Contributed Article
Westlands appoints Jeff Fortune as its new president

This week the Westlands Water District Board of Directors appointed Jeff Fortune as president of the local district. Fortune succeeds Ryan Ferguson.

The new president is a third-generation California farmer and second-generation Westlands farmer.

Fortune, say Westlands officials, is a “boots on the ground” farmer with more than four decades of farming experience. Fortune works alongside his father and two brothers at their family farm, growing tomatoes, almonds, and pistachios.

At a recent special board meeting, Fortune was joined by four new Board members who were elected to the board in November: Ernie B. Costamagna, Justin Diener, Donald Ross Franson III, and Jeremy Hughes. Each new member will serve a four-year term.

Ernie Costamagna is a third-generation family farmer in California. He began farming in the district in the 1980s. His farming operation is comprised of nuts, wine grapes, cherries, garlic, onions, cotton, and processing tomatoes. He is a resident of Hanford with his wife and has seven children.

Diener continues working in the same area where his family began farming in the 1930s. With his family, Diener grows tomatoes, garlic, almonds, and lemons and raises lambs.

The longtime farmer is responsible for managing his family’s farming operation financially. He graduated from Stanford University with an economics degree (with honors). Before returning to the farming operation, Diener spent more than a decade of his career working for JP Morgan Securities, Wells Fargo Bank, and Bank of the West. He lives in Five Points, where he was born and raised, with his wife and daughter.

Ross Franson’s family has farmed in Westlands since the District’s formation in 1952. Franson currently serves as VP of Strategy at his family business, Woolf Farming & Processing, which grows almonds, pistachios, tomatoes, and other row crops. His family business also operates almond and tomato processing facilities within the district. Over the years, Franson has served on various agricultural-related Boards, including Woolf Farming & Processing, Harris Woolf California Almonds, Cal-West Rain, and Aliso Water District.  He currently resides in Fresno with his wife and three children.

Jeremy Hughes, a fifth-generation farmer, has farmed in the district for over 25 years. Since his father started the operation in the mid-1970s with a one-quarter section of land, the farm has steadily increased. Hughes started the company that bears his name in 1997, farming various row crops, including processing tomatoes, almonds, and pistachios. Hughes lives in Clovis with his wife and two children.