San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation

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By Vicky Boyd

Six agricultural leaders, including four nominated by the San Joaquin Farm Bureau, will be inducted into the San Joaquin County Ag Hall of Fame during an Oct. 19 ceremony.

SJFB President Jim Ferrari said Farm Bureau nominated Jack and Pati Hamm, Joe Grant and Hank Van Exel for the honors because of their long-time service and numerous contributions to the county's agricultural industry.

"Jack and Pati have done a lot and they're still doing it," he said. "That's just who they are."

Ferrari's relationship with Grant goes back to when Grant was an intern before joining University of California Cooperative Extension as a farm adviser.

"Joe's first call was on my ranch, even before he was hired on. So I've had a long-standing relationship with Joe," he said.

Calling him a pioneer, Ferrari said Grant conducted walnut hedgerow research as well as numerous other studies on walnuts and cherries.

SJFB Executive Director Bruce Blodgett described Van Exel as a leader not just within the dairy industry but within agriculture as a whole.

"He's been someone who's been very visible and very effective on ag issues," Blodgett said. "If there's an issue in the county and the issue's affecting growers, he'll jump into it."

Joining the four are Henry "Skip" Foppiano, owner of Morada Produce and Morada Nut, and the late Robert Gerald Mondavi, who will be inducted posthumously.

A panel comprising past Hall of Fame inductees as well as members of the general public judged the Hall of Fame nominations based on a 100-point scale, said Timm Quinn, Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce special events/Leadership Stockton director. The chamber has presented the awards since 1986.

Broken down, nominations were evaluated on success in agriculture, maximum 40 points; contributions to agriculture through leadership and service, maximum 40 points; and contributions to the community outside of agriculture, maximum 20 points.

Each year, nominations are narrowed down to four inductees and one posthumous inductee based on total points awarded, he said. If the nominees act as a team, like Jack and Pati Hamm do, they are considered one nominee for the sake of judging, Quinn said.

Because of the quality of potential inductees, he said, "It's tough each year."

Joe Grant

Grant, who spent 30 years as a UC pomology farm adviser for San Joaquin County before retiring in 2016, said he was surprised by the "tremendous honor" of being named to the Ag Hall of Fame.

"If you look at the people who are being inducted this year and the list of people who have been inducted over the years, it's hard to imagine being included with people like that," Grant said.

He said the honor was particularly meaningful because he was nominated by SJFB. "The organizations have been working together for more than 100 years," Grant said. "Cooperative Extension wouldn't be here if it weren't for Farm Bureau. That means a lot to me. It's a real treat and honor."

He was referring to an old provision that required most of the farmers within a county to sign up as Farm Bureau members before the Cooperative Extension would allocate them a farm adviser.

Since Grant retired from his full-time post in July 2016, he has continued as an emeritus farm adviser, devoting a small amount of time to multi-year field trials still in the ground. He also continues to make farm calls as he did as a farm adviser.

"I'm not going to be replaced until next summer – we hope, with our fingers crossed," Grant said, referring to UC filling his former position. "So I'm also spending a fair amount of time doing farm calls. Farm calls were part of my job I liked the most and still enjoy."

During his tenure with Extension, Grant conducted numerous research projects with the producer in mind. He led efforts to develop pheromone-based mating disruption as a pesticide alternative to control codling moths in walnuts.

Among his long-term research were trials that evaluated new walnut and cherry rootstocks. Grant also collaborated on the development of plant growth regulators to synchronize bloom and advance fruit maturity, a technique used in nearly 75 percent of San Joaquin Valley cherry orchards today.

As a farm adviser, Grant served on the California Walnut Board Production Research Advisory Council, the Mid-Valley Apples Association, the California Cherry Growers and Industries Foundation, and on the California Alliance with Family Farmers.

Since his retirement, Grant works as the production research director for the California Walnut Board, a part-time position that involves managing the roughly $1.8 million production research program.

Jack and Pati Hamm

It may have been fate when Jack Hamm, a farm kid from Calexico, met Pati Lima, a third-generation dairy producer from Lodi, in a Cal Poly dairy science class. The two eventually married and took the helm of Pati father's operation, Lima Ranch, in 1992, after he passed away. Since then, the Hamms have successfully grown the dairy and accompanying forage production business, Lima-Hamm Farms.

At the same time, they were integrally involved in the dairy industry and agriculture, serving on numerous boards. Jack was SJFB president from 2013-2014 and is still on the SJFB Board. Pati former president of the SJFB Foundation for Agricultural Education and continues to serve on its board. At the same time, they have advocated on behalf of dairy and agriculture to the general public and lawmakers through a myriad other activities.

"We consider it very humbling and very prestigious," Pati said of being inducted. "We're very excited and very proud to be considered among the recipients of the Ag Hall of Fame."

The Hamms are strong believers in educating the public about the science and technology they use to produce forage crops and keep their cows healthy and happy.

"We do quite a few tours and advocate for dairy and ag in general," Pati said.

