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Two new employees recently joined the San Joaquin Farm Bureau team: Amber McDowell as administrative, membership and ag issues program assistant and Heather Boyd as administration, outreach, training and marketing program assistant.

Each will be involved in membership recruitment and retention, member inquiries and correspondence, handling meeting logistics, notices and publicity for a wide variety of events, working with national, state and county Farm Bureaus, and promoting a positive image of Farm Bureau and its policies with San Joaquin County.

Amber McDowell will work with the Land Use, Water and other issues-based committees in addition to membership, and Farm Bureau service-to-members programs.

Heather Boyd will work extensively with the Ag Education and Rural Health and Safety committees.

Amber McDowell

Amber McDowell was active in 4-H and FFA and she said, "Agriculture is the basis for everything in San Joaquin County and I felt a connection with ag and the environment on our Delta farm. I've always felt a sense of community and connection to the rural lifestyle and I'm really excited about working for San Joaquin Farm Bureau."

She said it will be rewarding to "get back into promoting ag while working with the SJFB team."

She attended Cal Poly and received her bachelor of science degree with a concentration in animal science and a minor in agricultural business. A master's degree in agricultural science with a specialization in Agricultural Education followed and McDowell taught high school ag and science at Elk Grove's Franklin High School for eight years.

"Teaching ag in an essentially urban high school was a challenge," she said. "Kids questioned the value of agriculture but our public speaking and leadership courses were popular because the kids saw their value as having a positive impact on their college applications."

The ag classes throughout the program accentuated the value of businesses and industries that were successfully involved in ag and allied with the ag industry as potential employers.

Over the years, McDowell has participated in a number of ag-oriented groups, including the Sacramento River Delta Grown Agri-Tourism Association, the California State Fair as the primary assistant for the Competitive Exhibits and the California Living Competition. She has served on the State YF&R Committee and her husband is a board member of the Sacramento County Farm Bureau. "I'm familiar with the workings of Farm Bureau at the county and state levels," McDowell said.

McDowell has always appreciated the value and importance of agriculture and "the heritage, the traditions passed from generation to generation and the relationships and connections developed with the rural community."

With her educational background McDowell is looking forward to furthering the educational efforts of Farm Bureau, to informing the public about agriculture's significant value to the county.

Heather Boyd

Heather Boyd had worked in aviation since she was 21 mostly for Horizon Air with time at two other companies before returning to Horizon. "I wasn't looking for a job but aviation had become…tiresome. I happened across the ad for Farm Bureau and since ag makes me happy, I applied." Boyd had been active in 4-H as a youth and FFA while attending Tokay High School in Lodi where she raised hogs and showed quarter-horses and continued showing "after high school for many years."

She grew up in San Joaquin County off Eight Mile Road near Micke Grove Park and her affinity for agriculture has remained strong through the years, although she can't exactly put a finger on why. "Most of my experience has been in livestock but the bigger issue that's always struck me as important is that the general public doesn't know where their food comes from or how much work and effort goes into the agriculture that produces it. And I like the ag lifestyle."

With two daughters – Stephanie and Katie – active in 4-H and FFA, and Boyd being a "huge supporter of the FFA and 4-H programs" she knows the area and has worked the Sacramento County fair with the youth animal program and the show ring.

With more than 17 years of administrative, customer service and office experience, Boyd said she's looking forward to learning "while filling a role within a team dedicated to professionalism and communication."

She's looking forward to putting her business skills to work helping Farm Bureau's team deal with what she feels will continue to be major issues: "Ag labor will be a big topic as ag has to figure out a way to make it work, whatever the labor situation; the other huge issue is water and I'm sure we'll be busy with that one, too; and the growing regulatory climate I'm sure Farm Bureau will assume a leading role here as well."