2010 - John Kubler, Jr.
Click here for images from the 2010 Farmer of the Year banquet.
John Kubler, Jr.: 2010 Farmer of the Year
Proud of their heritage and eager to pass on the traditions of their culture, a group of Imperial Valley immigrants formed the Imperial Valley Swiss Club in 1925. On December 10th of that same year, a young family from the Calexico area with Swiss roots gave birth to a son.
This young father had been born in Argentina where he was given the name Juan Santiago. He later moved to Switzerland where he was given the name Hanz Jacob. And in 1916, he emigrated from Switzerland, and upon becoming a United States citizen, his name changed one final time to John Kubler. John married a young woman, Rebecca Hinojosa and the young couple settled near Calexico, where they began their family.
Mr. & Mrs. Kubler named their young son John, Jr., and soon had a daughter as well. John was born at Warren Place about a mile from Bonds Corner Store where the family did their grocery shopping until it closed. John and his sister, Mary, grew up on the family dairy that their father operated. John, Jr. was quickly put to work on the family farm; his first job was catching gophers for which his father paid 10 cents per tail.
His sister, Mary recalls when John was about 8 years old and Mary 6 years old their father told John to drive his sister back to the house. They were about ½ mile from the house and Mary remembers John being so very serious driving the “fliver” down the dirt road, Mary was so small that her feet were not touching the floorboard and John could barely see over the dash.
It was obvious to all that knew him that John, Jr. was heavily influenced by his father. And even John knew that one day he would grow up to be just like his dad.
John attended the small, rural, Mt. Signal School, helped his father on the farm and participated in 4-H, where he became an All-Star. In 1943, after graduating from Calexico High School, John was drafted into the United States Navy where he served three years during World War II. Navy officials quickly discovered that their new recruit had a very high IQ and, rather than ship him off overseas, they trained John to become an electronic technician on Treasure Island. Soon thereafter, he was re-stationed to Seattle, where he reconditioned ships for the U.S. Navy.
After completing his tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, John returned home to the Imperial Valley and attended Imperial Valley College. In 1947 he transferred to U.C. Davis where he joined the Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity and served as House Chairman on the Interfraternity Council, in addition to other vital positions. John graduated from U.C. Davis in 1950 with a degree in agronomy; ideal for fulfilling his childhood ambition of following in his father’s footsteps on the ranch. Immediately after graduation, John returned to the family ranch and never looked back.
In the early 50’s, not long after he returned from college, a young woman caught John’s eye while she was driving a truck for her father’s hay hauling business. Yet it wasn’t until this young woman began working as a receptionist at Southwest Marketing Group that John actually met Onna Balkley, who quickly became the love of his life. John and Onna were married March 20, 1954 and together they raised three boys, John, Don and Paul.
In 1954, John began building their dream home near his childhood ranch and in 1955 he carried his bride over the threshold of their lifelong home, where John continues to live today. John and Onna enjoyed many activities together; however, their favorite pastime was playing bridge with their long-time best friends Tom and Paula Remington. John and Onna spent nearly 52 years enjoying each other’s company before Onna passed away on March 15, 2006.
John had a passion for aviation and in his younger years he enjoyed flying himself and others to meetings. But his favorite trips were his fishing trips to Mexico.
Over the years, John has been involved in many aspects of the agricultural industry. He founded and operated a cow-calf operation, was involved with Desert Garden Produce, served as the director of Southwest Flax Seed / Southwest Marketing and in 1960 John started Kubler Farms which he continues to operate today.
John recognized the need to get involved in even the most controversial issues when it comes to protecting the farm. He was heavily involved and very outspoken in the Campaign for Fairness against the 160-acre limitation issue which threatened to destroy Imperial Valley agriculture. He was among the founding members of the IID’s Water Conservation Advisory Board, and was its first Chairman. In the early 1950’s John and Onna were also very involved as leaders in the Farm Bureau Young People’s Department, which we all now know today as Young Farmers and Ranchers.
John was instrumental in planning for a new building for the Farm Bureau. For his commitment to the Farm Bureau Building Committee, you’ll see his name recorded on a plaque located at the front door of the ICFB Building dedicated in 1953.
John also recognized the importance of education and research. He has served on the Advisory Board of the Desert Research and Extension Center, and has been a long-time board member at the Imperial Valley Conservation Research Center Brawley Field Station. In fact, John was the president of that board when the research center was incorporated, and continues to serve as its secretary-treasurer.
In addition to his farming operations, John found time to serve on many community and industry groups during his lifetime, including:
California Wheat Commission: 12 years service: founding member
Southwest Flaxseed Association: Past President
Imperial County Education Board
- Imperial County Republican Central Committee
- Mt. Signal School Board
- Nazarene Church in El Centro
- Rotary Club
These days John’s priorities are his family and friends. He and his sister & brother-in-law Mary & Fritz Ruegger enjoy regular breakfast meetings either at Carrows in Calexico or Brownies in Brawley. He also enjoys being a full-time Grandpa, helping out with 4-H projects, attending sporting events, baking goodies and even picking the kids up from school. And if keeping up with the grandkids doesn’t keep one young enough, on any given day you can see John, at 84 years young, out on the ranch where he continues to get his daily exercise cleaning ditches.