IV Press Article 5-25-17 ### Vessey Receives Legacy Award



IV Press Readers’ Choice Awards highlights community’s favorites

By JULIO MORALES, Staff Writer | Posted 5 hours ago

Not everyone went home a winner during the Imperial Valley Press’ Readers’ Choice Awards Gala on Wednesday, but it hardly seemed to dampen the festive mood of the sizable and well-dressed crowd gathered at The Loft in El Centro.

All told, dozens of awards were handed out Wednesday to the top vote-getters in several popular categories during the annual event.

Although Cold Stone Creamery was named the readers’ top choice for ice cream in 2016, the distinction or the possibility of a repeat win wasn’t at the forefront of crew leader Vanessa Ramirez’s mind.

“I feel that we don’t need an award to show great customer service and have a great product,” Ramirez said, prior to the announcement of Wednesday’s winners.

Her employer also deserves its employees’ credit for the friendly and flexible atmosphere it affords its workers, said Ramirez, who has been able to obtain her undergraduate degree and work toward her Master’s Degree all while employed with the nearly 10-year-old El Centro-based business.

As in years past, Ramirez said that her and her co-workers made sure to kindly remind customers of their ability to vote for the creamery, but that they didn’t mount an aggressive campaign.

Now in its fourth year, the formal affair brought out a wide representation of the Valley’s business community. Awardees were chosen by community members who had the opportunity to cast ballots on a daily basis for their favorite local businesses. More than 8,000 votes were cast from April 23 through May 8.

Some of the business categories included best pet grooming, tire shop, beauty salon, auto mechanic, tacos, coffee and donuts, to name just a few.

Styles & Smiles beauty salon owners Lulu and Mike Castro were also on hand Wednesday to see how their longtime business fared in the several categories it was nominated for.

With a crew of 15 stylists at its disposal, as well as a considerable number of regular customers, the beauty salon did its best to remind its clients to vote and vote repeatedly.

Yet, in many instances, such prodding was hardly needed, said Mike Castro.

“Many of our clients would come in and tell us that they already voted,” he said, prior to the announcement of Wednesday’s winners.

Castro said he credits a dedicated focus on customer service for the popularity of the El Centro-based beauty salon.

“Everything is geared to them,” Castro said. “They like the way that we do business.”

Aside from the various awards acknowledging the Valley’s best hot wings and bakery, the IV Press’ Readers’ Choice Awards Gala also granted one local business its Legacy Award, which this year went to Jack Vessey, of Holtville-based Vessey & Co., Inc.

The Legacy Award was designed to highlight a local business that embodies a balance of passion, quality, creativity and involvement with the community.

As surprised and humbled as Vessey said that he was about receiving the recognition, he made sure to honor the previous generations of Vesseys that have contributed to the agricultural company’s success and philosophy.

“We couldn’t have done what we have done for almost the last 100 years without the people that are on the ranch that are family to us and mean so much to us and the Imperial Valley,” Vessey said.

The longtime grower said he was always sure he would follow in his late father Jon’s footsteps, despite his father’s initial advice to pursue a different type of career.

Vessey also credited the guidance his father imparted to him as a young child sitting quietly in his father’s office learning the nuances and challenges of the family business and the agricultural industry.

“That to me was something that taught me more than anything else in this world,” Vessey said. “My dad was ahead of his time.”

A list of the Readers’ Choice winners will be published in its entirety in a special section on June 11.

Staff Writer Julio Morales can be reached at or 760-337-3415.

Jack Vessey gives an acceptance speech after Vessey & Co. was awarded the Legacy Award during the third annual Readers’ Choice Awards on Wednesday night at The Loft in El Centro. VINCENT OSUNA PHOTO


Julio Morales


KXO News Radio 1-30-17 ### Rib Cook-Off Winners


Written by George Gale

Category: Local News

Created: Monday, 30 January 2017

(It was another good turn-out)…The 26th Annual Holtville Athletic Club’s Rib Cook-off was held Saturday.

