Visiting editors on freed prisoners, dogs in summer and FFA

June 29, 2013 

Our second-quarter visiting editors share their views on a subject of their choice.

GiGi DeVault

Let's say you live in suburbia near unsettled public land. Black bears sometimes find their way into your yard, your dog's food bowl on the porch, the bird feeder, compost pile or garbage cans. Your phone calls eventually connect you to the proper Fish and Wildlife authority. If the bear is not habituated to humans, it may be relocated to a place where the catalysts for the bear's problem behavior are not present. All this occurs at considerable expense to the state, but experts recognize that the same environmental conditions will lead to the same bad bear behavior.

Now, let's say you have been released from prison after serving your term. You get $200 at the gate minus the cost of your new clothes, meds you need and public transportation to … well, anyplace else. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Parolee Information Handbook cautions you: "Do not waste this money. Gate money should be used for needs like food, a room, and travel." Your gate money is considerably less than the expense of relocating a Category 1 bear.

Chances are, you're homeless or family reunification is not an option. You don't have a diploma or GED. You can't step into a waiting job. In fact, while you've been incarcerated, the positions for which you qualify have decreased markedly. So, you make your way to a metropolitan area where people you know, or people in similar circumstances, congregate.

You may connect with social services, but the neighborhood is overwhelmed — unable to provide assistance, homes or jobs. Your old neighborhood will be disproportionately affected by your release. The state will spend a considerable sum on your parole oversight. The NIMBY (not in my back yard) mindset will work against your relocation to a place that would promote reintegration. Your old habits draw you like easy trash draws a maverick bear.

DeVault is a business development specialist living in Oakdale.

Don Moyer

A lifetime spent in outdoor pursuits has led me to the conclusion that oftentimes my outdoor experiences have been greatly enhanced by the companions I have shared them with. I have indeed been fortunate in that regard. Some of them have been dogs that kept me company through every outdoor situation imaginable. I have huddled with my dog taking shelter from a pouring rain and shared my lunch with a canine companion on a midstream rock. I have had a dog save me from a sidewinder bite and keep me from freezing in a blizzard. Don't get me wrong, humans are swell, but there's never been anyone as faithful as a dog.

It seems as though I'm not alone in my sentiments. I think it was Harry Truman who observed about the bitterly competitive nature of politics in Washington, "If you want a friend in this town, get a dog." I stopped by the bank the other day to cash a check, and as I was waiting in line, I noticed that the teller working the drive-up window had a box of dog biscuits beside her work area. Now that's what I call customer service.

Now, as we enter the summer season, it's especially important to take care of our best friends, to make sure the heat doesn't harm them. Make sure they have plenty of water and shade, and never, ever leave your dog alone in an automobile. That's asking for disaster. If you're going to walk your furry companions, try to do it in the cool of early morning or after sundown. There's nothing like the loyalty of a dog, but along with that loyalty comes an equal responsibility our part to repay that loyalty with the care they deserve.

Moyer, who lives in Ripon, is an outdoors writer and the owner of Moyer Consulting.

Wayne Zipser

"Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve" is the motto of the Future Farmers of America. Today there are 557,000 FFA members in 7,498 high school chapters in all 50 states nationwide.

Forty-four percent of members are young women, who make up 50 percent of state leadership positions. This is remarkable, since it was just 40 years ago that young women were not allowed to join FFA. California is one of the leading FFA states, with the most members. In fact, women in the agricultural industry today have made a profound impact in dealing with issues that were predominantly dealt with by men years ago. Almost every single area high school has a chapter. Their missions are the same: To develop competent and aggressive agricultural leaders, increase awareness of the importance of agriculture and how it plays an important role in everyone's daily lives, promote the values of the FFA motto along with family, God and country.

One of the cornerstones of this program is the dedicated, hardworking agricultural teachers who provide a path for these young students. FFA advisers and agricultural teachers deliver an integrated model of agriculture, providing students with innovative and leading-edge education. Ag teachers provide guidance with hands-on projects throughout the year.

California FFA has grown from about 30,000 members 40 years ago to 80,000 members today. In the past, most agricultural students were farm or rural kids. Today, it is much different. More than 50 percent of FFA students are urban kids who are looking for careers in agriculture. In addition, parents, along with people in the industry, know the value of developing strong individual leaders. Nothing does it better than FFA.

I am excited about the future of agriculture because the leaders who are cultivated today will enrich the lives in this community tomorrow.

Zipser is a third-generation farmer and executive manager of the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau.

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