San Diego County Farm Bureau annually recognizes special people who support San Diego farming in unique ways.
2018 Farmer of the Year
Awarded to an active or retired farmer who has had a positive impact on our industry, is active in the community beyond agriculture, and has represented “a real farmer” at media events and public hearings to back up the farming cause.
John Burr offers an incredible story of dedication, success and joy for agriculture and technology. John comes from a family with ties to horticulture from the 1800’s and a significant part of the California and Florida Citrus industry was developed on trees from the original Burr family nursery in the San Fernando Valley. The Burr families have been Farm Bureau members from the beginning of the organization’s formation and John was born and raised on the Burr Ranch in Lindsay, CA, working in the family citrus business through college. He attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, majoring in Ag Business, and his first job was managing a 1500-acre citrus enterprise. He was then recruited by Ciba-Geigy Chemical AG for the sales of agro-chemicals. In this position, John partnered with UC Davis to evaluate the Ciba-Geigy enzyme on the basis that it would not cause browning or discoloration of wine. The trial was successful and as a result, most wineries today apply enzymes in their process.
John was then hired away by Novo, a Danish company that is the largest producer of enzymes globally. Since Novo’s corporate headquarters were in Copenhagen, John relocated to Connecticut, with frequent trips to Denmark for meetings with research and development. Novo had just developed and was in the process of introducing a unique enzyme system for making high fructose corn syrup, a landmark product as a lower cost alternative to sucrose. In addition, enzymes were being developed by Novo into the fuel ethanol, detergents, dairy, brewing and a multiplicity of other industries. One that was particularly interesting is that Novo had the enzyme necessary for producing a lower calorie beer. During his work, John went to the Coors Brewery and presented the enzyme formula for making light beer on a napkin while having coffee with their researcher. Today, the product is known as Coors Light.
Next, John’s career took him to San Francisco as the VP for Worldwide Sales and Marketing for Genencor, Inc. Genencor’s revolutionary approach to industrial enzymology was to apply the newly-discovered genetic engineering techniques to the microorganisms used in the production of fermentation. By the mid 1990’s, John returned to his roots in agriculture by purchasing the JH Thomas Company in the Sacramento Delta, a growing operation of 300 acres of pears and field crops. John was then recruited by Agra-Quest to serve as a founding board member. One of the first products produced by Agra-Quest was Serenade, which is used on pruning cuts as an effective repellant to the shot-hole borer. John was also involved in the start-up company Precision Farming Enterprises Inc., which focused on newly evolving technologies for agriculture like those derived from satellite-imagery and the GPS. Because of his precision farming systems experience, John was then recruited by Boeing to become CEO of their Denver based consortium Resource21, LLC. Boeing and partners were interested in commercializing satellite remote sensing for agriculture and the environment and the use of remote sensing to measure crop yields, soil variability, crop vigor, pest and disease detection.
By 2001, John’s prior expertise in industrial enzymes and biotech brought him to the position of CEO of Innovase, LLC. This new position meant a move to live in San Diego. Around this same time, John also took over care of the original Burr Family Ranch in Lindsay, raising oranges and olives and utilizing the new technologies he developed. John eventually left the corporate world to focus on new ventures and startups, such as Vision Robotics. In this role, he helped the venture obtain significant grant funding from the Citrus Research Board for developing a robotic harvesting system for citrus and assisted them in developing a commercialized, highly successful, robotic lettuce thinner and wine grape pruner.
John ended up purchasing the Wylie Home and restoring the ranch adobe, with the surrounding avocado grove leased by Mission and farmed by Chuck Bandy with McMillan. Eventually, John and family took over farming the grove and what started as a few acres evolved into 40 acres, a significant portion of which was high-density planting. John continues to work his avocado ranch today. He served on the Avocado Commission for two years; the Production Research Committee for six years; and is co-founder and Board President for the San Diego Irrigated Lands Group. John personal and professional contributions have contributed a wealth of experience and knowledge to the agricultural industry and SDCFB has benefitted greatly from his active involvement in our organization.
Friend of Agriculture
Bestowed upon the person who has made significant contributions to the well-being of agriculture in San Diego County and is held in high esteem by members of the agriculture community.
For farming to succeed it takes more than farmers. Each year San Diego County Farm Bureau presents its Friend of Agriculture Award to a non-farmer who has made a significant contribution to the well-being of agriculture and is held in high-esteem by the agriculture community.
As the Chief National Weather Service Meteorologist, Wilbur Shigehara was the person farmers in San Diego County relied on to know whether they could skip an upcoming irrigation or, more importantly, be prepared for a damaging frost event. Wilbur was presented the Friend of Agriculture award for his work over the years and for never forgetting that farmers aren’t just curious about the weather, they live in it.
Presented to a Farm Bureau member who has made an extraordinary volunteer contribution to or on behalf of the organization to the benefit of all members.
As an organization that depends on volunteers, Farm Bureau is lucky to have members who step up whenever there is a project that requires significant dedication. The San Diego County Farm Bureau Service Award was established to recognize those members who make an extraordinary contribution that benefits all members.
In 2008 a decision was made that San Diego County Farm Bureau should take on the task of providing our members with a realistic pathway for complying with the state’s regulations for agricultural runoff. Charley Wolk stepped up and led in the formation and leadership of the San Diego Regional Irrigated Lands Group.
The Farm Bureau Service Award was presented to Charley for his nine years leading the San Diego Regional Irrigated Lands Group, which has been an unqualified success.
San Diego Grown 365 Award
Presented to an individual that personifies the connection between locally produced farm products and the members of the San Diego County community.
Several years ago when the San Diego Grown 365 brand was created, it was agreed that an annual award should be established that recognized individuals or institutions that do extraordinary work in promoting locally grown products. One of the selection criteria for the award is “Facilitating the sales of locally produced products in the San Diego Region.”
When you walk into a Jimbo’s store and go to the produce section you will see a great selection of just about everything that is commercially grown locally with the name of the local farm prominently displayed by their fruits and vegetables along with the mileage from the store to the location of the farm.
Jimbo was presented with the San Diego Grown 365 Award for his commitment to the sales of locally grown farm products.