From left, Ben Curti, daughter Tessa Hall, and right is John Guthrie, TCFB President Photo credit: Tulare County Farm Bureau
Written by Edward Smith
Donations from Central Valley farm bureaus hope to aid a Tulare County dairy in a legal fight against the City of Corcoran.
On Oct. 2, The Tulare County Farm Bureau presented a check for $65,000 to Ben Curti and Tessa Hall of Curtimade Dairy to assist in their legal fees as they defend against accusations of groundwater pollution from the Kings County city, said Tricia Stever Blattler, executive director of the farm bureau.
Over the summer, the Kings County Farm Bureau donated $15,000 to Curtimade. Donations came from farm bureau members as well as the Madera County Farm Bureau, said Dusty Ference, executive director for the Kings County Farm Bureau.
“We didn’t want to allow a municipality to file those kinds of charges and not help,” Ference said.
To raise the funds, the Tulare County Farm Bureau held a drawing where participants were encouraged to donate to the cause.
Members provided prizes such as an entire side of beef weighing almost 500 pounds along with a freezer to store the meat, a slaughtered lamb, a helicopter ride and a shotgun. Thousands of tickets were given out regardless of whether they donated. And with money raised from 320 individual donors, the farm bureau raised $65,000.
“There were definitely donors that gave far in excess of the minimum contribution that was asked,” said Stever Blattler.
The suggested donation was $100, but donations ranged from $25 to ones made in the thousands of dollars.
In 2017, the first lawsuits were filed in Tulare County Superior Court against the 107-year-old dairy by the City of Corcoran over the issue of contaminated water.
Nobody at Curtimade was immediately available for comment.
At stake are damages totaling $65 million.
“Our $65,000 is just part of what they need to defend themselves,” she said.
The dairy has contracted with local attorneys as well as attorneys from Southern California, said Stever Blattler.
The attorney of record for Curtimade is Leonard Herr of Herr, Pedersen & Berglund in Visalia. Representing the City of Corcoran is Michael Lawrence Farley of the Farley Law Firm in Visalia.
The trial was supposed to begin in February but has been pushed back because of complications from Covid.
“We just felt like it was a compelling situation,” said Stever Blattler. “We don’t ever want to see an individual farm or dairy hit with such a colossal lawsuit.”