The exact numbers have not been released. Officials, however say Samaha Park was packed for most of the morning. Over $10,000 in awards and prizes were distributed during the day. The list of winners include; The Best Performance. That award went to the Imperial County Sheriff’s Office. The Hospitality award went to Big Al’s Paradise Café. Second place went to the City of Holtville. Los Compadres took 3rd. The Best Side dish was Lucky’s Fish Tacos. Second place went to AM Desert Storm and third went to Redneck Ribs. The Best Pie award went to Maxine Bonneau, who also took third place. The second place award went to Linda Hornung. Mitch Kellum picked up the award for best outhouse. Best Booth was awarded to Fern Semi Famous BBQ. Second went to Imperial County Planning and third went to the City of Holtville. The Best Ribs, as chosen by the Judges, went to Imperial County Planning. Second place went to Dune Company and Big Al’s was third. The pinnacle or People’s Choice award went to Vessey and Co’s Sunshine Ribs. And inducted into the Hall of Flame was Ronnie Claybrook

KYMA News Channel 1-24-17 ### Labor of Love feeds ag workers in the Imperial Valley

Labor of Love feeds ag workers in the Imperial Valley

HOLTVILLE, Calif. - Dozens of farm workers were treated to breakfast this week as a sign of gratitude from the community.

More than 60 farm workers in Holtville enjoyed breakfast brought to them by the Labor of Love program, Tuesday morning. This is the first time the Yuma program offers this type of event in the Imperial Valley, according to organizers. 

The program initiated last year through the Yuma Fresh Association as a way to thank farm workers for their work. The event was in collaboration with the Imperial Valley Vegetable Grower’s Association and Vessey and Company. 

"These people are the heart and soul of the agriculture business, which is the heart and soul of how we have healthy foods on our tables all across the country. Without them we couldn't have that, so we are just so grateful for everything that they do for the industry and the world," said Kristin Sheppeard, Labor of Love program.

Sheppeard says they plan to offer more of these events for other farm workers in the Imperial Valley.

By: Eduardo Santiago

Posted: Jan 24, 2017 03:21 PM MST

Updated: Jan 24, 2017 03:21 PM MST

Holtville Tribune Article 1-19-17 ### “Labor of Love” Comes to the Imperial Valley

“Labor of Love” Comes to the Imperial Valley

By Jim Predmore

“Labor of Love”, which started in Yuma, Arizona has grown to include the Salinas Valley and now has moved into the Imperial Valley. It is put together by the Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association and now affiliated with the Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association.

“Labor of Love” is a way to give back to the farm workers who work so hard to provide food for our tables. They are very hard working, loyal, and humble. They work through rough working conditions from mud and rain in the winter to the extreme heat in the summer.


Farm workers from Vessey & Co. line up to receive their lunch and refreshment.

“Labor of Love” partners with local growers to provide breakfast on the

farm for farm crews, random acts of kindness throughout the season, stories of workers through social media and media coverage, featured worker stories on the Labor of Love web site and community involvement.

When Jack Vessey of Vessey and Co. first heard of Labor of Love, he was quick to jump on board and was the very first grower in the Imperial Valley to do so.


Ponciano Vallejo, a 53 year employee of Vessey and Co., is the Labor of Loves highlight employee and will be featured in Labor of Love’s Media Press Release in the coming month.

So at 11a.m. on Tuesday, Jack Vessey had all of the field workers that were out harvesting cabbage stop their work and come over to have an early lunch. He provided burritos for all 70 of them. Each worker received a gift basket with several items included such as Gatorade, chips, cool cups, lotto tickets, and a raffle ticket for some gift cards that would be raffled off. Jack Vessey went out on a limb and told the workers that he would match on any of the lotto tickets if anyone had a winner. One of them got a $10 winning ticket so Jack matched it.
Jack jumped at the chance to get involved with Labor of Love because he loves to do things for his employees that allow him to keep a low profile, stating that “We were born and raised to keep our head in the sand”.

Heather Vessey Garcia, Jack’s sister, said that there were many times that Jack would run through a fast food restaurant and order food for his crews. Jack said that he liked it when he would go to a Jack in the Box by himself and order 100 burgers and they would ask him “Are they for here or to go?” Jack has a great sense of hummer and anyone who knows him has seen that.

Jack had Ponciano Vallejo, a 53 year employee of Vessey and Co., to be the Labor of Love highlight employee. There were several questions that were asked of Ponciano. One question asked was “What do you think of Vessey & Co. as an employer?” He stated “They are the best in the nation.”

