- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Dignitaries from the Baja California department of agriculture were recognized along with representatives of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources 4-H program by the California State Senate on April 2 for an agreement the two organizations forged last year to bring 4-H to children across the border.
In presenting a resolution, Senator Ben Hueso, whose district includes the entire 156-mile border of California with Mexico, said the two countries share an agricultural legacy that has faced growing challenges in recent years, such as drought and climate change.
“This requires California and Mexico to share resources by providing access to outstanding educational opportunities what will prepare leaders, scientists, educators, entrepreneurs and professionals with the knowledge and commitment to address these very important issues,” Sen. Hueso said to his colleagues in the State Senate.
Sen. Hueso said education isn't the only issue addressed by the 4-H-Mexico accord.
“This is also a food scarcity issue, addressing food scarcity in our communities and in the world,” he said. “Both Imperial County and Baja California are very big players on the world stage for feeding people.”
The first group of children in the Mexicali 4-H program learned where their food comes from. A second cohort will undertake a project related to science. The program is a model for establishment of similar 4-H experiences for youth in the rest of Baja California and Mexico.
Sen. Hueso introduced the delegation from Mexico, led by Manuel Vallodolid Seamaduras, Secretary of Agriculture Development in the State of Baja California, Mexico (Secretaría de Desarrollo Agropecuario del Estado de México - SEDAGRO), and others in attendance to accept the resolution, including:
- Hortencia Medellin Acosta, Director of Rural Entrepreneurship, Mexicali, Baja California
- Carlos Orozco Riesgo, Member of the UC ANR 4-H Multicultural and Community Engagement Advisory Committee, former Undersecretary of SEDAGRO
- Belem Avendaño Ruiz, Director of Inspection, health and safety SEDAGRO
- Guillermo Gonzalez Rubio, Director, Livestock health department SEDAGRO
- Agustin Manuel Velazquez Bustamante, Legal Advisor SEDAGRO
- Mark Bell, Ph.D., Vice provost, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Shannon Horrillo, Ph.D., 4-H Youth Development statewide director
- Lupita Fabregas, Ph.D., 4-H Youth Development assistant director for diversity and expansion
- Claudia Diaz Carrasco, 4-H Youth Development advisor, Riverside and San Bernardino counties
“I hope that California, the nation's leading agriculture producing state, will continue to foster cooperation with Mexico and train future leaders through the launch of the 4-H Club in Mexicali,” Sen. Hueso said. “Please join me in welcoming them to the California State Senate and thanking them for their work in advocacy in helping educate the future.”
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
On Jan. 20, Mexican children dipped their hands into pails of soil to check the moisture level. They tapped the soil into seed trays and then pressed in the seeds of their choice – cabbage, peppers or flowers. Over the next few weeks, the children will gather in a greenhouse next to their Mexicali neighborhood to witness the miracle of germination.
The children also witnessed the building of a new bridge between California and Baja California that will give Mexican youth access to proven, hands-on educational experiences from the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR).
“The need for education doesn't stop at the border,” said Lupita Fábregas, UC Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development advisor and assistant director for 4-H diversity and expansion. “The wonderful educational opportunities available to California youth are now being offered to a group of children in Mexicali. And that program will be a model for the rest of Baja California and Mexico.”
Over the last 100 years, the UC ANR 4-H program has taught legions of California children about food, agriculture, leadership and community service using learn-by-doing practices. In January, UC ANR vice president Glenda Humiston traveled to Mexicali to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Baja California Secretary of Agriculture, Manuel Vallodolid Seamanduras, to offer that expertise to youth south of the border.
Seamanduras leads SEFOA in Baja, Mexico, an organization like California's Department of Food and Agriculture with facilities in Ejido Sinaloa, a small, humble neighborhood in Mexicali. At the ceremony marking the signing of an agreement between UC ANR 4-H and SEFOA, Seamanduras likened the pact to a marriage.
“This is a perfect marriage,” Seamanduras said. “This has produced 30 fruits that are not yet mature. But this fruit is going to feed your community.” The fruit Seamanduras referred to were the children in 4-H.
Seamanduras told the youth and families that the new club in Mexico is not a project of his office. “It is your club,” he said. “Give me your word that you will make this a successful program.”
José Enrique Partida Lizarraga is one of the people ready to take up the reins. His grandson was among the thirty 8- and 9-year-old founding members of the 4-H Baja California club.
“4-H will help the children become better citizens and this drew my attention because I have always felt that Mexico lacks good citizens working to better our country,” he said. “It is an honor for me to participate.”
Humiston, who credits 4-H with enabling her to be the first in her family to attend college, also spoke to the children gathered at a signing ceremony.
“We're excited to share the 4-H experience with you,” she said.
Today, projects in new technologies – like drones and rocketry – join more traditional projects – like cooking, sewing, animal husbandry and farming – to give youth channels to explore a wide variety of options and interests.
“We are looking into expanding to community colleges and offering education for future entrepreneurs or youth interested in skilled trades,” Humiston said.
Before stepping off the stage, Humiston lead the children in reciting the 4-H Pledge.
“I'm looking forward to coming down here and seeing 300 or even 400 4-H members next year,” Humiston said.
The establishment of a club like 4-H in Mexico is the fulfillment of a life's dream for Claudia Diaz Carrasco, 4-H Youth Development advisor for UC Cooperative Extension in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
A native of Mexico City, Diaz Carrasco came to the U.S. to complete a master's degree in international agriculture. She saw kids in green shirts at a state 4-H Round Up that were learning about food security.
“I found my passion,” Diaz Carrasco said. “To solve world hunger, we need to find solutions one community at a time. 4-H does that.”
She intended to return to Mexico to share her new passion with her native community, but got a job with the University of California, where she is serving communities in Southern California that are nearly half Latino, many of Mexican descent.
Helping launch 4-H in Mexico, she said, felt like her own personal mission accomplished.