Sacramento Scene, April 2020

By: Matt Patton, CATA Executive Director

As with the rest of the world, these are unprecedented times at the California State Capitol. Last week the Legislature pushed back its scheduled return by three weeks and is now scheduled to reconvene on May 4. Currently, both Assembly and Senate members are working from their districts until public health officials declare it safe to return to Sacramento. Governor Newsom has stated that the legislative calendar is “fluid” and the 2020/2021 proposed budget released in January “is no longer operable.”  

Moving forward, representatives from both houses have been asked to greatly reduce the number of bills they actively pursue. Speaker of the Assembly, Anthony Rendon, stated it is unknown what committee hearings, sessions or legislative deadlines will look like when the legislature reconvenes. The Assembly made no plans for distance voting or virtual sessions before leaving for recess and they would have to reconvene to do so. Meanwhile, the Senate passed SR 86, a resolution that allows the Senate to meet and vote remotely. 

Further complicating the situation, the tax deadline has been pushed back to July 15. This extended date makes it difficult to calculate the revenue for a budget that is scheduled to be passed by midnight on June 15. The delayed personal income tax deadline will leave revenues undeterminable until August resulting in a second round of deliberations that has been dubbed an “August Revision” of the budget. 

In a letter released last week to the legislature, the Department of Finance (DOF) stated: “The economic disruption from the pandemic is expected to result in a recession and have significant negative effects on state revenues; concurrently, the drop in the stock market may cause further revenue declines.” The entire letter can be found here.

Plain and simple as a direct result of the pandemic, state expenses are up and revenue is down. Nothing in the budget is sacred with everything on the table to be cut or reduced. California is facing a recession and the cost of COVID-19 recovery will be in the billions, affecting the next several budget cycles. 

Governor’s Education Executive Orders 

Executive Order N-26-20, March 13, ensures that schools continue to receive funding and outlining key efforts that schools should pursue (press release).

Executive Order N-30-20, March 17, suspends standardized testing for students in response to COVID-19 outbreak. (press release).

CATA Conference 2020

Due to concerns with the coronavirus COVID-19 the 2020 California Agricultural Teachers’ Association (CATA) Conference has been cancelled. California Polytechnic State University and CATA have determined that it is in best interest of public safety to cancel the event. All June events on the campus have been suspended. The agriculture department of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and CATA have a long partnership and will continue working together when the pandemic subsides. 

The CATA Governing Board meets weekly and has already started planning a virtual conference. The virtual conference will allow CATA to conduct the business of the organization and connect agriculture teachers from across the state during these trying times.

Updates on the status of the virtual conference and all things related to CATA will be made on the weekly Zoom updates Thursdays at 12:30 pm. Click on this link to join the meeting.

Lessons I learned from Mrs. Goehring

Mrs. Goehring is my daughter’s first-grade teacher and I liked her from the moment I met her. During the visit to her classroom for back to school night, I saw her proudly display an autographed photo of Vanilla Ice. Some of you are googling at this point and the rest of us are humming ‘Ice, Ice, Baby!’ Earlier that summer, Mrs. Goehring waited in line at Lumber Liquidators grand opening to meet the 90’s celebrity and get his autograph. The qualities of determination, initiative, and self-assurance demonstrated by the photograph assured me that my child was in great hands for the coming year.  

Fast forward to the pandemic, Elk Grove Unified was one of the first districts in the state to suspend school in reaction to COVID-19. As a result, my two daughters have been home for over a month and I was eager for the district to give guidance via distance learning about their education. I hovered in the background listening to the first Zoom meeting for Mrs. Goehring’s class expecting to hear lessons of common core math and language arts. These kids have been out of school for weeks, ‘let’s get to work’ was my attitude. But you know what Mrs. Goehring did instead? She just talked to the kids, calling each of them by name and asking about how they were doing. She encouraged them to talk about how they were adapting to being away from school and inquired about the health of their families. She coached them through the technology of their “new” classroom and reminded them how to get lunch at school if they needed it. She simply connected with each and every one of them. 