The kick of Labor of Love in the Imperial Valley was a big hit for the employees of Vessey & Co. with several other growers waiting to jump on board for future events.

The Desert Review Article 1-19-17 ### Vessey showers affection on his crew with Labor of Love

Farm worker Juan Hernandez (right) smiles in appreciation for the breakfast burritos served during a surprise visit by Labor of Love representatives at a Vessey & Co., Inc. cabbage farm north of Holtville. Hernandez has been with the Vesseys for about ten years.
Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Vessey showers affection on his crew with Labor of Love

HOLTVILLE — Farmers delighted farm workers Tuesday with a surprise visit and an appreciation for their service at a cabbage field north of Holtville.

Jack Vessey and his sister, Heather Vessey-Garcia, of Vessey & Co., Inc., brought breakfast burritos, salsa and water to his ranch, located about ten miles north of Holtville, just in time for the farm workers’ break time. Accompanying Vessey were Susan Sternitzke and Kristan Sheppeard, co-coordinators of Labor of Love, who brought baskets they named ‘feeling lucky baskets’ filled with a variety of items. 

The farm workers were called to meet the mobile covered sheds, parked on a dirt service road between cabbage fields, where they were served breakfast burritos. Vessey used the time for Sternitzke and Sheppeard to tell his farm workers about the Labor of Love program. He later called out one of his employee to the front.

In the presence of about 70 crews, Vessey gave recognition to Ponciano Vallejo Gonzalez, 71, whom he called Tio Chano, an endearment meaning Uncle Chano. 

“I’ve known Tio Chano since I was probably two or three years old. He’s been on the ranch for over 50 years. He worked for my father, my grandfather, and me. It means a lot to me and my family,” Vessey said.  

Vallejo said he has worked with Vessey & Co., Inc. since 1963. Before joining Vessey’s farm, he worked in Salinas northern California. After that, he worked at various agricultural fields in Arizona and Imperial Valley, including Blythe. According to Vallejo, he no longer works in thinning, weeding or harvesting. For the past eight years, his concentration and area of responsibility has been food safety. 

Speaking in Spanish, Vallejo said of his employer, “Excelente, Numero Uno in Imperial Valley.” (Excellent. Number one in Imperial Valley.) 

Kristen Sheppeard, who works with Sternitzke at Limelight Creative Group which manages the program, said, “Labor of Love is a program designed by the Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association to thank and celebrate farm workers.” 

This year, Labor of Love has set its affection in Imperial Valley. “Thanks to a new partnership with the Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association and our very first Imperial County sponsor, Vessey & Company, who both have a strong desire to celebrate and thank the farm workers in Imperial County.” 

After an hour celebration, farm workers smiled carrying their ‘feeling lucky baskets’ to their automobiles parked along a stretch of dirt road and headed back to their work areas at the cabbage field. There was more work to do. 

The harvest crews, according to Vessey, like to start at about 5:30 in the morning, working until mid-afternoon harvesting green and red cabbage. Depending on the variety of cabbage, harvesting is from November until April. 

Farm workers harvest over 200,000 cabbage heads on a given day in about 800-900 acres each winter. Indeed, that is a lot of labor and fresh leafy vegetables to feed families and keep America healthy. 

Each week, Sheppeard said, we go out to the field and surprise farm workers with some food, either breakfast or lunch, and we do a random act of kindness by bringing gifts and “feeling lucky” basket filled with fun goodies. 

Labor of Love, a program started by Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association in Yuma, Arizona and managed by Sternitzke and Sheppeard of Limelight Creative Group, aims to give recognition to farm workers for their contribution to the agriculture industry. It initially started in Arizona and now has spread into California. 

“I hope to do it again,” said Vessey. “I plan on doing this every year and I hope others will join in Imperial Valley as well to show how much we appreciate the farm worker.” 

