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Jul 14, 2022
Western Growers to honor California’s John Harris

Western Growers will honor California agricultural icon John Harris with its 2022 Award of Honor.

The Award of Honor is Western Growers’ highest recognition of achievement and is given to individuals who have contributed extensively to the agricultural community.

John Harris

With more than 50 years of experience in ranching, farming, hospitality and thoroughbred horse racing, Harris embodies the diversity of California agribusiness. The Harris Farms Group includes Harris Fresh and the Harris Farms Thoroughbred Division, in addition to the landmark property known to all Californians on the I-5.

“Like his iconic Harris Ranch Inn & Restaurant, which stands as an oasis alongside a remote stretch of road, John is a pillar in California agriculture and the broader Western fresh produce industry,” Western Growers President and CEO Dave Puglia said in a news release. “It is safe to say that no one in this industry is more recognized and admired, and not just among his peers but also by community and political leaders throughout California.”

Puglia said Harris’ vision can be seen in all of his enterprises, from ranching and farming businesses to champion horse racing operations. Harris Farms’ main vegetable crop is onions; others include garlic and processing tomatoes.

“Beyond his business endeavors, John is a powerful voice for farmers in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., and has dedicated his life’s work to the advancement of California agriculture and the rural communities our industry supports,” Puglia said in the release. “John is most deserving of the Western Growers Award of Honor and we are excited to present him with our highest recognition at our annual meeting in November.”

“I was very flattered to be recognized by my peers,” Harris said in the release. “I was pleased and proud that they felt like I deserved it.”

Harris grew up in a farm family whose operations in California extend back more than a century. He graduated with a degree in agricultural production from the University of California-Davis and then served two years in the U.S. Army. Besides his tenure as CEO and sole shareholder of Harris Farms and his 11 years on the Western Growers board of directors, Harris served five terms as president of the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association. The Harris Farms Thoroughbred Division produced California Chrome, the winner of the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

“I’ve been involved with John not only in horses, but in many agricultural enterprises,” said Don Valpredo, president of Donald Valpredo Farming and horse racing legend. “He’s a tireless worker – he uncovers every stone … he’s about as involved and as fair in everything that he does of anyone I’ve ever been involved with.”

The Award of Honor will join numerous other significant awards Harris has received. In 1988 he was named Livestock Man of the Year by his peers, and in 2014 he received the Agriculturalist of the Year award from the Fresno Chamber of Commerce. He received an honorary degree of Doctor of Science from the California State University at Fresno in 2019.

Harris’ achievements will be celebrated at the Award of Honor Dinner Gala at the Western Growers 2022 Annual Meeting at the Venetian Resort Hotel in Las Vegas. For registration and information about the event, Nov. 2-5, visit wgannualmeeting.com or contact Kim Sherman, Western Growers assistant vice president of membership, at [email protected].

—Western Growers

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