As agriculture teachers we fill many roles in the lives of our students. We are educators, mentors, and in some cases, provide the only sense of stability. We strive to make our FFA programs a place of belonging and acceptance for all students. I value content and rigor and regularly preach their importance. I live and breathe the three circles and I believe now more than ever in their relevance. But Mrs. Goehring reminded me that those are only part of what students are missing in these unprecedented times.  Each district has adopted different strategies for instruction as a result of current world events. Some have forbidden student contact or accountability of assignments, while others require daily online instruction and rigorous grading. Regardless of our districts’ policies we can all provide some sort of connection and normalcy for our students. In more restrictive districts, regularly updating the chapter website or making social media posts about FFA can help. For those of us fortunate enough to have regular virtual contact with our students, make sure to connect with each student regularly. The same thing that we all attempted to do every day, in that distant memory of school way back in February.   

Good health to you and your loved ones,

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is s3zf2SiGZZI1EMrWbvEfDc-otRN4YTHGW_cH66hHHlc91emQc1wiNXbHGqkYDkInrus-d3b4b9YNh0HcmuVohqE8RVAyMrDtk9ctmXFVA0C00n3PkOY5dgWiIEqbg7ZNIdhDCZw

Matt Patton, Executive Director, California Agricultural Teachers’ Assn.mpatton@calagteachers.org209 744-1605

For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit

California Department of Education Update, April 2020

By: Charles Parker, California Department of Education, State FFA Advisor

I woke up in a cold sweat, shaking in disbelief at what I had just dreamed! It had to be the strangest nightmare I’ve ever had. There was this strange disease that was taking over the earth and closing down countries. Schools were closed, sporting events disappeared and I could not see my family. As I calmed down and rose from the damp sheets, I clicked on the TV to catch the morning news. NO! It can’t be, not today, the world can’t be coming to an end. 

My nightmare was reality. Who would have ever thought this could happen to us. With all the science research and attention to minor ailments, how could this have happened? Even today I find myself waiting to awake from my nightmare and find the world as it should be.

As uncomfortable as I feel, I have not been affected personally; at least not yet. There are families that have not been able to say their goodbyes to loved ones. I find myself wanting to stay in my comfort zone and continue to operate as usual. But it is not business as usual.

I feel for seniors as they are missing that opportunity to celebrate the last four years, either in high school or college. I feel for the student who had the lead in the school play that was about to open. I feel for the athlete that was hoping to have a great season and sign that letter of intent with the college of their choice. Every single person has been affected by this wicked disease.

The reality of the situation continues to take shape as days progress into weeks, and weeks into months. It is hard to grasp the true impact as there is no end in sight, at least not yet. When the light at the end of the tunnel becomes bright, it will be time to regroup. 

It is with hope that we look toward the future and begin to develop a plan. This plan will not be ideal and it most certainly will change, but it will be the beginning of the healing process. We do not have all the answers at this time. It will take all of us, the entire agricultural education family, for any plan to work.

At this time, the State FFA Officers and Mr. White are developing an engaging virtual State FFA Leadership Conference. Details will be forthcoming in the next few weeks.The hope is that the event will be one that builds on our members and becomes a showcase for their accomplishments.

State Proficiency Awards will be announced April 15 and press releases will be posted daily on our many social media pages. May 1 will find the scholarship recipients announced. Then, on May 15 the Agriscience Fair results will be released.

This month, the State Officers are coordinating the first ever “FFA Idol” competition. FFA members are displaying their talent in an April Madness format where two members will be paired daily with the one receiving the biggest support by the public, advancing to the next round. The competition will culminate with the crowning of the State Winner in early May. To watch the competition, head to our Instagram and Facebook pages.

Committees have been formulated around each career development event in the hopes of identifying alternatives as we move towards a format for state finals. We have asked coaches to review the curricular code and look closely to determine what “must be” included. They have also been tasked with developing a virtual contest, should that be determined as the best alternative.

No, business will not be as usual. But that does not mean that we cannot find ways to celebrate the accomplishments of our members and find ways to allow students to begin the healing process. Yes, there will continue to be changes in any plan that we come up with. Yes, there will always be those that will not appreciate the way things are going. But, as long as we communicate with each other, we will have a plan.