Farm worker Juan Hernandez (right) smiles in appreciation for the breakfast burritos served during a surprise visit by Labor of Love representatives at a Vessey & Co., Inc. cabbage farm north of Holtville. Hernandez has been with the Vesseys for about ten years.
Tuesday, January 17, 2017

IV Press Article 1-18-17 ### Field workers appreciative of catered meal

Field workers appreciative of catered meal

Jack Vessey (left), president of Vessey & Company, Inc., an Imperial Valley grower of fruit, vegetables, hay and grain, in Holtville on Tuesday, welcomes some of his field workers for the Labor of Love luncheon provided by the organization as a way of expressing thanks to the hard work field workers. WILLIAM ROLLER PHOTO

The Desert Review Article 12-4-16 ### Thousands Served At 37th Annual Farm Workers Breakfast

Thousands Served Tamales and Hot Coffee at 37th Annual Farm Workers Breakfast

Mario Renteria, industrial relations specialist at Center for Employment Training in El Centro, serves tamales Friday morning to Martha Martinez, an agricultural farm worker .

CALEXICO – While everyone was sleeping in the wee hours of Friday morning, dozens of State Employment Development Department (EDD) employees along with numerous volunteers put on their aprons and served breakfast to thousands of field workers during the 37th annual Farm Workers Appreciation Breakfast of Imperial County.

“It is an honor to be here with this token of appreciation to our farmworkers who daily work hard for our community,” said Luis Castro, mayor of Calexico. “Mexicans are the ones who have raised the crops in the Imperial Valley and we need to respect these individuals. We must support the people that wake up early and strive every day to work hard. The least we can do for these people is to offer them a breakfast once a year.”

Castro recalled being 12 years old when his parents owned Castro’s Coffee shop back in 1971 and serving the farm workers coffee in the early hours.

“I pretty much grew up with these people,” said Castro. “I am proud to see that many of our older farm workers put their kids through college who now are professionals, which shows us the efforts of the parents reflects on their children.”

On Friday, the field workers were welcomed with over 3,000 tamales along with beans, cupcakes, milk, orange juice and coffee at the One Stop Career Center parking lot.

“This is my first opportunity to come down and join this event, and oh my goodness, you have a lot to be proud of, this is so exciting,” said Sharon Hilliard, chief deputy director of the Employment Development Department. “I want to thank everyone who contributed and made this possible. Like everything great, it takes a village, and this is a great example of it.”

Most of the farm workers live in Mexicali and cross daily in an effort to achieve a better way of living. Most laborers leave their homes just after midnight and return to their homes after dark.

“This is the only job I know, and have known since I was very young,” said Francisco Alarcon, a Mexicali resident and farm worker. “Even though I am away from my family most of the time, this job provides food and a roof over the heads of my wife and children and that is all that matters to me.”

Musicians Tony Obezo and Frank Paleo set the mood with their live music for those who opted to dance to keep warm, while others gathered around the heaters and shared anecdotes of their farm working experiences.

County and city officials also participated in the event, including Calexico Mayor Luis Castro, Sheriff Raymond Loera and Undersheriff Fred Miramontes, as well as members of the Mexican Consulate in Calexico.

Initiated by Loli Mercado, the Farmworkers Breakfast began in 1979 in El Hoyo on 2nd Street, where farm workers were served sweet bread and coffee. The breakfast has slowly evolved into a significant event with full meals.

“We went from serving sweet bread and coffee, to tamales, beans and all of the other goodies and I’m sure it will keep growing,” said Mercado. “I want to thank all of our sponsors and volunteers who make this possible year after year.”

The event was hosted by the California EDD, the City of Calexico, the Farm Worker Services Coalition of Imperial County, the Center for Employment Center Training, the Calexico Chamber of Commerce and the Mexican Consulate in Calexico.

Sponsors included Baja Runners, Del Taco, El Don FLC #1, Rabobank, Mike Abatti Farms, Imperial Valley Foodbank, Heartland Farms, Vessey and Company, Supervisor D-1 John Renison, Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo, the Mexican Consulate in Calexico, JC Dominguez Inc., Migrant Head Start, Alford Distributing, Planned Parenthood, SFC, and Smith-Kandal Insurance.

The Desert Review Article 10-17-16 ### Boys and Girls Clubs of Imperial Valley Celebrates 50 Years

Jeff Klicka is the 2016 Eunice Fleming Service Award winner.

