Business

Three SLO County agriculture leaders honored by their peers

Hugh Pitts has been named the 2016 Agriculturalist of the Year. He was honored Thursday at the California Mid-State Fair.
Hugh Pitts has been named the 2016 Agriculturalist of the Year. He was honored Thursday at the California Mid-State Fair.

Three leaders in San Luis Obispo’s agricultural industry were honored Thursday at the California Mid-State Fair.

Hugh Pitts was named 2016 Agriculturalist of the Year, Susan Cochrane was named 2016 Cattlewoman of the Year and Steve Johns was named 2016 Cattleman of the Year.

Pitts, highly regarded by his peers, was honored by the San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau for his work to improve agriculture as a whole.

Pitts and his wife, Leslie, live on Chimney Rock Ranch in the Adelaida area, where they raise commercial Charolais Cross and English Cross cattle. He also sells real estate.

“Hugh leads by example and is a true role model for the award,” according to the Farm Bureau. “It’s widely known that when he says he will do something, he does it.”

The San Luis Obispo County Cattlewomen’s Association honored Cochrane for her decadeslong dedication and leadership in promoting and protecting the beef industry.

She and her husband, Bill, are full-time ranchers on their property at the east end of Pozo Road, where they run a herd of stockers — young cattle raised specifically for feedlots. Cochrane said ranch work is her relaxation, along with gardening, dancing and trail riding.

“Susan Cochrane is a San Luis Obispo County native who grew up on a ranch along the western edge of the Carrisa Plains,” according to the Cattlewomen’s Association. “She is a descendant of a pioneering family that settled in the area in 1862, including Col. Albert Stone, who guided wagon trains to settle the West.”

The San Luis Obispo County Cattlemen’s Association honored Johns for his dedication to water issues, attending countless meetings throughout the state and protecting property and water rights.

For the past 20 years, Johns has headed the Estrella Ranch cattle operation in Shandon, working for the late George Hearst and now his son, Steve Hearst. He has been married to his wife, Becky, for 39 years.

“Johns has always kept up with the latest cattle health programs and continually improving the herd’s genetics,” according to the Cattlemen’s Association.

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