People Stories

Vance Kennedy: Farmland trust founder, longtime water expert turns 100

Photo: Turlock’s Jeani and John Ferrari —2021 awardees of the California Farmland Trust’s Dr. Vance Kennedy Award — wish Kennedy well during his 100th birthday celebration in May (Photo contributed).

For those who care about water, or farmland preservation, or climate catastrophes, the name Vance Kennedy might ring a bell or two. After all, he has written dozens of letters, newspaper and magazine articles on those very subjects.

But if you’re a scientist, Vance Kennedy’s name might ring 50 bells; maybe even a few hundred.

Two decades ago, I had never heard of Kennedy when he walked into my office in Modesto to talk about groundwater. So, I called my sister – who taught college-level geology courses – to ask if she had. Her eventual response: “Whatever he says, it’s the truth.”

During his time with the U.S. Geological Survey, Kennedy authored 47 scientific papers on subjects ranging from sediment-carrying capacity of floods to acid rain to using isotopes to track water’s age and movement. Kennedy’s career with the Survey culminated with the highest civilian award bestowed on civil servants. His first papers were published in the 1950s; the last was published in […]

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