At just 19 years old, Hughson High alumnus and former school FFA president Anthony Agueda is looking to pave the way for future generations of agricultural leaders as he continues to work on his family dairy and gain experience alongside industry experts across the country.
At Alberto Dairy in Hughson, which has been in his family for three generations, Agueda serves as the policy compliance manager. Additionally, he runs a social media account to promote the dairy. With his social media skills, Agueda has become the youngest member of the California Milk Advisory Board social media team. And through his efforts and experience, he was awarded a National FFA proficiency award.
Agueda’s journey began as a child, as he helped his grandfather and father with work around the dairy. As he has gotten older, he has stepped into larger roles, hoping to one day take over the dairy and keep the legacy of his family alive.
“My grandpa is named Antonio Alberto, which is where the name Alberto Dairy comes from,” Agueda explained. “In 1981, he came to America at 19 years old, which is my age. He saved up enough and got a loan from the government to start his daily with just 50 cows. Ever since then, he's just been expanding, expanding, and at 70 years old, he still works every day… No one works as hard as that man, and I’m going to be the next generation and I just want to contribute to his legacy.”
As a sophomore at Modesto Junior College majoring in Ag Business, Agueda is already one step ahead of the game as one of the larger roles he has taken on the family dairy is being the policy compliance manager. He explained that since most documents and communication in the industry is being conducted online.
“I've become in charge of compliance over the last few years because I'm the younger generation who knows how to work off the technology,” he said. “In the state that we live in, there's just so many things being added onto our plate as business owners in terms of regulations. We need to meet employee protocols, we have to do trainings with employees and safety meetings… It’s a lot.”
Being a compliance manager, Agueda is tasked with major responsibilities that not many people at his age are typically handed. Agueda credits FFA, particularly Hughson High FFA advisor Kelly Larson, for introducing him to greater opportunities within the ag industry. Larson is one person who isn’t surprised at his unique work ethic.
“Anthony was just one of those kids that anything you asked him to do in FFA, he was ready to go and he wanted to try new experiences,” Larson said. “When he came to me as a student, he explained his background at the family dairy, and I immediately said, ‘We need to go after a proficiency award for you.’”
And that’s exactly what they did.
Throughout his years at Hughson High, Agueda continued to work around the dairy, but decided to go a step further by giving people an inside look at daily operations. At first, he began posting photos and videos of the dairy on social media, but once the Covid-19 pandemic hit, he took things to an even higher level.
To make up for the annual, in-person “Ag Days” that FFA branches host for elementary students in the community, Agueda helped kickstart virtual events, where he would set up live Zoom broadcasts from the dairy to teach viewers several dairy responsibilities, such as milking cows. Before long, he was approached by the California Milk Advisory Board to start producing content with the social media team. Through his use of technology to ensure compliance in agriculture and his use of social media to promote the dairy industry, he was honored with the National Dairy Placement Proficiency Title at the 95th National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was Hughson FFA’s first proficiency award since Christie Hobby won in 2009.
“I've learned firsthand that hard work and sacrifice pays off with everything that you do,” Agueda said upon receiving is award. “I'm super proud to win this proficiency to prove to everyone in my family that hard work pays off. My grandfather came to America at the same age as me with nothing but what was in his suitcase, so I was just really excited to call him and tell him that his hard work and sacrifice paid off.”
Agueda explained that a focus on sustainability is what may have made his project stand out most.
“I think sustainability is something that's very important, and I think that's what made my proficiency project so unique,” he said. “In all dairy in the last few years, sustainability has really been a hot topic because we're trying to push a lot of projects in a state with so many regulations on this kind of thing, in order for it to benefit not only our climate or our business economically, but we just want to leave our land better than we inherit it.”
Larson shared that sharing the stage with Agueda in Indianapolis to celebrate his accomplishments was one of the highlights of her 20-year career as an FFA advisor.
“We have these special moments as Ag teachers in our career that are going to be with us forever,” Larson said. “Honestly, being up on that stage with Anthony and knowing how hard he worked and how much he deserved that award was definitely a highlight moment of my career and a very proud moment for me.”
But Agueda isn’t stopping his efforts anytime soon. While in Indianapolis speaking with fellow FFA members from across the nation, Agueda realized that awareness of dairy practices needed to be increased.
“When I went to the convention, I was in line with the lady at Subway and she asked where I was from. I said, ‘Oh, my family has a dairy in California,’ and she could not believe that there is agriculture in California,” Agueda said. “And I started thinking about it. People who vacation to California, they just come to San Francisco and LA, and no one's coming to the Valley. We are number one in ag in the whole country and agriculture is the backbone, so advocacy has been huge for me.”
Next year, Agueda hopes to transfer from MJC to Fresno State, where the institution’s agriculture programs continue to grow. He also hopes to continue his advocacy efforts as he will be one of the five participants in a California Daily Leaders Group program, which will take the group on trips around California to learn about the future of dairy marketing and dairy sustainability efforts. And despite his incredibly busy schedule, Larson shared that Agueda continues to be involved with the Hughson FFA program, offering advice and mentorship to current students and officers.
“I’m not sure what I’ll be doing in the future, but I’ll always be involved with the family dairy,” Agueda said. “So many organizations have boatloads of people that contribute to common agricultural knowledge and policy in the area, so I'm looking forward to being involved with that and making connections with people in the future and just being a voice for the agricultural community. Whether it's in politics on the water board or some kind of sustainability thing, I'm looking forward to seeing what avenues will be opened up.”
To follow along on Agueda’s experiences on his family farm, follow @AlbertoDairy on Instagram and @AlbertoDairy1981 on Facebook.