“Each blade of grass has its spot on earth whence it draws its life, its strength; and so is man rooted to the land from which he draws his faith together with his life.” – Joseph Conrad
“Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.” -- Theodore Roethke
MEET THE TREASURES TEAM:
Gene Aksland – After working for 35 years with Goldsmith Seeds, Inc. and Resource Seeds, Inc. as a plant breeder and agronomist, Gene now continues his work in agriculture as an agronomist consulting with a number of seed companies in the Western United States. He works on research trials in wheat, barley and triticale during the winter and spring months, then in the spring and summer corn and sorghum. The San Joaquin Valley has provided Gene with a variety of experiences to be applied in helping farmers select the best methods in growing crops. His efforts have been recognized by the California Chapter of the American Society of Agronomy in an Award of Honor for distinguished contributions to the advancement of human welfare and enhancement of California Agriculture. Gene is particularly interested in documenting the agricultural treasures in Tulare County.
Nancy Bruce loves being immersed in Tulare County's natural environments, studying birds, oak galls, native plants, and all things wild. She grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., exploring nature and practicing environmental stewardship under the guidance of her mother, Mary Ann. Nancy's diverse work experience includes field science instructing in Yosemite National Park, commercial fishing in Alaska, instructing backpacking and rock climbing for Outward Bound in Colorado and South Africa, and being an interpretive naturalist. Since 2000, Nancy has served as Lead Teacher for SCICON at Circle J -Norris Ranch, designing curriculum and leading students on environmental science programs. She resides in Springville with her blacksmith/author husband, Mark Aspery, who shares her pleasure in living in such a great place.
Laile Di Silvestro has ancestral roots in Tulare County. They and the county's treasures drew her here almost every year of her life until she recently returned to settle. Laile has over 25 years of professional experience in communications and program management for multinational corporations, non-profits, and government organizations. She has an extensive background in journalism, history education, technology, and land stewardship, and has earned multiple awards including an Emmy and an environmental award. She now lives in the foothills where, thanks to the lure of hiking, gardening, and social activities, she isn't always at her desk.
John Greening is retired from College of the Sequoias, where he taught as a Professor of Biology for thirty two years. An avid photographer, he is a member of several camera clubs and serves as President of the San Joaquin Valley Club Council, which includes clubs from Stockton to Taft. He also volunteers as a naturalist and photographer for Sequoia Riverlands Trust , and has been collecting information on the oak gall species present on their preserves. John contributed many of the photos on the TCT website.
Paul Hurley -- Paul Hurley is a journalist and educator who has lived in Visalia since 1990. He is a former opinion page editor for the Visalia Times-Delta and had a 32-year career writing for newspapers. He divides his time among teaching, writing and his involvement in a number of public affairs activities, including the Kenneth L. Maddy Institute and 210 Connect.
Louise Jackson -- Louise Jackson was raised as a mountain girl who unfortunately was required to attend school in the lowlands eight to nine months of the year. However, her heart remained year-round in Mineral King, the summer home of her family and near ancestors. Louise’s mother grounded her in the importance of the history, conservation, preservation and interconnection of the natural and human resources of our mountain lands. That focus has resulted in a lifetime of hiking, climbing, skiing, backpacking and mule packing, as well as research and writings on our Southern Sierra Nevada region. Louise has written several articles, poetry and three published books based on her research and experiences.
Shirley Kirkpatrick -- Agriculture is the underlying force in Shirley’s life. She was raised on a family farm in rural Fresno County; earned a journalism degree with agricultural emphasis at Fresno State College; married a farmer/banker/agricultural appraiser; and established a business providing writing, public relations and administrative work for farm organizations. She now farms citrus in the Lindcove area with her husband and son. Shirley is a vocal advocate of farmland preservation (20 years on the Tulare County Planning Commission). She envisions making our county “Napa Valley South” -- welcoming tourists and providing face-to-face visits with real farmers.
Rick Mitchell (Emeritus) has served as naturalist, lead teacher and administrator at SCICON since 1986. A science teacher by training, Rick had taught in Colusa, Fresno and Visalia school districts prior to coming to SCICON. According to Rick, “SCICON has enabled me to share my love for the natural world with my passion for working with youth!”
Terry Ommen began his career with the Visalia Police Department in 1972, and has lived in Visalia ever since. For over two decades, Terry has researched Tulare County history and written on a broad range of local subjects, particularly the early peace officers and the badmen who gave them such grief. A member of the California Council for the Preservation of History (CCPH), Visalia Heritage, the Wild West History Association (WWHA), and the Tulare County Historical Society (TCHS), Terry continues to express his enjoyment of learning about the old west in hundreds of local history columns and articles for various newspapers, along with publishing his "Historic Happenings" blog (www.visaliahistory.blogspot.com) and two books (so far!).
Matthew Rangel is a fine artist whose original lithographic prints and drawings are centered on the ways in which human constructs of land influence our experience of place, and his perceptual inquiry of places embodies physical aspects of land through personal narrative. While Adjunct Drawing and Painting Professor at College of the Sequoias, Matthew also mentored Project Puente, served as a board member of Arts Visalia and the Sequoia Natural History Association, and was the founder and chief coordinator of the annual Kaweah Land and Arts Festival. His website is www.rangelstudio.com. In 2013, Matthew moved to Albuquerque for a tenured teaching position at UNM.
Greg Schwaller retired after 23 years in the Navy's Submarine Service, then worked for a number of years as a Department of Defense contractor and a consultant before retiring again, only to find himself working at least half time as a volunteer on various community projects such as TCT. For TCT, he has learned new skills so that he can serve as the project's videographer and website manager. Greg thanks H J Brown, Linda Horsting, James Seligman, and Niki Woodard for their generous help along this learning curve.
Laurie Schwaller -- Drawn by the beauty and the bounty of this friendly, rural county, Laurie and Greg bought their home in Three Rivers in 1989 and have greatly enjoyed exploring the Valley, the foothills, and the mountains on foot and by car ever since. While working in various jobs in Tulare County, and talking with friends and acquaintances, Laurie was struck by how often residents were unaware of the wonders awaiting them practically in their own back yards. She began the Tulare County Treasures project in hopes of introducing them, and the County's hundreds of thousands of annual visitors, to a truly wonderful legacy of land and people. Thanks to a great project team, sponsors, and partners, this mission is being accomplished.
Terry Stafford began his career in the U.S. Navy in 1971 then moved to Vandenberg AFB in 1984. He left California in 1987 to pursue work for several NASA contractors, ending up at Kennedy Space Center in Florida where he was a Senior Project Manager. During that time, he also taught project management at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. In May of 2013, Terry and his wife, Gail, returned to Tulare, her hometown, where he is now a manager at the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District. Terry holds an M.A. in Operations Management and is a certified Project Management Professional. Terry has one book to his credit and has developed an insatiable love for history, writing, and photography and sees this project as the perfect creative outlet.
William C. Tweed, a freelance naturalist, historian, and writer, has lived in Three Rivers for over twenty-five years. For many years, Tweed worked as a ranger and later as a park manager at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. For ten years prior to 2006, he served as the parks' chief naturalist, in charge of educational and informational programs. He has written a column about nature in Tulare County for the Visalia Times-Delta since 1997.