Meet an Exeter All-Star

April 26, 2012


Running past the competition…

on the field & in the coop

By Kelly Ryan, Communications Director, Sequoia Riverlands Trust

After capturing the title of women’s overall winner recently at the Sequoia Riverlands Trust 5K Trail Run on Kaweah Oaks Preserve, Andrea Anez didn’t have time to bask in the glory. She had chickens to show.

“I like perfecting chickens, trying for that perfect breed,” says this Exeter teenager. “They’re so cool looking, they intrigue me.”

Immediately after crossing the finish line Andrea headed to Porterville to show a Silky breed and a mixed Bantam at 4-H Field Day.

She won there as well, receiving second place with the Mixed Bantam she named Reba and best in breed with her Silkie called Snow White.

Andrea’s drive to excel in both running and raising chickens doesn’t seem unusual to this 13-year old.

This year’s SRT 5K trail run was her third win in a row. She captured her first women’s overall when she was just 11-years old.

“I’ve always loved to run. I run around our house, I run around my Grandma’s hill, down her dirt road, I just like it,” she says. “I like long distance best.”

She also runs in the Junior Olympics. She’s competed the past two years in the games in Nevada and Alabama and most recently took part in the Footlocker Invitational, where elite runners gather from all over the Western states.

Her mom, Kelly Anez says Andrea took to running early. “Since she was a kid she ran everywhere she went.”

She tagged along with her Dad to a 5K when she was 10 and a high school coach took notice. “He said, you’re a pretty good runner,” Andrea remembers. He encouraged her to keep it up.

She runs cross-country in the fall and track and field in the spring. She raises her chickens all year-long.

Andrea also runs her own small business selling eggs to neighbors and to her family. “My family goes through a lot of eggs so I have to sell to them to them or they’d eat all my eggs. But I give them a discount,” she giggles.

She also happens to be a 4.0 student.

“We like encouraging her but try not to put pressure on her,” says her mom. They have talked about college running programs in the future and what might be a good fit with the possibility of a scholarship. The family has looked into Stanford’s running program and Andrea likes that idea, but knows she’s got time to think about it.

In the meantime she enjoys her busy schedule,   “I go to school, come home, run, check the chickens, do homework, then bed.”

And once a year she gets the chance to showcase her two very different interests at the same time. “I wear a chicken hat and yellow tights in the Spooky Sprint run in Visalia every year… but only at Halloween.”


Going for the gold no matter what your age

April 5, 2012

Gold Medal Winner Barbara Spear

Land Trust’s Link to Longevity

The amazing accomplishments of the athletes below are extra special because they are connected to our Sequoia Riverlands Trust Family. Barbara Spear is the mother of Scott Spear, President of the SRT Board of Directors. David Childers is the father of Laura Childers, our Education Director.

After learning about their stories, the SRT staff was incredibly impressed and exhausted. We wanted to share with others these athletes’ thoughts on lifelong activity and the connection to happiness and longevity.

Barbara Spear

When Barbara Spear learned that her group had won a gold medal in the Tai Chi competition at the Senior Olympics, she was thrilled. But when the judges learned about her, they were in disbelief. They had never had anyone like her compete, let alone win in martial arts.

Barbara took it in stride. “No one ever thinks I’m 91 years old.”

At 91, Barbara is the oldest competitor to win in Tai Chi cane, a competition that incorporates a walking cane into the movements. But Barbara is quick to point out, “it’s a cane you fight with.”

“Tai Chi is basically Kung-Fu slowed down for older people to get exercise, it moves every muscle in the body,” says Barbara. “It really involves mind control over the body.”

Today, all ages are practicing this martial art and learning that it’s not as easy as it looks. “At first when I took the class, I was skeptical. It’s slow, so I thought what good can that do? But it’s hard to move slowly and your knees are bent at all times so your muscles are really put to work. Now when I do Tai Chi, I actually feel the energy, it sounds strange but it’s true.”

She chalks up her complete lack of aches and pains to her Tai Chi practice which she began 24 years ago. She happened to catch a television program showing a group of people in a park in China practicing the martial art. “I said, if that ever comes to Scottsdale, I’m going to take a class, and when I saw the Parks and Recreation class add it to their schedule, I took it.”

She praises the benefits of Tai Chai and encourages others to try it out. “It teaches patience, concentration, balance and how to get along with others. You have to breathe and relax and for many people the hardest thing to do is relax.”

Barbara is currently learning a different form that involves using a fan and deep lunges. “I can get down low but I’m not sure I can get up again,” she admits. But her teacher has great confidence in her and Barbara has no plans to stop. “I plan to keep moving, when you sit down, that’s it and I don’t plan on sitting down and staying there.”

She believes the secret to her happiness and longevity is that she keeps active. She practices Tai Chi for 2-hours on Monday and Tuesday and for 3-hours on Saturday. It’s a schedule that would exhaust most people but not Barbara. She has even added some additional exercise to her routine. She line dances for an hour every Friday. “It’s a chance for me to kick up my heels.”

David Childers

He’s a 57 year old geologist by day sitting behind a computer but that hasn’t stopped David Childers from hanging up his goggles.

“You don’t have to give it up,” he says referring to his love of competitive swimming. He recently earned three gold medals at the Senior Games in Houston, Texas. Childers set state records in the 100 yard backstroke, the 200 yard backstroke and the 100 yard butterfly.

He says it reminded him he hasn’t lost his competitive edge. “I realized I wasn’t all washed up.”

David learned to swim in a lake as a child. He says he always loved swimming but it was his swim coach in high school who made a lasting influence on him. “He taught me what it meant to work at something.”

