Executive Address – July 2013

A local politician in Madera County recently made a statement that agriculture, as an industry, wasn’t able to provide enough “wealth for the masses,” in the County –and that the County would be far better off diversifying its job-based interests by promoting large scale, flashy and cosmopolitan projects (referencing the high speed train).  This was a unique statement coming from the heart of ag-land, I thought to myself, as I pondered whether anger was an appropriate reaction.  But operating in a world where business, politics, and common sense must by symbiotic –I knew I needed to stow the anger and recognize the duality of needing to have a cost-benefit reaction to this statement.  I needed to really understand why the statement was made -and what may lead to its eventual truth (or lack thereof).

As a relative newcomer to the County of Madera, it has become evident to me that the community carries a strong identity rooted in agrarian lifestyles.  This identity doesn’t just apply to individual or families directly farming and ranching –it applies to a multitude of associated business partners community wide.  Box makers, appraisers, manufacturers, laborers, skilled workers…the list goes on to include our restaurant partners, our local retailers –all of whom support the foundations of this ag-centric community. 

As a representative of the Farm Bureau, it is difficult for me to separate my bias towards promoting and preserving this culture, versus my need to consistently foster amity in an ever-changing urban and technological landscape.  Having said that, I contend that in some locational and economic situations –bigger doesn’t always mean better, cosmopolitan doesn’t mean more people, and flashy usually means cluster –disaster to the poor house.

Having this background in my head, I realized the “why” behind what was said.  As an ag-centric society, Madera County’s unemployment rate is staggering.  It’s easy to deduce that this industry isn’t able to provide “wealth to the masses,” when faced with the reality that people are hurting community wide.  What isn’t abundantly true however is that moving away from an agrarian based economic model will lead to prosperity –especially if the County isn’t able to provide the basic foundations for these dreamy, flashy projects.  Without a layered approach of enhanced vocational and skilled laborer training laid out well in advance of these projects, the odds of high paying jobs coming to Madera and staying in Madera are slim.  Without the complimentary businesses to these glitzy industries, it’s also very difficult to consider the “real” prospect of a high tech job gold rush for this area.  

Why not proffer large scale cosmopolitan projects that would complement our agrarian society –not fight against it?  Why not promote projects that offer tangible, societal benefits that would promote employment stability????  

I know it’s always easy to be an outsider looking into a world and offer critique, but in this case –I do think employment stability is the most critical element of a thriving, robust community.  One excellent way to do that would be to support the productive industries present in the County already –not belittle their critical importance for the future.  Agriculturalists do feed the masses –but communities feed each other and must remain unified in their mission of common interests.

Together we bargain, divided we beg…

Anja K. Raudabaugh
Executive Director