John Boelts was named Farmer of the Year for his “tireless efforts” with the media during the e-coli outbreak and other agriculture issues.

The Yuma County Farm Bureau recognized community members for their service to agriculture during a Wednesday dinner and awards ceremony. Awards went to individuals who have promoted, served and dedicated themselves to farming and the farm bureau

FARMER OF THE YEAR

Boelts, a partner in Desert Premium Farms, which grows winter vegetables as well as a variety of summer crops, was selected by members as this year’s Farmer of the Year Award to recognize his “tireless efforts” in educating the public about issues, concerns and misconceptions surrounding the industry.

He has traveled across the country and done hundreds of media interviews. He has been on news channels in Yuma, Tucson, Phoenix, as well as CBS and CNBC. Last year he was a guest on the Dr. Oz show, where he did an outstanding job representing the fresh vegetable industry.

In addition to his work in educating the public about ag issues and growing food for the nation and beyond, Boelts has been very active in serving Arizona agriculture. He was appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey to serve on the Arizona Department of Agriculture Advisory Board.

He has served as the county bureau’s president twice, served as second vice president from 2013 to 2017, and he is currently the Arizona Farm Bureau’s first vice president. 

He serves as chairman of the AZFB Food Safety Issue Advisory Committee. He is also a graduate of the American Farm Bureau’s PALS program and a member of the Grassroots Outreach team.

In accepting the award, Boelts noted that he had been able to accomplish his work due to the support of the members of the bureau at the county, state and national levels. He expressed appreciation for the ongoing training, advice, stewardship and encouragement he has received.

HERITAGE AWARD 

Love is what led Rick Dinsmore into agriculture. He was the recipient of the Heritage Award for his long-standing service to agriculture.

He was born in Panama City, Florida, to Carl and Nellie Dinsmore. His father was in the Air Force at the time and eventually they moved to Yuma to be closer to Nellie’s family. Dinsmore attended Arizona Western College and then went on to pursue his bachelor’s degree in education at the University of Arizona.

Shortly before graduating, he met the love of his life, Karen Williams Dinsmore, Karen was the daughter of a second-generation Yuma farmer, Burnis Williams. Dinsmore completed his student teaching but was offered additional work on the Williams’ farm. And that is where Rick’s love for farming began.

“Since then he has worked tirelessly to farm and learn about agriculture,” his son Jon said in presenting the award to his father. “He has become a student of the ground and the processes involved with raising a crop. He also sees the spiritual aspect to farming. We’ve joked that sometimes it is a little too relatable to our lives that the best way to grow a crop is to sometimes ‘stress’ it a little bit before giving it water. That stress will make the crop grow bigger, better.” 

In addition to working the family farm, and on many other community and industry boards, he has served 29 years on the Yuma County Water Users Board and is currently vice president.

He has also served 21 years so far on the Yuma Hospital District Board and has been a very involved member in the community through coaching and sponsorships of sports teams and community activities. And he is an enthusiastic student of the viola, even helping encourage that love of music in his grandchildren.

“No matter how stressful or busy his day is, he will stop and genuinely listen to those who need someone to talk to, be it about farming or life. He has a very kind heart and believes that he was given much grace by God and tries to give grace to those around him,” Jon said.

“While he will always be a farmer, agriculture has taken a back seat to the love he has for his seven grandchildren. If he could spend time doing anything, it would be spending time with those seven kiddos. We know that he will feel undeserving of this Farm Bureau Heritage award, but we are privileged and grateful that the board has chosen to honor our favorite farmer,” he added.

In accepting the award, Dinsmore said that he felt “overwhelmed.” He recalled that he knew nothing about farming, but he asked his father-in-law to teach him. Mr. Williams put him in charge of a whole cotton field, and Dinsmore joked that he couldn’t tell the difference between weeds and cotton.

“That was a few years ago,” he quipped.

ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP AWARD

The Environmental Stewardship Award went to Vicki Scott, who was unable to attend the ceremony. Boelts accepted the award for her, noting that she has a long history of working in areas related to environmental stewardship.

“Scott has continually strived to help the produce industry with the leafy greens standards,” Boelts said, adding, “While Vicki may prefer to work quietly, her work and dedication has been instrumental in helping advance food safety standards, which has benefited the industry and public.”

He pointed out that when the E. coli outbreak occurred in 2018, Vicki was at the forefront working with university staff, staff and federal officials, and local producers to help identify the cause and develop new food safety metrics.”

She also collaborated with Yuma Safe Produce Council leaders to develop a Food Safety Pledge.

