Marg Jackson/The Times

In a time of uncertain funding for agricultural programs, the Escalon FFA has gotten a bit of a boost.

San Joaquin County farmer Donald Machado recently chose the Escalon Ag-FFA Boosters organization to receive a donation through the America’s Farmers Grow Communities campaign. Offered through Monsanto, the program provides funding for nonprofit organizations that impact rural communities.

“For the fourth consecutive year, eligible farmers across America registered for the chance to direct a $2,500 donation to a nonprofit organization in the communities where they live and work,” Monsanto Customer Advocacy Lead Linda Arnold wrote in a letter to the local Boosters. “Your organization was selected by Donald Machado as the $2,500 Grow Communities recipient in San Joaquin County.”

Chapter officers of the Escalon FFA gathered at the school farm on Friday afternoon to receive the funds, courtesy of an oversized check. Boosters officials were on hand as well and offered thanks for the donation.

“The Escalon Ag-FFA Boosters are thrilled to be honored as the San Joaquin County recipients of this program, and we thank Mr. Machado for his choosing us as the beneficiary,” said Boosters president Christine Watson.

The local FFA celebrated its 75th anniversary this past November, and Mr. Machado also was on hand for that ‘Denim & Diamonds’ jubilee celebration.

Boosters member Bonner Murphy, who was a main coordinator for the 75th anniversary, said money raised through that event and now the additional $2,500 will help provide needed computers and additional equipment for the ag department and programs at Escalon High School.

A handful of FFA members were busy at the school farm tending to their animals on Friday, taking a break for the check ceremony and photo opportunity. This week is being observed as FFA Week at the school, with different activities and special events and culminating with a staff member scheduled to kiss a mystery animal in the quad at lunchtime on Friday.

Meanwhile, a countywide effort to offer an opportunity for FFA and 4-H members to continue showing their animals outside of the county fair – which won’t be staging the livestock shows this year – has gained steam.

The San Joaquin Junior Show & Auction Council (SJJSAC) was officially formed and the plans for the AgFest Junior Show & Auction were announced at the meeting on Monday, Feb. 17.

“This event is the result of the cooperation of the newly formed SJJSAC, the 2nd Agricultural District Fair and the San Joaquin County Office of Education Educational Foundation,” explained Murphy.

Named as officers for the new council were: Tim Sunbury, president; Richard Schmidig, vice president; Jeff Wagner, secretary and Lesa Hofmann, treasurer.

All board members have past livestock and show experience with their own children as 4-H and FFA members, officials said.

AgFest is being planned for June 17 through 21 at the San Joaquin Fairgrounds in Stockton and is designed to give local 4-H, Grange, FFA and independent junior exhibitors the chance to show and sell livestock. Changes in the structure of the county fair left the livestock shows in limbo, until the new committee stepped up to take over the reins.

“AgFest goers will be treated to all the traditional beef, swine, sheep, goat, dairy, rabbit, poultry, turkey and dog competitions they have come to expect at a livestock show, along with other activities planned for visitors,” said Murphy, who is helping coordinate the event.

Already planned are the master showmanship competition on Friday, June 20 and the livestock auction on Saturday, June 21. Murphy added that the large and small animal 4-H and FFA exhibitors who place first in the master showmanship contest will represent San Joaquin County at the California State Fair in July.

To volunteer for the AgFest or for more information about the event, contact Murphy at 209-481-0843 or visit