Agriculturalists from Fresno and San Diego Counties win Young Farmer and Rancher awards

A Fresno County couple who expanded their agritourism business during the pandemic and a vintner who has worked to raise the profile of San Diego County wines have earned awards for achievement and excellence among young farmers and ranchers in California. The awards were announced today during the 102nd California Farm Bureau Annual Meeting.

Nick and Kimberly Rocca of Fresno received the Young Farmers and Ranchers Achievement Award, which recognizes accomplishments in production agriculture and leadership activity.

Alysha Stehly of Valley Center received the Excellence in Agriculture Award, presented to young agricultural professionals who contribute through involvement in agriculture, leadership activities and Farm Bureau.

A fourth-generation farmer, Nick Rocca works as operations manager at the family farm, Rocca Ranches, growing raisin grapes and almonds, and as an equipment specialist for Sun Pacific Farming. He and Kimberly own and operate a pumpkin patch, Dakota Acres, which they decided to rebrand after the COVID-19 pandemic by delivering pumpkins and offering customized home-decoration packages featuring pumpkins.

Nick Rocca serves as secretary on the Fresno County Farm Bureau Board of Directors and as co-chair of the Fresno-Madera YF&R chapter, which this year has distributed more than half a million meals to families who have faced food shortages during the pandemic.

Stehly co-owns Vesper Vineyards, which buys locally grown grapes to showcase the different microclimates of San Diego County, and works as winemaker for her parents’ winery, Stehleon Vineyards. Active in nonprofit organizations that promote agricultural education, school gardens and local farm products, she also serves on the San Diego County Farm Bureau Board of Directors, as chair of the county YF&R committee and represents Imperial and San Diego counties on the state YF&R committee.

Asked to discuss three important issues facing agriculture, Stehly cited the needs to reduce burdensome government regulation, to address ongoing employee shortages through reform of immigration policy, and to build consumer trust, urging fellow farmers and ranchers to join her in being “an active player in the social media world by sharing stories, the reality and the ups and downs of agriculture.”

As winners of their respective awards, the Roccas and Stehly each earned a $4,000 cash prize sponsored by Farm Credit. The Roccas also earned 250 hours’ use of a Kubota tractor, furnished by Kubota Tractor Corp.

The winners will represent California in national competitions to be held next month during the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention.


The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of nearly 32,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of more than 5.5 million Farm Bureau members.

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