Local agriculture leaders lauded at Mid-State Fair

tstrickland@thetribunenews.comJuly 18, 2013 

Three local residents took home top industry honors Thursday during Cattlemen and Farmers’ Day at the California Mid-State Fair.

The San Luis Obispo County Cattlemen's Association named Kevin Kester as Cattleman of the Year and Lorraine Clark as Cattlewoman of the Year. At the same event, Dr. Joe Sabol was named Agriculturalist of the Year by the San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau.

Kester, a Cal Poly graduate, is a breeder with deep roots in the local beef industry. Born and raised on a ranch in the Parkfield area, he and his wife of 30 years, June, started an Angus-based commercial cow herd, according to a news release. Their focus on genetics has resulted in recognition of the Kesters as being top local breeders at the Mid-State and Salinas Valley fairs, officials said. The couple has been operating the family ranch for the past 25 years with their three children. Kevin Kester has also served in leadership roles for several ranching organizations such as the California Cattlemen’s Association and its Wildlife Management Committee and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. He is a founding board member of the fair’s Heritage Foundation and is past chair of the board.

Clark, another Cal Poly graduate, raises hay and cattle in Creston with her husband, Don, and their two children. She is best known for bringing the interactive agriculture learning event, Great AGventure, to fourth-graders countywide. Since its inception in 2003, the event, originally funded by a state grant, has served more than 13,000 local fourth-grade students in San Luis Obispo County. It’s continued in recent years through local sponsors. Clark has served with the Cattlewomen Association since 1999. She’s helped with field trips, highway cleanup, scholarships and served as Beef Promotion Chair. When asked what her hobbies are, Clark said in a statement: “My kids!, gardening, riding horses, hiking, camping, fishing, drinking coffee, eating chocolate and just hanging out with the animals!”

Sabol, a retired Cal Poly educator and department head, is credited with helping “shape the curriculum for what is widely recognized as the premiere agricultural leadership program in the nation” in the university’s Agriculture Leadership Program, according to a San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau statement. He lives in San Luis Obispo with his wife, Jill. Sabol started at Cal Poly in 1972, after teaching at high school and community college, and retired in 2002. Over the years there, he served as department head of Cal Poly’s agricultural education and communication department as well as the associate dean and interim dean of the College of Agriculture, according to a news release. Sabol also helped to establish the Cal Poly Agriculture Ambassadors in 1989 and created the National Agriculture Ambassador Conference held annually at Cal Poly. Sabol has since volunteered in the community by hosting talks on grafting apple trees, speaking at garden clubs and showing award-winning dahlias with his wife at the fair.

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