Thumbs up to Julie Hollars, a U.S. Navy veteran and small farmer from Vallecito, east of Stockton in Calaveras County, for being selected by Kubota Tractor Corp. to receive a new L-Series tractor, complete with tiller equipment. This is just one of the crowd-pleasing events that went on at the World Ag Expo in Tulare this week, which closed one of its most successful runs ever.
Hollars, who served 20 years in the Navy, was selected as part of Kubota’s Geared to Give program that is run in partnership with the Farmer Veteran Coalition. The organization provides financial support and donated Kubota equipment to military veterans pursuing farming.
She was all smiles, sitting on top of the bright orange tractor she will receive. Unlike many women hoping for Tiffany & Co. this Valentine weekend, Hollars has been wishing for a tractor. “This really is a dream come true,” she told The Bee’s Bob Rodriguez. “I never thought this would happen. I would drive by the Kubota tractor dealer in my hometown and think about how great it would be to have a tractor.”
Despite operating the 13 1/2 -acre Farbotnik Farm, Hollars did not have a tractor. She used a rototiller, a four-wheeler to pull a sprayer and a wheelbarrow to haul things in and out of the field. She farms a variety of fruits and nuts, including peaches, plums, pomegranates, cherries, walnuts, almonds, pecans, apples, figs and wax peppers. Hollars said her 68-year-old mother, Bea, was just as excited to win the tractor. The two women do all the farm work themselves, including harvesting.
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The coalition also provided Hollars with a greenhouse to grow her seedlings. She was using a sunny spot in her bedroom to start her plants.
Thumbs down to some thieving employees at Porterville Developmental Center and other state facilities for wasting $345,000 in taxpayer money thanks to their misdeeds. The California State Auditor released the ugly findings Thursday. Christopher Cadelago of The Sacramento Bee reports that Porterville is found to have wasted $25,600 when it charged just eight hours of leave time to slacker employees who skipped out on nine- and 10-hour workdays. The time sheets for 12 workers revealed that Porterville didn’t charge for 566 hours of leave. That is especially egregious knowing how badly every penny is needed to thelp PDC’s clients. In another case, Patton State Hospital paid $296,800 to four psychiatrists who worked elsewhere while billing the state for 11 to 18 fewer hours than their 40-hour workweek. Cheating the mentally ill? Nice work, jerks. Now pay the money back with interest and community service.
Thumbs up to former Fresnan Audra McDonald for being named this week to the Lincoln Center’s nascent performing arts hall of fame. According to The New York Times, McDonald will be in the first class of inductees. Others include Louis Armstrong, Plácido Domingo, Yo-Yo Ma, Leontyne Price and Harold Prince. On June 20 at a gala at Alice Tully Hall, the six inductees will be honored. The plan is to carve their names into stones surrounding Lincoln Center’s fountain. An app will enable visitors to learn about their achievements on their smartphones as they visit. Once more, we are grateful to McDonald for bringing nothing but great inspiration to the young people in her hometown.
Thumbs up to United Way Fresno and Madera Counties for becoming the first chapter in California to add text and online chat features to its 211 non-emergency helpline for Fresno County residents. When you need help and don’t know where to call, 211 is a free and confidential 24/7 service with access to more than 900 programs. Outreach specialists are on board to help folks navigate “the system” to get emergency food, rental assistance and other essential services. More than 40,000 calls a year come in to the helpline, so don’t be shy. You are not alone. United Way is now working with the California Public Utilities Commission to expand the service into Madera County sometime this year.