May 1, 2023

All in the Family: How The Wonderful Company and Other Ag Industry Leaders Support Their Communities Through Education

As far as the whole story of agriculture goes, farming is just the beginning.

The rows of leafy-green heads of lettuce or carrot greens is the scene opener to a much grander narrative. The farm is the start and the wellspring around which communities are created, mirroring the growth of the product that brought the people to the rural regions of the United States.

In an industry where many things can be debated, one thing rarely, if ever, is: A farm isn’t a farm without the people who make it happen.

It requires a lot of people to feed society. The individuals who contribute their effort and expertise to getting food into stores and into people’s homes exist within a valuable network. Within the network that stretches out from agricultural businesses are spouses who create and support other businesses and children who are growing and learning.

For most employees, the main driver of their hard work and refined expertise is to provide for and support their families. This means that the communities around farm organizations are just as important as the people who make it all work. Investing in the communities that have grown around agricultural businesses is a recognition of the network of people who make the industry possible.

Providing support for the education of the community is the rising tide that lifts all boats. As the school year ends, it’s important to recognize that giving the next generation resources for success is a foundational philanthropic effort for ag industry leaders. Organizations like The Wonderful Company, Taylor Farms, Grimmway Farms, HMC, and much more have recognized the importance of that support.

Their philanthropic endeavors support and encourage all forms of career and development paths and include additional resources for those who want to continue and build upon their family’s legacy within agriculture. Few are as well-equipped as those who have been raised within the very communities that have fostered the industry’s past successes, to truly grasp, empower and navigate the future trajectory of ag.

The Wonderful Company partners with Wonderful College Prep Academy (WCPA) to provide children in the Central Valley an opportunity to attend great schools, learn valuable skills, earn college degrees and launch rewarding careers. By providing support for the WCPA charter network and running two preschools, an innovative Career Pathways Program, and a college scholarship program—all free to students and their families—Co-Founders Lynda and Stewart Resnick are reinventing the educational experience and directly supporting over 5,000 students across the region.

“Today’s children are tomorrow’s citizens,” said Lynda Resnick, Vice-Chair and Co-Owner of The Wonderful Company, “and we’re determined to make sure the next generation in the Central Valley not only excels in academics, but that they also use their passions to ignite change in the communities where our employees live and work. A quality education must be equitable and inclusive, so that every child can gain the skills and earn the credentials needed for successful, fulfilling careers.”

Pre-College Support

To start students in Delano, Calif. and Lost Hills, Calif. on the right track, Wonderful established two nationally accredited, year-round preschools that are open 12 hours a day. They are nurturing, play-based environments for children ages 3 to 5, preparing them for elementary through high school and beyond.

In high school, WCPA helps students become college- and career-ready with their Career Pathways Program, where students can take community college courses right away and graduate with associate degrees in agriculture and health care. The flagship Ag Prep was the first of its kind in California. It now serves 1,400 students from ninth through twelfth grade and encompasses the partnerships of WCPA, seven public high schools and three community colleges.

Taylor Farms provides scholarship and mentor programs for the children of their employees. “We are committed to a vibrant America with education as the foundation for opportunity,” said Bruce Taylor, Chairman and CEO of Taylor Farms.

Other organizations like HMC Farms focus efforts on providing schools with support for school gardens around California along with lesson plans to local schools in farming and healthy food choices.

College Support and Scholarships

For many students in agriculture communities, they are or will be the first generation in their family to obtain a college degree. Grower organizations have created multi-faceted ways to help these students succeed.

At Wonderful, Lynda and Stewart Resnick have provided over $22 million in scholarships to over 2,000 graduates of employees’ children, Agriculture Career Pathways Programs, WCPA and first-generation college students from Shafter, Calif. whose parents work in agriculture or logistics. Each student receives up to a $30,000 scholarship and also individual coaching support through their college journey. Today, Wonderful supports almost 1,000 college students and awards 300 more annually.

To date, Taylor Farms has awarded $3.1 million in scholarship funds. These scholarships are given to the children of full-time Taylor Farms employees, and they are given with the intent to continue throughout the student’s academic career. Taylor Farms partners with the Community Foundation for Monterey County to facilitate the application process and award distribution for students to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Grimmway Farms also supports the children of their employees with their scholarship program. Their scholarships are awarded based on academic achievement and are renewable for four years. Students who exceed a 4.0 GPA are awarded a Macbook Pro laptop in addition to their scholarship fund. In the years between 1997 and 2020, “Grimmway supported more than 740 students through scholarships totaling over $2.15 million in funds.”

Career Support

Agriculture is a rapidly advancing industry, and more and more skilled employees are needed every year. Tasks that were once manual are now or will eventually be managed by someone who has a strong STEM background.

Along with financial support through its scholarship program, Taylor Farms also offers a mentorship program. Each scholarship recipient is partnered with a Taylor Farms employee who will serve as a mentor, “helping provide invaluable resources to mentees both personally and professionally.” This creates an easy transition into learning the applicable high-level skills participants will need.

This past year, a record-breaking 130 Wonderful Education scholars graduated from four-year universities. More than 75 percent expressed their intention to return to the Central Valley after college to become the next generation of leaders in the region, and over 44 exceptional Wonderful Education scholars have received job offers to work across various businesses of The Wonderful Company. The Wonderful Company is committed to providing the next generation with the best possible work environment and opportunities for growth.

The Future of Agriculture

So many members of these communities, from the employee on the field to the student studying at home, are making great strides and accomplishing much for their communities and for the nation’s food source without expectation of praise or recognition. But they are the future of both agriculture as well as other industries. As Lynda Resnick said: “Our children have so much to contribute to the world and, thanks to them, I know our future is bright.”