2019 Agriculturalist of the Year named

California State Fair

California State Fair Board of Directors selects Karen Ross, CDFA Secretary

In celebrating the tradition and innovation of the State’s number one industry, agriculture, the California State Fair Board of Directors, upon the recommendation of the Agricultural Advisory Council, selects Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) as Agriculturalist of the Year.



The Agriculturalist of the Year award is presented to an individual who has contributed extensively, in a professional capacity, to California’s agricultural industry. Award criteria stipulates this individual must have demonstrated leadership and clearly represented the industry over a number of years in one or more of the following areas: finance, government, production agriculture, education, labor, research, communications, trade and public service. Through her passion and advocacy for farmers and ranchers, Secretary Ross is held in high regards by industry leaders and her peers.

“There is a wealth of education and real-world experience to be learned on a farm, like the one where I grew up. Every day is a reminder of that when I meet with farmers and ranchers, speak to a group of FFA and 4-H students, or attend a fair. I count myself fortunate to have lived this experience, as so many past recipients of this award have done – and that list is humbling. One of the greatest blessings in my life is to serve the people of California and its great innovators: our farmers and ranchers – the stewards of our land. It is a true labor of love and I am honored and grateful to the California State Fair Board for this recognition.”

Initially appointed as Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture in 2011 by former Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Ross was re-appointed on January 9, 2019 by Governor Gavin Newsom. Governor Newsom cited her unmatched leadership experience in agricultural issues nationally, internationally, and here in California; including environmental stewardship, climate change adaptation, and trade.

During Secretary Ross’ tenure, the Department has focused on core functions to protect and promote California agriculture, investing in the Department’s employees to provide the best service to farmers, ranchers and consumers and fostering an agricultural industry that embraces its role as a global leader on everything from the most technical aspects of farming to the broadest environmental imperatives.

Secretary Ross has strengthened partnerships across government, academia and the non-profit sector in the drive to maintain and improve environmental stewardship and to develop adaptation strategies for the specific impacts of climate change. She has initiated programs to provide greater opportunities for farmers and ranchers to engage in sustainable environmental stewardship practices through water conservation, energy efficiency, nutrient management, and ecosystem services; and she has worked to provide greater access to farm-fresh foods at school cafeterias through CDFA’s Farm to Fork Program.

Secretary Ross is passionate about fostering the reconnection of consumers to the land and the people who produce their food, and improving the access of all California citizens to healthy, nutritious California-grown agricultural products, celebrated for their diversity and abundance in serving local, national and global markets.

Secretary Ross grew up as a 4-H kid on a farm in western Nebraska. She and her husband, Barry, own 800 acres of the family farm where her younger brother, a fourth-generation farmer, grows no-till wheat and feed grains, incorporating cover crops and rotational grazing for beef production. The Secretary has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is a graduate of the Nebraska Ag Leadership Program. She has served on numerous boards and committees in California agriculture and with various academic institutions.

Secretary Ross will be publically recognized at the California Agriculture Day on the west steps of the State Capitol on Wednesday, March 20, 2019. She will formally be honored at the California State Fair Gala benefitting the youth scholarship programs of the Friends of the California State Fair on Thursday, June 27, 2019. Those interested in attending and honoring Secretary Ross can purchase tickets here.

The California State Fair is an international award-winning fair, receiving top honors at the International Association of Fairs and Expositions out of more than 1,100 fairs world-wide. The California State Fair is dedicated as a place to celebrate the best the state has to offer in agriculture, technology and the diversity of its people, traditions and trends that shape the Golden State’s future. Join us July 12-28 for the 166th California State Fair.

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