Though her day job is in an office, Amy Blagg simply can’t get away from the farming life she grew up in. Her work for the San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation, both locally and on a state level, was recognized by the California Farm Bureau Federation in March.
Blagg has been awarded the Star Young Farmers and Ranchers Award for her efforts on behalf of the Young Farmers and Ranchers organization within the state Farm Bureau.
Blagg has a long history of service for the organization, said Dave Kranz, spokesman for California Farm Bureau Federation. Blagg led a team for the group’s winemaking project, planned an annual fundraiser to buy 4-H and FFA animals at the San Joaquin Fair, and volunteered extensively at AgVenture, an educational field day for students, and other Farm Bureau events.
“It’s something I’ve been involved in since I was out of college, so it’s nice to be recognized,” said Blagg.
Blagg grew up watching the turn of the seasons at Kautz Farms on Live Oak Road, where her father Joe Valente has worked as a vineyard manager for years. A Lodi native, Blagg learned how grapes and vines look at every stage of the process as a girl.
“For my brother and I, harvest was the most exciting time. We’d go out at nighttime and watch the lights and the machines bringing in the grapes,” she said.
During daylight hours, Blagg’s favorite job was to help feed the calves at her grandfather’s dairy on Highway 88.
“I spent a lot of time with my grandpa raising cows, then with 4-H and FFA and I showed those at the fair each year,” she said.
Just out of Tokay High School in 2002, she knew her future lay with agriculture, but she was still looking for her niche.
“Everything in ag was a part of my life. That’s something I probably took for granted, and I didn’t realize until I went to college,” she said. “Living in the dorms makes you appreciate living in the country.”
That’s when Blagg realized she wanted to come home to Lodi to raise a family.
Blagg studied agricultural business at California State University, Fresno, and learned she wanted to work on the business side of farming, helping growers get the job done.
“There are so many jobs out there, not just directly on the farm,” she said.
Blagg now works for the Lodi District Grape Growers Association, a volunteer advocacy group similar to the Farm Bureau, which focuses on the winegrape growers in District 11, Lodi’s winegrape appellation.
As executive director of the commission, Blagg is responsible for planning seminars and workshops, managing communications, and helping growers follow legislation and new laws for winegrape cultivation.
Her job includes sharing new regulations about air quaility, excise taxes, heat illness or the Williamson Act with grape growers. She also represents the assocation and grape growers at community meetings, like local water districts.
“I work with farmers and ranchers. Many of them are family friends,” she said. “It’s nice to work for a tight-knit group. The people in this industry are genuine, hardworking and willing to help.”
Blagg works from a home office in Lodi and enjoys a flexible schedule, allowing her to raise her sons and help manage the association.
Her mother Claudia Valente lives nearby and can watch the kids sometimes, but the problem in the Valente family is that everyone ends up at the same farm bureau or related events.
But her small family wants to get started on their own farm. Her husband Tyler is a sales manager for a company that manufactures dairy equipment, but Blagg says he would love to have enough grapes to make farming a full time job.
“As a young person in ag, I can’t just say I want to farm,” she said. “It takes a lot to get started because there’s not a lot of land left to just pick up.”
Blagg and her husband Tyler Blagg are starting small, raising dairy cows and farming on the side.
Right now, they lease 20 acres of pasture from neighbors for 20 heifers. This summer, they’ll plant a small vineyard of Petite Syrah.
The Blaggs’ sons, Nathan, 3 and Henry, 1, like to help out with the cows, and even sometimes name them.
“It’s not as bad as raising something that’s going to be hamburger the next day,” she said.
Blagg recommends young farmers stay connected to industry groups like the farm bureau and other organizations when they are starting out.
“That’s where you learn, that’s where you make the connections,” she said.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.