As I prepare to return to my bed for the evening, I shake my head and can only hope that when I awake, this will all be a dream…

For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit

CATA Governing Board Update

By Erin Gorter, CATA President

The Governing Board met virtually on April 9 to address topics concerning CATA. Below is a summary of what we discussed. In prefacing the content, please pause and watch the following AT&T Commercial. Go ahead…I will wait. 

Why was this important? Because this is a time for being bendy.

CATA Summer Conference: On April 14, we were informed that Cal Poly is not able to host events during the month of June. The CATA Governing Board meets weekly and is discussing the option of a virtual conference. With this, we will also be discussing items such as virtual conference registration fees, award recognition, etc. In the spirit of bendiness, we thank you for your flexibility as we work through these issues to develop strategies to accommodate everyone.

Communication: The weekly Zoom sessions with Matt Patton, Charles Parker, and Dane White are a great place for you to get current information on important issues. These are Thursdays at 12:30 p.m. in the virtual world. Check  your email for previously disseminated Zoom links and instructions, or click here. We are exploring ways to post recorded sessions in case you are unable to attend. Thank you for adapting to this new delivery mechanism for up to date information and we thank Matt, Charles and Dane for accommodating our needs in this platform — your adaptability is appreciated.

New Peeps: In the spirit of Spring and renewal, we want to introduce you to the new peeps in the office. Cari Brown (Office Assistant), Jennifer Van Conett (Office Assistant) and Maureen Funk (Development Director)…WELCOME! We are excited to have you with us. In addition, since we are on the topic of Peeps, here is some Peep art. Yoga is a great way to calm your mind and practice self-care during these challenging times.

Vision 2030: The Vision 2030 committee met earlier this year to devise a plan to move forward. Little did we all know that a nasty little virus was going to shake up our world and alas, the Vision 2030 committee’s plans were thwarted. They are working to reassess and continue to move forward with advancing the agricultural education profession. We appreciate their flexibility and willingness to continue to serve the membership of our organization.

State Career Development Events: The Governing Board is continuing to stay involved in the process regarding the effective implementation of the curricular code regarding our CDE contests. We recognize that this is an issue that will involve careful thought and action to maintain the integrity of our processes while making sure we meet the needs of all 90,000+ agricultural education students. As we work towards solutions, we appreciate your understanding. 

Regional Efforts: We applaud the work of the regions to help their membership. We see the weekly chats, content sharing opportunities and other Zoom sessions being held. Thank you for stepping up to help your fellow teachers. If there are any ways the Governing Board can help, please let us know. We would be happy to join your sessions and help in any way we can. 

Share with us: If you would like to submit any thoughts or comments for the Governing Board to consider as we continue to meet weekly, please use this link as a place to drop your thoughts, ideas for solutions to problems, creative strategies, etc.  We want to hear from you. 

Since I have your eyes and can write what I want, the next statement is not a reflection of the CATA Governing Board, but just me. We are working in an environment that is new to all of us: socially, economically, emotionally…I can go on. In essence, this is a first for all of us and we are all COVID-19 Greenhands. Please remember to remain malleable, but never crushed. In this time of difficulty, I encourage you to really think about what is precious to you and focus on keeping what is most precious as the focus when making decisions.

For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit

Impactful Leadership for Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology

By: Sharon Freeman, Dr. Rosco Vaughn, Dr. Steven Rocca, Dr. Art Parham and Dr. Avery Culbertso

Dr. Dennis Nef recently returned to the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (JCAST) at California State University, Fresno. Dr. Nef began serving as Dean of the Jordan College in July of 2019 and has already positively impacted our students, faculty and staff.  He has spent over 35 years on the Fresno State campus and has held multiple leadership positions including vice provost, associate vice president, dean of undergraduate studies, associate dean of the college of agriculture and as a faculty member and chair of the Agricultural Business Department. We are extremely fortunate to have his leadership once again within JCAST.  