For 18 years, she worked for the City of Yuma’s Utility Division Laboratory. As a chemist and laboratory director, she supervised and performed process control and compliance analyses of drinking water, wastewater and surface water for the city’s treatment facilities. She is a registered safety officer with the International Board of Environmental Health and Safety.

For her work with water systems analyses, Scott has been presented three awards by the Water Environmental Federation, and in 2004, she received an Outstanding Service Awards by the Arizona Water and Pollution Control Association.

In 1999, Scott moved onto the Amigo Farms, where she was the director of quality assurance. From 2002 to 2004, Scott served on the Yuma County Farm Bureau Board. And since 2014, she has been a board member of the Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association.

In 2007, her experience and knowledge in food safety led her to serve as an elected member of the Arizona Leafy Marketing Committee. “There she was the driving force behind the development of the successful and well-received leafy Greens Marketing Committee training manual,” Boelts said.

Scott also chairs the technical Subcommittee, which is responsible for reviewing and updating food safety metrics. She has also been a leader and spokesperson for the Yuma Safe Produce Council. She recently took on a new role as the technical assistant for the Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement.

DISTINGUISHED SERVICE TO AG AWARD 

The Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award went to Luis Sanchez. The award was presented by Rob Nickerson, a farmer in Dome Valley, who noted that most farmers have known “Louie” since they were kids. His very first memory of Sanchez is of him pouring ditches behind Nickerson’s home.

“He’s a good friend of mine. I’ve always loved him,” Nickerson said.

Sanchez was born and raised in Michoacán, Mexico. He migrated to the United States in the 1950s and started working as a ditch-rider for Freddy Crabtree in the early 1960s at Valley Ditch Lining.

“It was there where he acquired the experience to do the work that he has devoted his life to,” Nickerson said. “Louie’s passion led him to start his own company, and for over 60 years, is blessed and fortunate to be able to continue to help the local farmers of the Yuma community.”

After the Gila River flood of 1993, Sanchez worked to restore Wellton Mohawk Canals that were damaged by the flood. He worked at Valley Ditch Lining for almost 30 years and then started his own company Valley Concrete Linings.

“He used to pour a ditch a week for every week of the year in Yuma County,” Nickerson noted. “He finished a ditch yesterday.”

Nickerson added: “He and his crews are a big part of the success of Yuma ag, true unsung heroes. We take ditches for granted because of Luis and his crews’ great work.”

SERVICE TO AGRICULTURE AWARD

James “Jimmy” Reinertson received the Service to Agriculture Award for42 years spent serving the ag industry in Yuma County, mainly in the capacity of county executive director for the USDA Farm Service Agency.

“But his service didn’t start or end there,” said David Sharp, president of the county bureau.

Reinertson began doing field measurements while still in high school in 1976 when the agency was still called Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service.

“After a one-year break to work for the Barkley Company, James came back to work for the federal federal government and never left,” Sharp said.

Reinertson worked as a program technician from 1980 to 1986 when he became county executive director for Yuma and La Paz counties. 

During his tenure, Sharp said, Reinertson administered several farm bills, numerous programs, worked “countless” hours reestablishing farm lands after floods and is the expert in payment limitation.

He was always available to the producers of Yuma County in any capacity needed. “James was a hands-on county executive director. He continued to complete field measurements and in-field spot checks and appraisals,’ Sharp said. “James was and still is a wealth of knowledge about agriculture in Yuma county and the relationship between the farmers and the federal government programs. He has been an incredible mentor to many and although he is retired, he never turns away an opportunity to help.”

MEDIA AWARD

The Media Award went to Madison Kimbro, who joined the KYMA team in September 2016 and worked as a reporter for KYMA and then anchored the FOX9 weeknight broadcasts.

Kimbro was not on hand to accept the award since she recently took a new job in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Paul Brierley, executive director of the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture, accepted the award for Kimbro, who was born and raised in Santa Monica, California. She then moved with her family to Chapel Hill, North Carolina and attended the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in media studies.

During her time in Yuma, Brierley said, “Madison sought me out for stories on E. coli, industrial hemp, and the effects of monsoon weather on agriculture. Even more importantly, she sent several new reporters my way, most notably Caitlin Slater, who won this award last year, to report on agriculture stories.”

He explained that Slater started the Homegrown series, where she highlighted an agriculture story each week. That show continues today with Arianna Shell, “who was also introduced to us by Madison,” he noted.

“Although Madison could not be here with us tonight, she is very grateful and humbled to receive this award. Her advocacy for Arizona agriculture will continue at hew new location in Virginia,” Brierley said.

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