For at least five years, Jack has hosted a University of California, Davis, pre-veterinary animal science class at the dairy. "For some, this is the first time they've been on a dairy," Pati said. "So it's kind of interesting to see they're in the program but don't have any experience."

Over the years, the dairy also has received visitors from several countries, including Italy, Switzerland, New Zealand, England, Germany and Portugal, and it is an annual stop for participants in the Leadership Lodi program.

In addition, a tour of Lima Ranch is part of the SJFB's annual Ag in the Classroom program. Each year, about 30 teachers from the county spend four days learning about agriculture and how they can incorporate what they've learned into their lesson plans.

Pati also has been a 4-H leader for 25 years and was recognized for her volunteer efforts in 2006 with the Most Dedicated 4-H Leader Award. Jack was named the Lodi Agricultural Business Man of the Year by the Lodi Chamber of Commerce in 2007.

Both Jack and Pati have presented and been involved in the AgVenture Program since its inception.

Hank Van Exel

A dairy producer from Lodi, Van Exel also is known for his dairy judging skills as well as the much-sought-after genetics he has built within his dairy herd through selective breeding.

Van Exel is following in the footsteps of his father, a Dutch immigrant who started with 60 head of dairy cows near Lodi. Over the years, the younger Van Exel has grown the operation to about 3,400 head that includes 65 percent Holsteins and 35 percent Jerseys. He also has about 2,360 acres near Lodi on which he grows feed and forage.

While attending Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Van Exel was introduced to dairy judging, an exercise he excelled in and loved. Over the years, he has been invited to judge dairy shows nationally and worldwide, including ones in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, France, Mexico and Switzerland.

In 2015, Van Exel was named Dairyman of the Year at the World Dairy Expo in Wisconsin, an honor similar to being named the Most Valuable Player of the Dairy Super Bowl.

Within the dairy industry, Van Exel has served on the Western United Dairymen Board, the California State Producer Review Board, and also chaired the legislative affairs and national show committees for the Holstein Association USA.

A member of the SJFB Water Advisory Committee, Van Exel could be counted on to speak on behalf of agriculture, Blodgett said. "We saw his leadership, not only from the production side but also from the issue side of the equation," he said.

Van Exel, who also has been a Woodbridge Irrigation District board member for 15 years, brings with him the perspective of an ag businessman, said Andy Christensen, district general manager.

"He's been a great board member and an independent thinker," he said, adding Van Exel is a team player. "He always offers good alternatives to the board. He's got vision and prowess as a leader, and he's also a community leader. That's why he's sitting on the board because he's interested in keeping the water that his neighbors have and protecting their uses to the fullest extent."

Henry "Skip" Foppiano

The Foppiano family name has been synonymous with the county's agriculture since the Gold Rush days. Skip's great grandfather, Giovanni, settled in the Waterloo area, where he and his wife, Caterina, planted one of the state's first cherry orchards.

Skip was born in 1951. One of his first farming experiences involved renting an orchard at 18 years old ­— he was hooked. Skip bought his first cherry orchard in the 1970s. In addition, he rented ground on which he raised beans, cucumbers and alfalfa.

In the late 1980s, Skip decided to raise onions and bell peppers and field pack them until he was able to obtain a packing shed. He first rented a facility and then later built his own on Jack Tone Road.

Morada Produce was born in the 1990s, while later Skip tried his hand at growing asparagus in King Island in the Delta. By 2002, Morada Produce was growing and packing all of its own asparagus and cherries using state-of-the-art equipment. Today, the operation also grows peaches, bell peppers and onions not only in the Stockton-Linden area and the Delta but also south to Bakersfield.

Morada also was one of the first packinghouses to install high-speed computerized optical cherry sorting lines, increasing the efficiency of cherry packing while also improving pack-out and quality. Skip brought similar state-of-the-art technology to the walnut industry when he opened Morada Nut Co. in 2009.

Skip also has served on the California Cherry Board and the King Island Reclamation District.

Robert Mondavi

Considered by many to be one of the founding fathers of California wine, the late Mondavi helped put not only Napa and Sonoma winegrape-production regions on the map but also the Lodi-Woodbridge region. He actually got his start in the agricultural packing business in Lodi, a little-known fact.

Born in Virginia in 1913, Robert and his family moved to Lodi, where his father, Cesare, ran the successful C. Mondavi & Sons fruit-packing business. They shipped grapes back East primarily for home winemakers.

After graduating Stanford with a degree in business and economics, the younger Mondavi went on to promote wines from a varietal standpoint rather than generically. In 1966, he and his sons, Tim and Michael, opened Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa, one of the first post-Prohibition large wineries in the area. In 1979, he built Mondavi Woodbridge Winery. Both wineries were sold in 2004 to Constellation Brands, which continues to operate them.

In 2001, Mondavi donated $10 million to help build the Robert and Magrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts in Davis. He also donated $25 million to help establish the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science at the University of California, Davis.