CALIFORNIA’S FUTURE OF PRODUCING FOOD AND FIBER begins with growing young minds, and that’s what E.M. Tharp, Inc. and World Ag Expo are perpetuating through its “We Believe in Growing” scholarships program.

Today, that commitment to agriculture and hard work still thrives in the corporate heart of E.M. Tharp through the company’s contribution to charitable and educational causes. At the 2009 World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., Tharp will again award two $10,000 scholarships to young men and/or women interested in pursuing a career in agriculture.

“The scholarship program started four years ago and was revamped the second year by Casey Tharp to the program we have now,” says Vester East, of E.M. Tharp. “It is given to two recipients after a lengthy process of reviewing applications and then narrowing those down to the final eight for individual interviews.”

Interest in the scholarship program continues to grow every year.

“Last year we had 34 applicants which was double from the prior year,” East says.

The scholarship is distributed at $2,500 per year for four years with a few caveats to keep the winners on track throughout their college career.

“They have to be going from high school to a four-year institution and have an agricultural-based major,” East says. “They have to be from the five counties of Madera, Fresno, Tulare, Kings and Kern.

A panel of five judges narrow down the applicant pool to two recipients.

Funding for the scholarships is provided through Tharp with a company-sponsored truck show on the last Saturday of September in Porterville at the dealer location. Participants in the truck show are not required to pay any money to participate. However, attendees pony up $5 at the gate to take a look at the trucks.

“The entire gate proceeds go to the scholarship program,” East says. “This year we had 84 entries in the truck show.”

Attendees then get to vote on their favorite truck, East says. “We have 12 classes of trucks each year and a ‘best of show’ truck. Winners get their picture taken after the show and we put together a calendar for the next year with each winner representing a month.”

Currently, the two recipients from the first year’s scholarship are attending Fresno State University, while last year’s recipients are attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

The company’s vision for the future of California agriculture and their commitment to the scholarship program is stated very simply: “We hope to make a difference in a student’s life, and also in our agricultural community.”

E.M. Tharp has expanded its product line over the years with franchises and ventures into other companies. In 1993, the company acquired the Peterbilt franchise for Fresno, Kern, Kings, Tulare and Madera counties.

Additional companies operated under the E.M. Tharp banner include American Truck Parts, Viking Trailer, DEPO, Mitsubishi Forklifts, EZ Go and most recently the Kroeger Equipment and Supply in Fresno.

The company has locations in Fresno, Porterville, and Bakersfield.