David Poncetta and his wife at the 2023 Person of the Year Award dinner.
David Poncetta (right) was honored as the 2023 Person of the Year at the Kern County Fair. (Photo courtesy of Chelsey Roberts/Kern County Fair)

Natalie Willis, Reporter, Valley Ag Voice

The Kern County Fair honored David Poncetta of Poncetta Farms and Livestock at Thursday’s Person of the Year dinner. The Poncetta family has been integrated into Kern County’s agriculture industry for the past century, with Poncetta taking over the family farm in Pumpkin Center roughly 29 years ago.

The Kern County Fair Board of Directors unanimously voted for Poncetta to receive the 2023 award, honoring his legacy in local agriculture and livestock shows.

According to Poncetta, receiving the 2023 Person of the Year granted an unexpected feeling of satisfaction, but his mission in agriculture has never been for recognition — it has been targeted at the agricultural education of children in his community.

“The agriculture industry has always been my life, and I wish that more people would reach out and assist those kids that are less fortunate or don’t have the means to be involved fully in agriculture and give them the opportunities to be successful in a world that can guide them to a successful future,” Poncetta wrote in an email.

Poncetta was raised on the same family farm he leads today, but back then, it was a dairy and row crop farm. After his father took over the farm in the 1960s, it transitioned into a beef cattle operation, sparking Poncetta’s interest and participation in 4-H and FFA cattle shows at the fair.

As an agricultural leader, Poncetta’s interests span from protecting family farm interests in the county to educating the next generation. He noted that state regulations hinder the agricultural industry in California, and the farmer’s mission to feed the country requires tremendous sacrifice.

“I see the future of agriculture in our county getting more regulations and harder for people to get involved unless they are born into it or married into it,” Poncetta said. “The industry fights every day to survive and take care of everyone, but it’s not welcoming for new people as they have to struggle to survive.  Corporation farming has changed everything for the way that things are done in this county.”

As Poncetta explained, the regulatory challenges facing California’s agricultural industry have significantly impacted small farmers, but his recognition as the 2023 Person of the Year highlights the county’s dedication to its longstanding institutions.

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