Dr. Dennis Nef began his education at Brigham Young University, earning a B.S. Degree in Business Administration in 1975. He completed his M.S. in Agricultural Economics at Utah State University in 1979 and his Ph.D in Agricultural Economics at Iowa State University in 1983. His educational background and years of leadership experience have prepared him to achieve his current goals of reducing the number of students who fail to finish, improving graduation rates and broadening the impact of the Jordan College on the community, region and country. An additional goal that Dean Nef has for JCAST is to implement a long-term plan to improve the sustainability of the University Agricultural Laboratory (UAL) enterprises on our school farm. As part of this plan, the University Foundation provided a grant to plant 36 acres of almonds, which is the first of four plantings that will provide additional resources to invest in and strengthen the UAL in the future. Dr. Nef hopes that as these plantings bear fruit, the Jordan College will be in a stronger position to educate the rising generation and positively impact the food and agricultural sector. As Dean Nef stated in his article printed in the Fresno State News, “the University Agricultural Laboratory is one of our jewels.” He, along with many community members, recognized Fowler Packing and the Parnagian family for raising over a million dollars that will be used to create an endowment for the UAL. His efforts to maintain our teaching laboratories on the school farm are very much appreciated.

Within our Animal Sciences and Agricultural Education Department, Dean Nef has been supportive of our efforts to serve increasing numbers of students. He is a very compassionate leader, a great communicator, and genuinely cares for the well-being of our programs. We are on track to have 30 plus student teachers next year to complete the credentialing program. In addition, we will be implementing a new leadership program in the fall of 2020 to provide valuable leadership training and international experiences for selected undergraduate students.  Recently, Dean Nef provided a welcome for FFA members attending the State Finals Citrus and Vine Pruning Contests held on campus. As he was speaking, Jennifer Downs, an agriculture teacher at Bakersfield Foothill stated, “he is the reason that I finished my degree in Agricultural Business!” She continued to explain that Dr. Nef was one of her agriculture economics professors and that he had taken time to encourage her to hang in there and complete her B.S. Degree.

We believe that Dean Nef is “a major reason” that the Jordan College will continue to grow and prosper. We are extremely appreciative to have his leadership, support, and guidance as we strive to prepare the agriculture leaders of the future.

For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit

Six Agricultural Teachers Honored as Finalists for California’s Ag Educator of the Year Award

As the number one farm insurer in the United States1, Nationwide® is bringing attention to the importance of agricultural education through the Golden Owl Award®. This annual award honors exceptional agricultural teachers across select states and provides financial support for their education programs.

“Nationwide is proud to recognize outstanding teachers for their dedication to agricultural education in their farming communities,” said Brad Liggett, president of Agribusiness at Nationwide. “This award symbolizes the hard work individual teachers put into agricultural education to help students pursue their passion for farming or other careers in ag.”

In partnership with the California Farm Bureau® and the California FFA, the 2019-2020 Golden Owl Award was introduced to California in the fall of 2019. From October 2019 through January 2020, more than 400 nominations were submitted by local students, fellow teachers, parents and community members. 

Following a review of the nominations, Nationwide, the California Farm Bureau and the California FFA are proud to announce the following exceptional teachers as 2019-2020 Golden Owl Award finalists: 

  • Michael Campbell – Imperial High School, Imperial, CA
  • Rosemary Cummings – Nipomo High School, Nipomo, CA
  • Andree’ Earley – Las Plumas High School, Oroville, CA
  • Cody Jacobsen – Golden Valley High School, Merced, CA
  • Julie Luxon – Madera South High School, Madera, CA
  • Alissa Sarvinski – Eureka High School, Eureka, CA

Each finalist received an individualized plaque and $500 in funding for their program. Later this year, one finalist will be crowned California’s first Ag Educator of the Year and receive the coveted Golden Owl Award trophy and $3,000 in additional funding for their program. 

“Educators devote countless hours, and often their own resources, to positively impact the lives of their students,” Liggett said. “As a company with deep roots in agriculture, we’re proud to supply these hardworking and compassionate public servants with additional funding to help bring new educational opportunities to their students and set them up for successful agricultural careers.”

Nationwide recognized the contributions of 17 Iowa and Ohio agricultural teachers during the 2018-2019 inaugural Golden Owl Award. Following the recognition, the Iowa Educator of the Year, Brad Taylor of Roland-Story High School, quickly saw a 30-student increase in his agricultural shop class for the fall semester – at a high school with just over 300 students. 

