Lemoore Chamber honors Esajian, Golden State Farm Credit and Tony DeGroot at annual Ag Banquet

The Lemoore Chamber of Commerce announced Thursday that longtime farmer Gary Esajian, Golden State Farm Credit, and the late Tony DeGroot will be this year’s honorees at the 22nd Annual Jack Stone-Kings County Salute to Agriculture Banquet.

The Lemoore Chamber will host the event on Friday, September 9, 2016, at the Fialho Family Hangar in Lemoore. Esajian will be honored as the 2016 Agriculturalist of the Year. The Ag Supporter of the Year will be presented to Golden State Farm Credit, and the family of the late Tony DeGroot will receive a posthumous Lifetime Commitment to Kings County Agriculture Award.

Esajian is one of many proud Agricultural success stories in Kings County. He is a third generation farmer, starting with 80 acres in Western Kings County.

“His family farming operation has steadily grown to one of the most productive farming operations in Kings County, if not all of California,” says past honoree Craig Pedersen. “It continues to be a leader in shared research and development of many commodity and technology advancements that have benefitted California agriculture and beyond. His many years of thoughtful, strategic study of water in California, and more importantly, the impacts to Kings and Fresno County, continue to benefit his peers every day.”

Gary has also served on the Westland’s Water District Board of Directors since 2013, and he has been quietly and unassumingly giving back to Kings County Ag for decades.

Golden State Farm Credit has been lending to farmers, ranchers, forest product businesses, young beginning farmers, part-time farmers, and agribusiness for 90 years – in good times and bad. The local credit agency is the top financial service provider for the Central California agricultural industry and is part of the Farm Credit System, the largest single provider of Agricultural credit in America. Local branch manager, Michael Rico, has also done a tremendous amount to help Kings County agriculture thrive.

The selection committee, made up of prior honorees, also made a unanimous decision to honor the late Tony DeGroot with a, “Lifetime Commitment to Kings County Agriculture Award.” Supporters of his selection say his untimely passing left a hole in our county’s ag industry that has been deeply felt by our community.

 At the age of 80, the longtime dairy farmer passed away in a plane accident while on a fishing trip in Alaska, doing what he loved.

The youngest of 11 siblings, DeGroot was raised in Bennekom, the Netherlands. During WW II, his family was involved with the Dutch Resistance, and he was impressed with the bravery of the American soldiers. At the age of 21, he decided to immigrate to the United States. He and his fiancée, Betty, were married May 15, 1957 in Hollandale, Minnesota. They moved to Southern California in 1959 and five years later they began what is now a successful dairy farm operation in the Central Valley.

In addition to honoring this year’s Agriculturalist, Ag Supporter, and Lifetime Commitment Award, the evening will include a hosted social, hors d’oeuvres and dinner. Socializing begins at 6 p.m. and dinner will be served at 7 p.m., followed by the awards program at 8 p.m.

Sponsorship opportunities and reservations to decorate tables are being accepted.  Inquiries and reservations for the event may be made by calling the Lemoore Chamber at 559-924-6401. Paid reservations received by August 26 are $75 each or a table for 8 for $500. Reservations made after August 26 will be $85 per person. Tickets will not be available at the door.

For more information about the event, please contact Brenda Martin at 559-924-6401, or via email at events@lemoorechamber.org

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