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Supporting youth in agriculture for more than 30 years

The next generation and the future of local agriculture have a champion. in the 12-member board of the Madera County Ag Boosters, which raises money to finance youth agriculture projects.

Any time the 4-H clubs, FFA chapters and ag schools throughout the county need financial help, all they need to do is ask, said vice president Dave Loquaci.

The membership represents all areas of the ag industry to include growers, ranchers and other men who work in the ag industry.

“Everyone on the board has a niche area of expertise where they work,” said treasurer Bruce Norton.

One of the many examples shows how the group operates. Last year a 4-H club sewing leader placed a classified ad in The Madera Tribune. Only two of its six sewing machines were functional. The ad appealed to the community for help with financing the parts and labor to repair the machines. The ag boosters responded to the advertisement, but not by fixing the old broken machines. The boosters took a different tact.

“We told them to go out and buy eight new sewing machines,” said director Stan Samuelson. “Then we wrote a check to pay for them.”

Since the group was founded on July 22, 1983, they have given away more than $1 million and an additional $45,000 in just the last year. They estimate they are able to finance 95 percent of the requests they receive.

The organization was founded by the late Ralph Stoetzel who enlisted the help of local business leaders such as Jim Myers of J.W. Myers Chevron, banker Ken Cufaude of Bank of America, the late Bob Naden, Don Warnock of Warnock Foods, and local growers Bobby Houlding and George Crafton. They served as the group’s founding board members.

In the early years, the boosters raised money hosting dinner-dances. Today, they have one highly successful fundraiser a year.

The Bob Houlding Memorial clay pigeon shoot took place in June on the Houlding Ranch. There is a waiting list to attend the event. The $125 entry fee includes a commemorative ball cap, meals, beverages, targets and ammunition. Competition winners receive custom-made silver belt buckles.

The sponsors of the event supply food and cooking for breakfast, a prime rib luncheon, targets, wine, beer and desserts. Each of the ancillary items needed such as targets, portable toilets and paper goods are provided by the sponsors.

“The Houlding family provides us a beautiful venue with shade trees every year,” said Loquaci. “Without the venue we wouldn’t be able to hold the clay shoot.”

When Robert Houlding Sr. died in 2003, the event was named in his memory.

Different sponsorship levels are available. An entry level silver sponsorship is $200, the gold is $500 and the platinum level sponsors donate $2,500 or more.

One of their annual standing grants is earmarked for the 4-H clubs.

“Community service projects are part of the 4-H Club’s purpose,” said Loquaci. “Any 4-H club that makes a presentation at our meeting about their project we give them a check for $500. They can apply every year.”

In spite of this, there are only a few of the clubs that take advantage of this program, which was limited to 100 shooters.

“You would be surprised how hard it is sometimes to give money away,” said Loquaci.

The group sent a national beef judging team to an international competition in Ireland.

“The ag schools enter the competitions, but when the kids win, they don’t have money in their budget to finance travel expenses to send them to the next level,” Loquaci said.

The ag boosters funded a new livestock pavilion at the Chowchilla fairgrounds, have helped capital projects for the Minarets and Liberty high school ag farms and put a great deal of money into the Madera South High’s School of Agriculture.

They finance trips to leadership conferences and competitions for teams attending schools throughout the county.

“Ag boosters are different from most clubs. Most groups have large memberships but it is usually only a small percentage of the members doing all the work,” Loquaci said.

The board meets for lunch the third Tuesday of the month. The conference room at Kuckenbecker Tractor is their official clubhouse. During the meetings the board reviews requests for funding from youth ag groups.

For information or to seek support for a project, call Stan Samuelson, 674-2496.

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