As a result of the positive response from the communities in which Golden Owl Award nominees make a difference, the 2019-2020 Golden Owl Award was expanded from two states to five: California, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The 2019-2020 award has honored 31 outstanding ag educators across the five states. Nationwide plans to expand the program even further to recognize top teachers in additional states for the 2020-2021 Golden Owl Award. 

“We’re excited to be able to continue to grow this program and to recognize the importance of agricultural education. We hope to eventually expand to recognize the efforts of teachers all across the country,” added Liggett. 

As the top farm and ranch insurer in the country, Nationwide supports the future of the ag community through meaningful sponsorships of national and local organizations. In conjunction with the Golden Owl Award, Nationwide is donating $5,000 to each state FFA, including the California FFA, to further support the personal and professional growth of students, teachers and advisors alike.   

The Golden Owl Award is the result of a partnership between Nationwide, the California FFA, California Farm Bureau, Illinois FFA, Illinois Association of Vocational Agriculture Teachers, Farm Credit Illinois, the Iowa FFA Foundation, Ohio FFA, Ohio Farm Bureau, Pennsylvania FFA, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and Compeer Financial. 

For more information or to learn more about California’s Golden Owl Award finalists, visit

1 Source: 2018 SNL Financial Report. Based on statutory data.

For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit

What Matters Most?

By Travis Cardoso, CATA Operations Division Chair

In this time of uncertainty, we find ourselves having more time for reflection. An overarching theme that has been reflected when speaking to many of you from up and down the state is, “what matters most?” Reflection has always been an important part of growth in agricultural education, and given these times, it is time to reflect upon what is most important to us as agriculture educators. We look to the past, present and future in this time of need but sometimes we still cannot find quite what we are looking for…that is completely justified.

For some, we have put family first. We have reached out via phone, text, Zoom and even letter, to those most important to us. Some of us have even gone shopping for members of our family who cannot go out on their own. The grocery lists have even deemed some items we definitely may have taken for granted, as “essential” (we all know what I am talking about). In speaking to many of you who have reached out, we have even taken some members of our CATA family under your wing, and used this as a time to mentor and check-in with those less experienced members of our family. The profession continues to adapt and overcome many curveballs that have been thrown at us and we can evolve with the best of them. There is a reason this profession has been around for over 100 years and realize that we will continue to get through this; together.

For some, we have put our students first. We have gone about transitioning to online/distance learning and put our blood, sweat and tears into learning a new online education format to make sure our students are best served in this time of need. Some of you are even teaching your children in your class and now you are not just their agriculture instructor, you have become experts in math, science, English, history, drama, art, band, photography, foreign language, and physical education, the whole time telling yourself that you deserve a multiple subject credential after this is all said and done. The long days and nights that we have always had are still there and you are still serving your students best interests, and the only thing that has changed is the platform for delivery. Your students care about you and know that you are there for them in many ways. What we do in and out of the classroom still has meaning and we will continue to get through this; together.

For some, this is year one in our glorious profession. The thought may be running through your head, how did I get here? The more experienced teachers in our profession want you to know that we can and we will help you but now, more than ever, you are going to have to ask for it; we literally cannot see you. We hope that you do not get all caught up in the moment and start panicking, everything will be there when you get back: the classroom, CDE’s, SAE’s and the community. How we react and learn from this will be your biggest accomplishment, this is the hardest thing many of us and our students have had to go through. There is never a perfect substitute for you being in the classroom, and this is your chance to take a step back and realize that we will continue to get through this; together.

For all, we continue to do the things that matter most. These are just a few of the many different examples of what matters most. The challenge now, is for you to reflect on what is not mentioned and continue to reach out to those in need.This family has done great things in the past and present and we look forward to what the future brings (sooner rather than later). The chance for us to be with those that are special to us, be there for our students and be there for those that have never experienced this will always be there, it is just now amplified by the current orders. Please do not forget just because they are under a microscope now, means that they will go away when this is all over. Keep being great and continuing to be the servant leaders that made me want to join this profession a decade ago and realize that we will continue to get through this; together.

For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit