San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation

By Craig W. Anderson

Bruce Mettler, former San Joaquin Farm Bureau president, California Farm Bureau Federation board member and a leader in the agriculture community, has died in Lodi at age 72.

“Bruce was a tremendous leader in Farm Bureau, agriculture and the community at large,” said SJFB Executive Director Bruce Blodgett,. “He was generous to many causes in and out of ag. His passing was a sad day for all of us.”

Lodi native

A Lodi native born in 1945 into an agricultural family of Lodi farmers since 1916, Mettler decided on a career in ag by his upbringing in a farming family and as an FFA member at Lodi High School. He was an FFA member throughout his high school career and graduated in 1962 as the chapter president. He was awarded the California Bankers Association Certificate of Merit as Lodi FFA’s outstanding member.

Education, Army and war

Following his graduation from Lodi High School, he attended California State University, Davis and earned his bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics in 1966. After college he enlisted in the Army, serving from 1967 to 1970, was a First Lieutenant and fought in the Vietnam War.

When he returned home from the service, he married his late wife Barbara Del Haskell in 1970 and over their 25 years together, raised two children, daughter Blair and son Eric.

Grape grower, active in ag education

A third-generation farmer, Mettler farmed wine grapes and joined the board of the SJFB in 1978 where he served as president from 1989-1991. While on the board he assisted in creating the annual Media Night event and helped start the SJFB Foundation for Agricultural Education.

“Bruce was a driving force for the Foundation’s creation and continued operation,” said SJFB member and past president Paul Sanguinetti. “He was forward thinking, not afraid to get involved in issues and whatever he did was for the good of ag.”

Mettler’s farming success came from his innate ability to read the market and adjust his operation to meet the industry’s needs and to ensure efficiency. With trial and error and research through the years, Mettler was able to flourish in the wine grape industry.

Hard worker, in Ag Hall of Fame

Sanguinetti summed up Mettler’s influence: “He didn’t just sit on a board or committee, he worked, hard on the issues. You could count on Bruce. When he said he’d do it, it got done.”

Mettler was inducted into the San Joaquin County Agricultural Hall of Fame in recognition of his dedication to agriculture.

“Bruce’s actions spoke louder than words,” Blodgett said. “People paid attention to what he said and what he did.”

Active at state level

His ag interests extended to the state level as he served on the CFBF Board of Directors from 1994 to 2000 representing San Joaquin and Calaveras counties.

Former CFBF President Paul Wenger said Mettler was “a man dedicated to his family, community and agriculture” and that it “was a privilege to serve on the CFBF board with Bruce where I witnessed firsthand his generosity in supporting many Farm Bureau efforts, from scholarship and ag education to political action.”

Always active in ag

During his agricultural career, Mettler became a member of the Lodi Young Farmers & Ranchers from 1970 to 1993, serving as president in 1975. He was regional president in 1977 and state treasurer in 1978. His service in Lodi YF&R exemplified the dedication he brought to the organizations in which he participated.

“Bruce was part of our Farm Bureau, agricultural and community families at the local and state levels,” said SJFB President Jim Ferrari. “He was always there for us. Now, it’s hard because he was someone we were used to looking up to, and now he’s gone.”

Active everywhere

Mettler’s service was wide-ranging as he participated in a great many organizations, including Lodi Grape Growers, Northern California Fruit Co., Lodi Grape Festival, California Future Farmers of America Foundation, San Joaquin Partnership and Business Council, San Joaquin Council of Governments Habitat Conservation Plan and Policy Committee, Tokay High School Ag Advisory Committee and Lodi Young Farmers. 

He was also involved in the Lodi Memorial Hospital, American Legion and the San Joaquin Historical Society and was active in Lodi’s Zion Reformed Church.

“A great leader, Bruce was a very good person, well liked and you could count on him,” Sanguinetti said. “He was a great leader and there was never an issue about the choices he made. He will be missed.”

Wife honored

After the passing of his wife Barbara he started the Barbara Mettler Memorial Scholarship in her memory, which presents thousands of dollar in scholarships annually to students with a passion to pursue a career in ag.

“Barbara’s death really hurt him,” Sanguinetti said, “Then his parents passed and he had cancer, weathered the chemo but the cancer came back. Not once did he ever complain. The realization that we’ve lost a great asset and a great friend has hit us.”

Bruce Mettler is survived by children Blair Mettler and Eric Mettler, three grandchildren, a sister and a brother-in-law.

Memorial contributions may be sent to Zion Lutheran Church, 105 S. Ham Lane, Lodi, CA 95242; Lodi House, 801 S. Washington, Lodi, CA 95240; and Pregnancy Resource Center of Lodi, 942 E. Pine St., Lodi, CA 95240.