Boys and Girls Clubs of Imperial Valley Celebrates 50 Years

BRAWLEY — The Boys and Girls Clubs of Imperial Valley (BGCIV) celebrated its 50th year anniversary with a combo auction at the Stockmen’s Club Saturday evening in Brawley.

The auction was sold out two weeks before the event, leaving many potential attendees on a waiting list, just in case someone cancelled at the last minute.

Larry Fleming auctioned the shirt off his back

Twenty-eight items were auctioned off to the highest bidder, including trips, concerts, dinners, and jewelry. One of the highlights of the evening occurred when Larry Fleming, the Master of Ceremonies, auctioned off his shirt.

Misty Lee, newly appointed executive director of the BGCIV as of October 1, said she was thankful for the response of the supporters and sponsors of the event.

“The committee had a goal of raising $150,000 and we hit it,” said Lee. “I am overwhelmed by the support that everyone and our sponsors give to this club. It really goes to show how much this community pulls together to support our youth. It’s really amazing. It makes me so proud to be a part of it. I’m thankful for all of the work and sacrifices that volunteers, board, staff, and committee put into this event. It was an amazing night.”

Jeff Klicka was honored with the 2016 Eunice Fleming Service award for his contributions to the BGCIV. Klicka, a past BGCIV board member, is with Klicka Parker Insurance and is also board president of the Pioneers Memorial Hospital Health District.

“I was not even expecting this,” said Klicka. “I am honored to receive this recognition. The Boys and Girls Clubs do great things here in the Valley. It’s all about the kids.”

Platinum sponsors of the event included Union Bank, Rockwood Chemical, Imperial Farming, KC Welding and Rentals, Wingate Company, and National Beef, who also provided the steaks for the evening’s meal.

Gold sponsors were Five Crowns Marketing, Mark Osterkamp Ranches, RB Wilson Company, Sun Community, Jordan Central Implement, Rubin Seeds, Wells Fargo Bank, and Vail Ranches.

Silver sponsors included Ametza, Coni Stokely Insurance, Swain & Kennerson, Benson Farms, RDF Express, Empire-Cat, Gibi Trucking, LLC, Community Valley Bank, Klicka-Parker Insurance, Gary Mamer Farms, Terri & Les Rogers, Vessey and Company, Imperial Tarp & Covers, Inc., Stephen Elmore Company, RDO Water, and Imperial Premix LLC.

All of the money raised will stay in the Valley, according to Lee.

“Another special moment of the evening was when the guests were given the opportunity to sponsor a child,” said Lee. “It takes about $500 to sponsor a Club kid for one year. One person lifted up the card provided on each table. Thirty-two more people lifted up their donation cards. The donors get no prize for this. They just wanted to support. It was so wonderful.”

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Imperial Valley offers a comprehensive after-school program for youth guidence, enabling kids ages six through 18, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible, caring citizens, according to the group’s website.

To find out more about the Boys and Girls Clubs, call 760-344-2040, or visit the website at

IV Press Article 4-7-16 ### Vessey introduces speaker for IVH2O

Fulp talks about challenges to Colorado River

By EDWIN DELGADO, Staff Writer

by Edwin Delgado

HOLTVILLE — In an effort to further educate the local agricultural community about the current challenges and conditions that persist at the Colorado River, Imperial Valley Water invited Regional Director for the Bureau of Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Region Dr. Terrance Fulp to speak about ‘The State of the River” at the Imperial Palms Resort here Wednesday.

Fulp gave an overview of the current state of the Colorado River and the challenges that lay ahead, but despite the changes of climate and the drought have had on the River he said that there is enough flexibility in the collection of laws and treaties to allow them to work on solutions for contemporary issues.

“We got a good chance to leave the same legacy at the Colorado River that others left for us,” he said. “We want to make sure we position ourselves so that our senior water rights holders are always getting water and continue the good job that they do.”

Among the keys points he made during his presentation, Fulp talked about the big impact that natural runoff water has on Lake Powell and Lake Mead. He said that in years when natural water runoff declines it causes the water level at Lake Mead to decline rapidly.

As of now, Lake Powell is at 45 percent of its capacity and Lake Mead at 38 percent. Fulp mentioned that it has been crucial that the reservoirs were at 95 percent before the drought.

