The Farm Credit Multicultural Ambassadors in the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology at California State University, Fresno, are on a mission to change the face of agriculture in California through outreach to Latino and underrepresented communities. 

A small but mighty group of five student leaders spend their time outside the classroom hosting recruitment activities, career fairs, farm tours and education days for high school and community college students in the Central Valley and along the Central Coast. They reached 620 underrepresented students at 50 outreach events during the 2021-22 school year to spread awareness about careers in agriculture and prepare potential students for programs at Fresno State. 

Dr. Sharon Freeman, an assistant professor at California State University Fresno, explains that the state’s changing demographics mean agriculture also has to change.

“To remain competitive, we need to encourage Latinos and other underrepresented students to continue their education through our hands-on learning programs and to become future leaders for the agricultural industry in California,” she said.

Four members of the Farm Credit system established the program in 2013: AgWest Farm Credit, American AgCredit, CoBank and Fresno Madera Farm Credit. They have donated more than $700,000 since the inception to prepare the next generation of agriculturalists. The program is “crucial to the future of California agriculture,” said Keith Hesterberg, President and CEO of Fresno Madera Farm Credit. 

In addition to impacting incoming students, a Multicultural Ambassador reflects that she has developed lifelong skills by serving as a student leader. 

"When I was a freshman, it was intimidating to give the farm tours and provide information about the campus,” said Jocelyne Juarez, a graduate student from Wasco, Calif., who is an advisor to the underclassmen. “Being part of the program has created comfort in speaking in front of people. It’s gone from me doing the presentations to me helping the student give their presentations. Being in the program really helps develop soft skills.”

The program is constantly expanding, including the recent addition of an Agricultural Career Readiness Skills Certificate Pathway for the 21st Century that high school FFA students can display after learning essential soft skills at the successful completion of the program. The group will host the statewide Agricultural Ambassador and Aspire to Grow conferences this spring to continue connecting with Latino and underrepresented students. 

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