When he was 51 years old David was inspired by a man training at his gym for the Senior Games who was in great physical shape. David decided to check out the competition open to those 50 and older. He went to a gathering of athletes and he saw a lot of people in the 70’s and 80’s. “I had a mindset that these were OLD people.”

That mindset crumbled when he competed against them. “There was a guy in his 70’s and I raced against him and he was really gunnin’ for me. He was actually going to beat me and he had twenty years on me. I realized then that there was an 18 year old inside of these people, when I looked into their eyes, there was a young person looking back. It gave me a whole new concept of what age is and inspired me to stick with competing.”

Now, six years later he says he relates to that experience. “I look in the mirror and it’s startling, but you still feel young.”

David trains in the pool 8 to 10 hours a week. For him, exercise is both a mental and physical workout. He says if he doesn’t work out, he feels out of sorts and his diet gets out of whack.

Besides the overall well- being he experiences, it’s the competition that keeps him fired up. “I’m competing against very competitive people and it’s inspirational to see people who have a zest for life, no matter what their age.”

David is now training for the upcoming Houston to Austin MS 150, a fundraising bike ride to raise money for those with multiple sclerosis. The ride covers 150 miles between the two cities but that doesn’t seem to faze David. He may now be the one “gunnin” for those younger guys but you can bet he’ll be enjoying the ride.

SRT salutes Barbara and David for their gold medal efforts and for inspiring others to get up, get out and get moving, no matter what form it takes.

What better way to get in motion than to join the fun at SRT’s 3rd annual 5K Trail Run/Walk at Kaweah Oaks Preserve, Saturday April 14. For information on how to register go to:


Census shows farmers and ranchers are getting older, but who will take their place?

April 4, 2012

Wanted: More young farmers and ranchers

By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN | Associated Press Image

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan sees an epidemic of sorts sweeping across America’s farmland. It has little to do with the usual challenges, like drought, rising fuel and feed prices or crop-eating pests.

The country’s farmers and ranchers are getting older and there are fewer people standing in line to take their place.

New Mexico has the highest average age of farmers and ranchers of any state at nearly 60 years old, and neighboring Arizona and Texas aren’t far behind. Nationally, the latest agricultural census figures show the fastest growing group of farmers and ranchers are those over age 65.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is beginning work on its 2012 census, and Merrigan is afraid the average age will be even higher when the data is compiled.

“If we do not repopulate our working lands, I don’t know where to begin to talk about the woes,” she told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “There is a challenge here, a challenge that has a corresponding opportunity.”

Merrigan, a former college professor, is making stops at universities around the country in hopes of encouraging more students to think about agricultural careers. She was in New Mexico and Arizona last week, and had stops planned this week at the University of Colorado in Denver and Michigan State University.

Aside from trying to stem the graying of America’s farmers and ranchers, her mission is fueled by a recent blog posting that put agriculture at No. 1 on a list of “useless” college degrees. Top federal agriculture officials are talking about the posting, and it has the attention of agricultural organizations across the country.

“There couldn’t be anything that’s more outrageously incorrect,” Merrigan said. “We know that we’re not graduating enough qualified aggies to fill the jobs that are out there in American agriculture.”

Add to that a growing world population that some experts predict will require 70 percent more food production by 2050, she said.

Matt Rush, director of the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau, was in California last weekend speaking at a conference for young farmers and ranchers. He made the same point.

“I truly believe we’re at a golden age of agriculture. Global demand is at an all-time record high and global supplies are at all-time record lows,” Rush said. “Production costs are going to be valuable enough that younger people are going to have the opportunity to be involved in agriculture.”

The aging trend has been decades in the making. Between 2002 and 2007 alone, the number of farmers over 65 grew by nearly 22 percent.

New Mexico tops the list of states with the highest percentage of older farmers and ranchers at 37 percent, followed by Arizona, Texas, Mississippi and Oklahoma.

For every one farmer and rancher under the age of 25, there are five who are 75 or older, according to Agriculture Department statistics.

While Merrigan can’t explain why New Mexico is leading, she said the challenges for young people entering the industry are common across the nation — from escalating farmland values to accessing capital.

USDA has programs aimed at developing more farmers and ranchers and at boosting interest in locally grown food. In 2009 and 2010, projects in 40 states helped add thousands of new farmers and ranchers to the ranks, Merrigan said.

The National Young Farmers’ Coalition has also been pushing for state and federal policy changes to make it easier for new farmers.

Rush and New Mexico farmer and rancher Pat Woods said it will take streamlining the system to make a difference.

“There are a lot of programs through USDA for young farmers and ranchers, but any of us know when you’re dealing with federal programs, there’s enough red tape to make the red tape blush,” Rush said.

Woods started ranching in his 20s with help from his father. He’s now 62 and is grooming his own son to take over the family operation.

“I’m trying to do my best with some kind of succession,” he said. “I’m putting my son in the hot seat. He needs to know how to make the day-to-day decisions on feeding the cattle and farming the land and making decisions on how to get the tractor fixed and all of that kind of stuff. I’ll help him on anything he needs help with, but there’s a lot of this stuff he needs to do on his own to learn.”

Regardless of age, Woods said farming and ranching requires determination.

Ryan Best is determined. His mission is much like Merrigan’s.

As president of Future Farmers of America, the 21-year-old Best has been living out of a suitcase, traveling the country and visiting with high school students about careers in agriculture. He’ll be on the road 310 days this year and plans to log 125,000 miles.

Best hopes his message — that this is a new time in agriculture — will resonate enough with the next generation to turn around the statistics.

“Never before have we had the innovations in technology which have led to agriculture in this country being the most efficient it has ever been,” he said. “There’s really a place for everybody to fit in.”