He said his main goal was to give people a better understanding of how the Colorado River works and the value of this water and the risk to us in the future, primarily due to the drought but also due to a changing climate.

“I hope they get that we’re all in it together in the sense that we’re all at risk if the system were to crash, we don’t want that,” Fulp said. “If this drought were to continue and if we don’t know what we are going to do about it then we are collectively at risk, if we work together though we can find solutions to that and reduce that risk.”

Among the issues that the Bureau of Reclamation is looking into is to give flexibility to the water users and work to increase water storage in Lake Mead. Fulp said he felt confident that the Imperial Irrigation District will be allowed to store more water at some point.

“The presentation was great, for water users and farmers of the Imperial Valley it is very important to open our eyes and see what is going on in the world today and understand the constraints that we may have to live under and be prepared,” said Jack Vessey, chairman of Imperial Valley Water.

Also during his presentation Fulp said that since natural water runoff has been below average in the last few years the elevation at Lake Mead could continue to decline and said the federal government is looking into a few possibilities to increase the supply such as the desalination of water, reclaiming waste water and transporting water from the upper Missouri River.

In order to stay ahead of some of the issues that can begin to arise Fulp said that communication, transparency and collaboration are crucial in preserving water for generations to come.

“It all starts with communication and this event was great to do that, after that you need collaboration and what that entails is maintaining good relationships with all our partners,” Fulp said. “That’s how we’ll solve issues like flexibility and storage, things that are extremely important to the Valley.”

Vessey said that he took Fulp on a tour around Imperial Valley to get a firsthand look into the efforts that are being made locally to maximize the vital resource. Fulp mentioned in his presentation that he was impressed by the efficient use of water in the Valley.

This was the second seminar that Imperial Valley Water has organized since its inception last year and Vessey said that it is crucial for everyone in the Valley to stay informed about what is happening in order to come up with solutions.

“The only way you can get to a point to try to solve something is having the knowledge and that’s what we are trying to do here, provide the knowledge to our friends and neighbors of the Imperial Valley,” Vessey said. “I think this is a good educational program, we will continue with these seminars, bring people in and let us learn a little bit more about the outside world and how it’s affecting us.”

The Desert Review Article 10-28-15 ### Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association Names New Officers

Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association Names New Officers

The Board of Directors of the Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association recently elected the 2015-2017 slate of officers.  Brian Strahm of Artesia Farms was named President of the association.  Other officers named are First Vice President Jack Vessey, Vessey & Company; Second Vice PresidentThomas Cox, Lawrence Cox Ranches; and d Secretary/Treasurer Bruce Sanbonmatsu of Sanbon, Inc.

In addition to the new officers, board members reelected to serve the two-year years are Andrew Colace, AMC Farms; Danny Colace, Five Crowns Marketing; Craig Elmore, Desert Sky Farms; Richard Elmore, Sahara Packing Company, John Hawk, Horizon Farms LLC, Mike Iten, Grimmway Farms; Alex Jack, Jack Bros; J.P. LaBrucherie, LaBrucherie Produces; Alan Luke, D’Arrigo Brothers; Jimmy Mainas, Mainas Farms; Wheeler Morgan, Far West Ranches;  Jeff Percy, Desert Mist Farms; and George Stergios, South Valley Inc.

New members to the board are Thomas Cox, Lawrence Cox Ranches, Scott Howington, Oasis Farms, and Steve Taylor, Oceano Packing.

The Advisory Board consists of Joe Colace Jr., Five Crowns Marketing;  Larry Cox, Lawrence Cox Ranches, Steve Emanuelli, Emanuelli & Sons; Robert Fleming, Spruce Farms, Ed McGrew, Magco; Frank Riddle, formerly of Grimmway, and Mike Sudduth, Mike Sudduth Farms

“IVVGA has been an important part of the produce industry in Imperial Valley since 1968 and with the leadership of this incoming board, will continue to be. I am pleased and honored to have the opportunity to serve as president, state, President-Elect Brian Strahm.

“The last two years have been rewarding.  IVVGA has stepped up to each of the issues and provided the requisite leadership” stated Wheeler Morgan.

IVVGA represents almost a hundred members throughout the produce industry and affiliated business California that operate in the Imperial Valley.