Ag at Large: Generosity prevails as top farm crop

Farmers in the Westlands Water District in Fresno and Kings Counties have established charitable ties to help them prepare for emergencies. (Westlands Water District)

You might have noticed that when a community in the farm belt faces extenuating needs, it can count on the area’s farmers to respond generously.

That circumstance is being played out in the Westlands Water District in Fresno and Kings Counties, but the farmers are preparing to meet the needs ahead of time. They have organized a charitable group to evaluate and prepare for emergencies before they occur.

They are expecting it to have remarkable strength and persistence because farm wives and other farm women will play leading roles. It is reminiscent of the early days of Fresno’s giant Saint Agnes Medical Center. A series of leagues was formed, often involving wives or relatives of Westlands and west side farmers, to meet the special concerns of the hospital’s growth and expansion.

Health requirements in the Westlands and sprawling west side area are expected to be a priority, along with educational and general welfare issues. Even before the charitable group was established, a half dozen scholarships for area students were being granted, and health and nutrition issues were being addressed.

Founders have established ties with the Central Valley Community Foundation. It is administered by recently retired Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearingen. And the Community Food Bank, operated in Fresno, consistently receives and distributes large quantities of west side food and vegetable products declared surplus.

The underlying philosophy of the organization is to raise funds for charitable and beneficial uses before the needs are fully evaluated and assessed, allowing the charitable group to “hit the ground running.”

A further connection already operating is with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Fresno County. Opportunities for youngsters to take part in intellectual, as well as recreational and social activities and programs, have been operating for some time with Westlands support. Expectations are for these to expand because of the charitable assist from west side farmers.

The new charitable group hopes to link smaller communities on Fresno County’s west side by recognizing contributions made from farmers and others in these communities, and returning to them benefits they might not receive otherwise.

Some of the state’s largest and most effective commodity associations represent growers of tomatoes, cantaloupes, grapes, almonds, pistachios and cotton operating in the Westlands district. They will have opportunities to take part in and support the charitable efforts of the new organization.

The group expects to support and coordinate scholarships and other educational opportunities for residents and their families on a continuing basis, and encourage students in the area’s schools to take advantage of them. Some scholarship winners, now graduates, are operating in the district in management positions. They are fit examples for younger students.

Beyond its obvious intention of assisting members of the west side community and those is need elsewhere in Fresno County, the group may provide a continuity and perhaps a sense of community for residents in the scattered and small cities of the area. They will know they are contributing to the welfare of others, and be assured of continuing assistance when they need it.

In addition to providing a channel for farmers, their organizations, their suppliers, their business associates and their employees to operate as a charitable team, the organization can have a positive impact in meeting the needs of people in and beyond the geographic limits of the west side.

As it grows and expands, its example and its influence can reach farm groups elsewhere, and allow them to coordinate, cooperate and compensate in organized programs to extend charity to the places it is needed most.

Don Curlee :