By: Diana Westmoreland Pedrozo
Past President California Women for Agriculture, 2008-2009
The main goal of the California Women for Agriculture (CWA) is to be a positive, articulate voice for the men and women who are responsible for growing our nation’s food supply. It is a daunting job – as those involved in agriculture only represent approximately two percent of our nation’s population. We must remember that if you eat, wear clothes, live in a house, drive a car, or enjoy flowers and potted plants – you are involved in agriculture.
My first introduction to the CWA was when I was asked to sit at a table at a spring luncheon on National Ag Day. There was a speaker and less than 20 tables occupied at Lake Yosemite, which is now right next to the growing UC Merced campus. I started attending some meetings and learned about the “Adopt-a-Legislator” program. At the time, we had Assemblyman Robert Campbell from Martinez. He was a very nice man that was a pleasure to get to know.
Maria Giampaoli, Micki Parker and other members hosted Assemblyman Campbell at their homes for tours, dinners and networking events. He was our adoptee for 16 years and over that period of time, we came to learn how he viewed rural California, as well as how his perspective on agriculture was shaped. In one of our last official conversations, he told me that we had an impact on his newfound perspective of agriculture; we also helped to make a difference in at least 2 out of every 5 votes he cast impacting our farming communities.
One of the first state-wide meetings that I attended was the Sacramento meeting in March of 1990. My youngest son was about 20 months old, and I had him strapped in a back-pack carrier as I walked the halls of our state’s capitol. I explained to the legislators and staff that I was there on behalf of my children, and their children’s children. I wanted them to be reminded that lawmakers have a strong impact on the lives of others; and I wanted them to realize that their decisions could influence generations to come.
Being a daughter, mother and now a grandmother, I know that women’s voices are powerful. Here are a few takeaways that have helped me over the years, and are sure to help you as well:
- Relationships with staff are just as important as our relationships with legislators.
- The most important person is the scheduler and/or the receptionist. They are the gate-keepers to our legislator’s schedules, and they have a lot of influence on what is accomplished. A friendly, kind voice over the phone, and a smiling face as you walk through their doors go a long way to building those relationships.
- Yelling, demanding things or having a disagreeable attitude isn’t going to get you anywhere.
Over the years, there have only been a few legislative meetings I have missed. I was CWA’s “Adopt-a-Legislator” director back when it had a chapter program, and I helped to plan the legislative reception when it was held at the Capitol Rotunda. Some of my closest relationships with members evolved because of the help they offered over the years.
All the work that is put into planning meetings is nothing without those that attend. The individuals that share their stories, goals and perspectives on legislation are the ones who make the biggest impact on our state’s legislative team. Their personal stories positively influence those who are listening, and that’s what we aim for as a team.
On a professional level, my involvement in the CWA has led to almost every job I have had – including my current position as the Field Representative for Senator Anna Caballero in the Merced District Office. The goal is to make sure rural California has a voice for the future; and that we have safe, affordable water for both urban and rural residents.
Many issues currently face California. The ever-evolving rules and regulations can be daunting, no doubt; but they’re not insurmountable with the determination of new members combined with the sage advice of our seasoned members. Let’s be proud of the successes we have seen through 45 years as the only volunteer, non-partisan agriculture organization, and let’s keep the momentum going through the next few months! Have a wonderful May SWM and a productive Legislative Day!