Agriculture Program Enjoys ‘Tastes of the Valley’ Generosity

March 07, 2021


Stanislaus Friends of the Fair Foundation Raises Nearly $20,000 for Scholarships Despite Canceled Fundraiser

Agriculture students volunteer at the 2019 Tastes of the Valley Event

Even though COVID-19 restrictions cancelled last October’s Tastes of the Valley fundraising collaboration between Stanislaus State’s agriculture program and the Stanislaus Friends of the Fair Foundation, current and future students are still reaping the benefits of that partnership.

The foundation sought donations through a letter-writing campaign and rather than split the profits as is usually done, it donated the entire $18,950 raised to scholarships for students in Stan State’s agriculture program. 

“We’re committed to supporting the University and the students,” said Matt Cranford, CEO of the Stanislaus County Fair. “Every dollar went directly to the University. Nothing was kept back for the foundation.”

Professor Oluwarotimi Odeh, the Rolland Starn Endowed Chair in Agriculture said the gift “is a testament to the generosity of friends and partners in the agriculture industry community who are committed to supporting agriculture education.”

The partnership has proven valuable to both parties.

Stan State’s agriculture program established the Tastes of the Valley Scholarship for agriculture students. The majority of the funds from the event has gone into the scholarship fund, but some have been used for outreach programs for K-12 students, professional development and agriculture program support to enhance student learning. For the foundation, supporting the University’s agriculture students and programs helps assure the continued success of the fair and the ag industry.

“A big part of the fair is about kids, 4-H and Future Farmers of America,” Cranford said. “We don’t want those things to go away, and the University is part of that effort. A lot of people don’t realize ag is not just farming and ranching. There’s the financial side, ag lending, biology, chemistry. It’s more than raising cows, working in the field or planting trees. We’re helping students get a comprehensive ag education and see the range of careers that are open to them.”

Stan State’s agriculture program started the annual Tastes of the Valley Wine and Cheese event in 2003 to raise funds for scholarships and other programs. Attendees buy tickets and can sample food and drinks donated and prepared by local and regional wineries, brewers, cheese makers, restaurants and eateries. The popular event outgrew previous locations where it was held and moved to the more spacious fairgrounds in 2013. It was a bit of coming full circle as Stan State held its first classes there in 1960.

Tastes of the Valley enables Stan State students to meet and work with members of the agriculture industry and expand their view of the field as they collaborate on the annual event. That the letter-writing campaign yielded nearly $20,000 — all of which went to Stan State — wasn’t entirely surprising to Cranford.

“Our core supporters are ag industry people,” Cranford said. “I’m not surprised they were willing to help out. Our big supporters of Tastes of the Valley have been supporting it for years. It’s in their budget every year.”

Working in partnership with the Stanislaus Friends of the Fair Foundation, whose members offer an array of business expertise in planning and executing such a big event, Stan State’s agriculture program has seen its signature event grow to one that draws nearly 400 people.

Odeh is optimistic about the event returning, and plans for Tastes of the Valley 2021 are already underway.