A passion for water and agriculture forged a career path for Gustine resident Jarrett Martin.
The 2004 Gustine High graduate was recently named general manager of the sprawling Central California Irrigation District, which encompasses 143,000 acres of land stretching 80 miles along the San Joaquin Valley from Crows Landing to Mendota.
Martin succeeds Chris White in the general manager position. White has become executive director of the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority, a coalition of four irrigation agencies which includes CCID.
Growing up in Gustine, Martin had an appreciation of agriculture.
He recalls as a youngster making the statement that he would one day become manager of the Central California Irrigation District....while acknowledging that he had no idea at the time what, exactly, that meant.
Today he holds that position, which he accepted in late July, and oversees an operation with nearly 80 employees serving 1,600 landowners. During a typical year, Martin said, CCID delivers more than 500,000 acre-feet of irrigation water to nurture fields and orchards in one of the world’s most prolific agricultural regions.
Martin’s interest in water was cemented during his college years.
He initially attended Modesto Junior College, and while there learned of an agricultural engineering program at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo which caught his interest.
He transferred to pursue that course of study - part of which involved irrigation classes.
“It was just something that clicked with me. I quickly realized that (water) was a passion, so I took additional classes under the Irrigation Training and Research Center to focus on my future career in water, with an emphasis on civil engineering,” Martin explained.
Martin graduated college and married his high school sweetheart MacKenzie Ford in the same year, 2010. He worked for the J.G. Boswell company in Corcoran for five years before the family returned to Gustine and he went to work for a consulting engineer firm, Provost and Pritchard.
He worked closely with CCID and the exchange contractors, and in 2016 was hired on at CCID as an engineer.
Much of his focus at that time, Martin said, was on compliance with the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and the required development of groundwater sustainability agencies.
He became deputy general manager about a year ago, as the restructuring of the exchange contractors group was taking shape.
That restructuring came from a realization that the exchange contractors needed to strengthen their position, Martin commented.
“With the issues facing California water, particularly south of the delta and for the exchange contractors, we realized that we need to up our game on providing resiliency to the growers,” he explained.
White worked in a dual role serving the exchange contractors and CCID for about a year until the CCID completed its hiring process and named Martin its general manager.
The district’s mission is, at heart, fundamental - but those in the water field work in an increasingly complex environment.
“Our goal is fairly simple....to provide a reliable water supply to our growers. Our No. 1 goal is to protect our growers and provide them water. How you do that is fairly complicated with all the new requirements,” Martin told Mattos Newspapers. “We also want to be a great partner with the region, and partner with other agencies on projects. We have done projects where it helps us but really helps out the region.”
He envisions CCID continuing to have positive relationships with the cities it surrounds, including Gustine and Newman. Martin said the irrigation district and cities have been partners for decades as they work together to help study growth impacts, collaboratively meet water regulations and more.
“We want to be there to help support our communities,” he emphasized.
At times, the goals can be contradictory.
For example, Martin said, the more efficient growers are with water conservation as they turn to systems such as drip irrigation, the less groundwater recharge is achieved.
“With the conversion to permanent crops most growers are installing high-efficiency irrigation systems. Internally we are doing a study to figure out the long-term impacts of this,” he explained. “When you convert to drip systems you are conserving water but you are also not putting water back into the ground. We want to find out where the sweet spot is. We want to conserve, but we also want to be strategic about the future.”
A strategic plan adopted by the CCID board a few years ago is helping guide Martin’s role, he noted.
The priorities in that plan include protection of water rights, sound long-term planning, maintaining good communication with growers and making himself and staff available to help growers resolve whatever issues they may face.
Martin credits the success of CCID to the leadership of its board and the dedication of its employees.
He said he is humbled by the opportunity to lead the organization.
“I want to thank the board and growers for having the faith to put me into this position,” Martin commented, adding that he is also grateful for the support of staff during the transition.
As he looks to the future, Martin said, he believes those involved in agriculture and water must not only strive to meet the many challenges but also more actively share their story.
“In ag we have been good at meeting adversity and overcoming it. We have always stepped up and met those challenges, but the one thing we haven’t done is tell our story,” he reflected. “We need to do a better job of telling the good things we are doing, and how we are being good stewards of the land and working on projects that benefit the environment.”