A luncheon honored local students bound for farm-related careers while providing a glimpse into the challenges of global food production.
The Turlock Chamber of Commerce held its 15th annual Ag Scholarship Luncheon on Monday, awarding $20,500 to 16 students at seven high schools. The money will help bring new people into the thriving business of farming and food processing in and near Stanislaus County.
Guest speaker Dennis Dimick, executive environment editor at National Geographic magazine, offered a wider perspective. He said water shortages, a generally warming climate and other factors will complicate life for the 9 billion people expected on the planet by 2050.
“Probably the greatest challenge facing humanity is how we’re going to go about the necessary work of feeding the human population,” he told about 350 people at the Turlock Turf Club.
Dimick, who grew up on an Oregon sheep and hay farm, has guided projects on water, food and other topics at National Geographic. All had the photography and graphics that are the magazine’s signature. An October 2014 story, “When the Snows Fail,” featured a panoramic image of the meager snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.
Dimick said tropical rainforests have been lost as farming spreads and growing consumption of meat means more use of water and other resources. He said the world needs to freeze the “footprint” of agriculture, boost yields on the land now being tilled and cut down on food waste.
Dimick displayed photos of farmers in places as diverse as Kansas, Brazil, Mali and Ukraine – subjects in the magazine’s coverage. “We wanted people to meet the farmers who do this work, just like you,” he said.
The audience also heard from Christie Hobby of Hughson, who used scholarship money from the chamber for her studies at Modesto Junior College and California State University, Chico. She earned an ag business degree in 2013 and went to work for Rabobank.
Hobby urged this year’s scholarship winners to network with experienced businesspeople through internships and other means.
“There is an unprecedented amount of retirees that are soon going to leave this workforce, and that’s huge,” she said.
The luncheon also raised money for the 4-H Farmyard Experience at the Stanislaus County Fair and other educational activities.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2385.