Written by David Castellon
A couple of years ago, Steve Malanca saw the dire straits of farmers and others in agriculture-related industries as water supplies dwindled severely in western Fresno County amid the worst drought ever recorded in California.
He said he also saw that people and politicians in other parts of the state didn’t appreciate the extent of the problems and didn’t seem much interested in helping.
“I had an idea to bring awareness for all of us who have jobs depending on ag in Central California, hoping that people would realize we need water here in order to survive,” Malanca, of Fresno, said.
So he made up a logo that featured a green silhouette of California with “MY JOB DEPENDS ON …” across the top, and – in larger letters – “AG” stamped in the middle of the state.
He then had the logo printed onto 200 automotive window stickers that he sold, not realizing at the time that the first 200 stickers he printed and sold would start a movement that would lead to more than 40,000 stickers being sold to date, along with the development of a web page, www.myjobdependsonag.com, and a Facebook page with about 71,900 followers.
On Tuesday, the awareness movement that Malanca started marked its second anniversary with officials at Gar Tootelian, Inc., a supplier of fertilizers and ag chemicals east of Reedley, putting a large rendering of the “MY JOB DEPENDS ON AG” sticker on the side of one of its a 40-foot-tall chemical fertilizer tanks on the west side of its work yard, where it can be seen by motorists passing by on Crawford Avenue.
Before a crowd of about 100 people, officials at the chemical company dropped a tarp covering the sign late Tuesday morning and then provided the guests with a barbecue lunch.
“We’ve been working alongside them for quite awhile,” said Karen Musson, managing partner for Gar Tootelian, said of Malanca and his co-founder, Erik Wilson — who bought the first 200 stickers and has since worked with Malanca to make and sell more.
She said her company also provided some seed money to help pay the printing costs.
Those stickers sell for $5 apiece, but Malanca said he never was looking to make money off of them, so instead he and Wilson chose to use whatever profits came from the sales to pay for $500 college scholarships for Valley youths planning to train for ag-related careers — with about 50 given out so far — while the rest of the money bolstered auction sales of livestock raised and sold by Valley youths at FFA and 4H events, as well as county fairs.
But the main thing is the awareness — that the stickers and online sites let people know where their food comes from and about the people who produce it here in the Valley, Malanca said.
“We need more favorable legislation and [to show] ag is not the bad people and we’re not taking all the water in California.”
And while the Valley was his original focal point, Malanca said his group — which includes 10 volunteers — gets requests from people in other states wanting to buy stickers, presumably to generate the same sort of positive awareness of ag industries in their areas.
“We don’t operate an office. We don’t have a [paid] staff. This is truly a grassroots, organic venture,” Malanca said.
“I think it’s very important,” said Rolf Bausch, of Coarsegold, a retired grocery produce manager who for the past two years has been volunteering his time to work as a farm hand at a raisin farm owned by his church.
“The people who live in the south end of the state and the coastal areas don’t know where their food comes from, as long as it’s available in the stores,” said Bausch, who was among the people at the sign unveiling. “And I didn’t really care until I was hands-on working on a farm.”
“I am humbled by all the people taking our movement as their own, and one of the things I’m finding out is that one thing all of us in ag have in common is our passion for agriculture, and that is truly our bond.”
And the movement will try something new, as Gregory Musson, husband of Karen Musson and Gar Tootelian’s president and CEO, announced Tuesday that his company is paying to have printed 1,000 signs with the MY JOB DEPENDS ON AG logo, with the intent of having people put them up in their front yards or in the front windows of their homes, like local election signs.
And anyone who gets a sign will be encouraged to get more and ask neighbors to put them up in their yards, Musson told the attendees.
“And when you go through a neighborhood, think about how prominent this would be for people traveling through Fresno or our rural neighbors” and show them how important ag is here, he said.
And if the sign program is successful, Musson said the first 1,000 may be just the start.
Order your sign:
To order a MY JOB DEPENDS ON AG sign, send an email to email@example.com and indicate the number you want. A reply message will provide locations in Tulare, Kings, Fresno, Madera and Kern counties to pick them up.