Farmer of The Year
Jim Kuhn Memorial Farmer of the Year Award
In 2005, the Imperial County agriculture community
suffered a tremendous loss with the untimely death of local farmer
Jim had a passion for his family, community and farm, a love for
the Imperial Valley, zest for life, and was always encouraging
Imperial County Farm Bureau memorialized Jim with the Jim Kuhn
Memorial Farmer of the Year Award to encourage other farmers to
follow in Jim's footsteps by being leaders in the agriculture
The award is presented in October each year at our annual meeting of the members.
The first recipients of the award were Jim and Heidi Kuhn.
Recipients are selected for their contribution to the agriculture industry through innovation, promotion of agricultural education, involvement in the agriculture community, as well as their overall involvement and contribution to our community as a whole.
Born to William A. and Gertrude Cecelig Staub Brandenberg on October 10, 1950, Bill Brandenberg is the third generation of the Brandenberg family in the Imperial Valley.
His grandfather settled in this area in 1901 and ran cattle on the C & M Ranch in the Mexicali Valley before any farm ground had been cultivated in the area. He was seen as one of the most substantial and progressive ranchers of Imperial County.
Bill’s father also started in the feedlot business in 1952 and also was involved in other crop farming in the area.
After graduating from Calexico High School, Bill attended Imperial Valley College for two years. Since his physical education units did not count for graduation, he didn’t receive his associate's degree, which caused his father some angst, since he was a member of the School Board at IVC at the time.
Bill went on to attend Cal Poly Pomona for three years. While he was there, he was active on the livestock judging team. He traveled to many shows throughout the US while active on the team. Bill was so good that he was approached by several universities to continue his education and get his master’s degree, but he decided to go back home to run the family feed yard instead.
While at Cal Poly, he also lived and worked at the beef unit, helping to manage the livestock that belonged to the school. Bill completed a double major, earning a Bachelors of Science in both Agricultural Business Management and in Animal Science. During his last year, he took over twenty units per quarter to complete both majors, while still making time to hang out at the Pick and Pan, his favorite bar and pool hall with his friends.
While Bill was attending Cal Poly, he met his future wife, Kathy, at an exchange between her sorority and the Agriculture Business Management Club. After the exchange, where they met briefly, she saw him in the cafeteria at school and started asking her sorority sisters about him. She wanted to know if he had a girlfriend. As the table was buzzing about Bill Brandenberg, he approached the group and asked her out on their first date…to the Cal Poly Rodeo. Kathy was a little embarrassed that he probably heard all of her sisters buzzing about him, but it all worked out in the end.
After graduation, Bill returned to the Imperial Valley to work at the family feed yard. When Bill began working with the family business, the farm, which when his father took over was 500 acres, had grown to 1,500 acres, and the capacity of the Brandenberg feed yard, started in 1951 with a capacity of 1,200 head, had grown to 6,500-7,000 head of cattle.
While Bill was back in the Imperial Valley, Kathy still had a year of college to complete, so he drove to Pomona almost every weekend for a year until they were married on November 16, 1974, at St. Anthony’s Church in Pomona.
After their marriage, Bill and Kathy began their family, having three children. Scott was born in 1976, Laura was born in 1979, and Lance was born in 1983.
At the start of his career, Bill managed the feedlot exclusively, while his dad continued to run the farms until his death in 1983 at the age of 67. As a third-generation cattleman, Bill has always said he had more of a fondness for the cattle side of the family business.
In 1980, the family bought an interest in Meloland Cattle Co. and held cattle there as well as at the Brandenberg yard. Bill managed both the Meloland and Brandenberg Feedyards for five years, then operations were ceased under the name of Brandenberg Feedyards and everything was lumped together under the Meloland Cattle Co.
One of Bill’s great accomplishments was being a driving force in the development and construction of the Brawley Beed packing plant. At the time, it was the newest, most technologically advanced facility in California with the capability of processing 1,800 head of cattle per day.
In addition to his unselfish commitment to the US Beef Industry, Bill has dedicated decades as a 4-H leader as well as a member of the local fair auction committee for over 40 years. Anyone who has gone down to the livestock auction at the fair has more than likely seen Bill there bidding on steers, showing great support of our valley’s youth.
Bill has served the beef industry in numerous roles on the state and national levels. He is a longstanding member of the California Cattlemen’s Association and has served as both vice-chair and chair of CCA’s Feeder Council for numerous terms over the years. He also served on CCA’s Long-Range Planning Committee in 2001 and 2002.
He has also served as chair of the California Beef Council as well as a member of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. Bill has served in numerous roles on the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association over the years as well, including chair of the Ag Policy Committee. Bill’s most recent appointment was in 2019 to the newly established California Cattle Council which will carry out research on cattle production and beef nutrition and develop consumer and other educational programs.
In honor of all of his dedication to the industry, Bill was the recipient of the California Livestock Man of the year award in 2010.
Kathy and Bill’s children have gone on to have great success as well.
Their oldest son, Scott attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for a degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering. As soon as he graduated, he married his college sweetheart, Sarah Fisher. After receiving his Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering, Scott was hired by UCLA where he is currently an Engineering professor and the Dean of student diversity. Scott and Sarah have two children, Emmy, who is 14 and just started her freshman year of high school at Santa Monica High, and Alex, 11, who just started junior high.
Their middle child, Laura, graduated from Notre Dame and attended law school at USD. She is now in San Diego at the City Attorney’s office. In 2015, she married David DePoister, who she met while attending Notre Dame. They have two children, Leo, who just turned three, and Dani, who was born on Christmas Eve of 2018.
Their youngest child, Lance graduated with a degree in Business Management from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. For the past few years, he has been working for Todd Geist in San Diego as a developer and has had the opportunity to speak at several File Maker conferences around the United States. In 2017, he married Jennifer Jacobelli, and on Christmas Day, 2018, Jenn and Lance had their first child, Rena. She and Dani are only 22 hours apart and are already growing to be fast friends as well as cousins.
Their children and grandchildren are the light of Bill and Kathy’s life!
Bill sold Meloland Cattle Company in 2015 and started to cut his working hours to below 60 per week for the first time ever! Kathy also retired in 2015, so they bought a motorhome and started to travel. They do a lot of off-road jeeping with friends and they love to travel. Since being retired, they have traveled to Australia, New Zealand, New England, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Northern Europe, and Russia for a month and many of the national parks with their children and grandchildren. When they are home, they love to entertain, and most weekends they can be found in San Diego at their condo entertaining their family.
Now that Bill has a bit more time for things he enjoys, he has built a garage for his motorhome, renovated Laura and Dave’s condo, renovated and sold a condo in San Diego, upgraded his jeep, and has been building something constantly. He continues to be active in the beef industry in many different capacities.
In closing, this man, Bill Brandenberg, is more than deserving of this prestigious award.
2019 Farmer of The Year: Bill Brandenberg
Farmers of The Year
2006: Donald H. Cox
2009: Larry Gilbert
2010: John Kubler Jr.