By Craig W. Anderson 

Amber McDowell, program assistant for San Joaquin Farm Bureau, is one of 10 members in the 2019 Leadership Farm Bureau class embarking on 250 hours of intensive training on agricultural issues and leadership methods.

“I’ve been with San Joaquin Farm Bureau for 18 months and I love working in ag and meeting with many interesting people,” Amber said, noting her activities such as Ag Day at the State Capital, Media Night, meetings at Farm Centers, meeting with assorted communities to update them on agricultural issues and working on what she called a “website refresher.”

“I wanted to participate in Leadership Farm Bureau to learn how to be a better advocate for ag,” she said, adding, “and the timing’s right for that now.”

A member of YF&R, she’s graduated out of the group but remains closely allied with it and its members.

Amber received her bachelor’s degree in ag science at Cal Poly, with a minor in ag business. She eventually returned to the Sloughhouse area with two brothers, one who now works in an ag related field. Through YF&R, Amber met and married a pear farmer, settling down in Walnut Grove. Her family farms pears and alfalfa and runs a pheasant-hunting preserve.

While growing up, Amber was heavily involved in 4-H and FFA. “In both I learned about leadership and how to develop projects.” She was also a Sacramento County 4-H All-Star.

With her family, education and work background, her interest in the issues and policy sides of agriculture will receive advanced fine-tuning over the Leadership Farm Bureau’s year-long course.

“Working at Farm Bureau in San Joaquin County and working with the Land Use and Water committees, I’ve been exposed to the issues and their details,” Amber said.

When asked what surprised her about the world of Farm Bureau, she said, “I haven’t been surprised about much, yet. However, I’ve seen over the years that Farm Bureau is definitely like a family, a community comprised of hard workers, patriotic, religious and strong people of the ag community.”

Leadership Farm Bureau is an active, intense and wide-ranging course that requires, she said, the ability to schedule time to participate in a myriad of activities, tours, day trips and classroom work. “Farm Bureau supports my scheduling and work adjustments and the office is very understanding about it,” Amber said. 

She taught ag at Franklin High School in Elk Grove but when California cut budget dollars that would have funded high school agriculture courses, hers was cut, which led her to the San Joaquin Farm Bureau, where her education eventually continued.

“Being in the Leadership Farm Bureau program has already enhanced my overall ag interest and knowledge,” she said. “The first session, we examined the personality characteristics of the class members and worked on leadership, then participated in a water seminar, the overall impact of water on ag and ways to tell the story of agriculture and the importance of water regarding ag.”

“It’s been a great experience so far,” Amber remarked, “and we’ve become aware that more people should be involved with Farm Bureau and Leadership Farm Bureau.”

Coming up are seven sessions focusing on agricultural issues, governmental policy and personal development. The class members will advocate on behalf of Farm Bureau in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., take field-studies trips in Northern California and out of state, and will emerge from the program with enhanced backgrounds in communication, team building, advocacy and the Farm Bureau organization.

Amber’s classmates are Jocelyn Anderson of Willows, Shane Bickner of Lemoore, Lance Clothier of Wilton, Cody Dodson of Tulelake, Alana Fowler of Penn Valley, Anna Genasci of Oakdale, Brian Greathouse of Sutter, Brian Medeiros of Hanford and Ian Vietti of Visalia.

The class of 2019 was formerly introduced during the annual California Farm Bureau Federations Leaders Conference in Sacramento and is scheduled to graduate in December during the 101st CFBF Annual Meeting in Monterey.