By Hiedi Andersen and Tricia Valenzuela
Support of community leaders and experienced farmers — such as Yolo County Supervisor Duane Chamberlain, who will be honored next month by the Woodland Community College Foundation at its annual Founders Day dinner — help sow the seeds of success in farming and education.
Agriculture is the nation’s largest employer. Having well-trained, educated workers is critical to fill those 23 million jobs nationwide. Locally, WCC has been an integral piece of meeting Yolo County employment demands by offering courses that explain and enhance the skills necessary to work in an industry that produced more than $45 billion for California farms and ranches in 2016.
“Duane has always been supportive of our ag program,” said Brandi Asmus, WCC professor of agriculture.
Community support is crucial to provide the types of training students will need to enter careers in California agriculture. With more than a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of America’s fruits and vegetables grown in California, knowledge of current technologies and hands-on practice are critical. WCC offers instruction on state-of-the-art farm-related technologies, such as hydroponic, indoor climate control and germination advancements used by area businesses and ag companies worldwide.
“Education is important,” Chamberlain said. “I have had staff members at all of my offices who have attended Woodland Community College, received a great education and then moved on to Sac State or UC Davis, both great schools.”
Chamberlain has dedicated 14 years on the Board of Supervisors to guide the future of the county. He has made personal efforts to help the college — even hosting farm tours to educate students about current farming practices in Yolo County — and has earned a reputation for valuing education.
“I am a firm believer in the leadership responsibilities our college has that extend far beyond our campus borders. Our college must play a role in not only education, but also social, cultural and workforce development. Supervisor Chamberlain’s leadership demonstrates a similar commitment to this broad mission. The Foundation chose to honor Chamberlain because of this shared mission and passion to improve the well-being of our Yolo County residents”, said WCC President Michael White.
Chamberlain’s workday starts at 7 a.m. in the winter, when the first employees of Chamberlain Farms walk through his ranch office to discuss the workday ahead. By 9 a.m., Chamberlain has switched gears and offices into the Yolo County Board of Supervisors Office in Downtown Woodland.
First elected to the Board in 2004, Chamberlain takes particular interest in working on issues related to agriculture, including, but not limited to, preserving farmland, encouraging local processing of crops, working to improve the rural unincorporated towns while supporting library services and broadband access.
“The work we do in the unincorporated towns are critical because we are their only local government. I am very proud of the county’s ability to work with WAVE and create broadband access to our residents in Knights Landing. I am hopeful we can continue the success in Knights Landing to our other towns because internet access is vital to our students and families,” he said.
“A few years ago, I voted to establish a rural funding initiative project that targets projects to address issues in our rural communities; just last year we awarded funding to local town halls for improvement projects, we also awarded the library department additional funding to purchase Chromebooks with hotspots for people to check-out. I am really proud of those initiatives,” he added.
Chamberlain was born and raised in Southern California. He attended UC Davis and immediately set roots in Yolo County. He served in the Army National Guard and worked as a lab tech at UCD before venturing out on his own to create Chamberlain Farms in 1965. Thirty years ago, he opened Windmill Feed.
Along with his position on the Board of Supervisors, Chamberlain currently serves on the Woodland Healthcare Foundation Board. Previously, he served as a past president of the Yolo County Farm Bureau, was on the Board of Directors for the Yolo Land Trust and the Woodland Chamber of Commerce, and was a member of the UCD Advisory Committee for the College of Agriculture.