Commentary: Contributions secure California agriculture’s future

Issue Date: December 4, 2019
By Shannon Douglass
Shannon Douglass
Through their scholarship foundations, county and state Farm Bureaus help assure well-educated, highly motivated young people can begin careers in agriculture.

When does a donation become an investment? When it leads to tangible benefits for your community, for your business, for the organizations that work for you. That's certainly true of donations to the California Farm Bureau Scholarship Foundation.

Scanning a list of CFBF scholarship winners from the past decade, I quickly spotted the names of many who have gone on to become leaders in their communities and in Farm Bureau. Many recipients became farmers and ranchers, of course, but there are also large-animal veterinarians, agricultural attorneys and policy advocates, and people who work for county Farm Bureaus and CFBF.

The list of scholarship recipients includes county Farm Bureau presidents and board members, Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee chairs, and many others who have remained active volunteers on behalf of California agriculture.

I think all of us involved in agriculture agree on the importance of having well-educated, highly motivated young people coming to the land as farmers and ranchers, or working on behalf of agriculture in nonprofit organizations, veterinary offices, the corridors of the Capitol or the courtroom.

CFBF established the Scholarship Foundation in 1955 to benefit students who want to pursue careers as farmers, ranchers or in agricultural occupations. Since its founding nearly 65 years ago, the foundation has distributed more than $3.6 million in scholarship money to agricultural students.

Scholarships have a special place in my heart, because they were absolutely critical to my ability to seek higher education. More than once, I have had a recipient of a Farm Bureau scholarship tell me the scholarship made it possible for him or her to go to college.

During the past dozen years, hundreds of California college students have benefited from a special scholarship fund administered by CFBF. The Rustici Livestock and Rangeland Scholarship Award helps students who plan careers in beef or sheep ranching or in range management.

The Rustici awards began because Russell Rustici, a Lake County cattle rancher, recognized the need to encourage students who shared his interest in caring for animals and the land, and because he recognized that the existing CFBF Scholarship Foundation was best equipped to carry out his wishes. He established the special scholarships in 2007 and, after his death the following year, they have continued as a legacy to California students.

I know of people who are looking for ways to leave a lasting contribution, and the ongoing success of the California Farm Bureau Scholarship Foundation shows it to be worthy of consideration in legacy planning.

Similarly, many people make end-of-the-year donations to support organizations and causes near and dear to them. Whether it's a large legacy gift or an end-of-year contribution, tax-deductible donations to the CFBF Scholarship Foundation represent a meaningful investment in the future of agriculture. Many county Farm Bureaus also award college scholarships and accept contributions toward them.

For more information about the Scholarship Foundation, see

Because of the wide scope of its activities, CFBF provides other opportunities for end-of-the-year donations.

The California Bountiful Foundation, a charitable foundation established by CFBF in 2011, supports public outreach, education and research on behalf of family farms and ranches. A $25 donation provides a one-year subscription to California Bountiful® magazine—and gift subscriptions are available. For more information, see

A year ago, in the wake of the devastating Camp Fire, CFBF and the California Bountiful Foundation created a special Farm and Rural Disaster Fund to collect monetary contributions to help with rural recovery efforts from wildfires, floods and other disasters. The fund donated $75,000 toward purchase of 280 livestock pens to house farm animals displaced during emergencies. The pens have been deployed regionally at county fairgrounds around the state (see story) and have already been put to use in the wake of recent disasters.

For more information about the Farm and Rural Disaster Fund, see the California Bountiful Foundation website or the CFBF site at

Since the 1980s, the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom has worked to show young Californians the importance of agriculture in their daily lives, through materials and programs developed for K-12 teachers and by partnering with other organizations and businesses.

This year, CFAITC efforts included a partnership with McDonald's restaurants that led to production of 90,000 tray liners showing the areas of California where restaurant foods originated. To learn more about the foundation and its work, see

Thank you for considering donations to any or all of these ongoing efforts to secure the future of California agriculture.

(Shannon Douglass, a rancher and farmer from Orland, is first vice president of the California Farm Bureau Federation.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.

Special Reports



Special Issues

Special Sections