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County Ag Hall Of Fame Inducts Six New Members
Ag induct
This year’s Ag Hall of Fame honorees are shown with their plaques and Chamber of Commerce officials. Back row from left, Kay Ruhstaller, President, Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce; Escalon residents Shaylynn Beam, Terri Beam and Andrew Beam, accepting for posthumous honoree Benjamin Beam; Diana Muller; Rudy Maggio; Bruce Fry and Timm Quinn, CEO, Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce. Seated in front, Sam Tanaka, left and Jim Tanaka, right. Photo Contributed

As part of a special dinner and program hosted by the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022 at the Robert Cabral Ag Center in Stockton, six new members were inducted into the San Joaquin County Agricultural Hall of Fame.

The 2022 Hall of Fame Inductees were: Benjamin “Ben” Beam (Posthumous), Bruce Fry, Rudy Maggio, Diana Muller, Jim Tanaka and Sam Tanaka.

“The San Joaquin County Ag Hall of Fame honors those who have contributed so much to a great part of our heritage. Our Agricultural Hall of Fame marks the efforts and history of those who have gone before, those who have graced our homes and enriched our hearts and those who in the days past laid the foundation upon which we build for today and tomorrow,” said Timm Quinn, CEO, Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce.

Officials also noted that the agricultural community is a wonderful example of people working together and continuing a tradition that has been handed down throughout the years from people who had to sacrifice a great deal, both personally and physically, to nurture our land and our community.

Here is brief biographical information about the inductees.

Benjamin “Ben” Beam of Escalon, this year’s posthumous honoree, was born June 9, 1957 in Manteca, California and passed away on November 11, 2015. While his life was short Ben had a lasting impact on his children, friends, countless students, and the sheep community. At a young age, Ben felt a responsibility to help out his family while his younger brother Andrew was battling brain cancer. Ben began milking goats at a neighbor’s farm and the funds he earned helped the family go to Disneyland before Andrew was too sick to travel. After graduating from East Union High School in Manteca, Ben attended San Joaquin Delta College, then Fresno State where he earned a degree in agriculture education. During this time, Ben built competitive livestock programs at Denair High School, Lassen Community College and San Joaquin Delta College. It was never just about the ‘blue ribbon’ or the national recognition one gains from showing a champion or winning reasons in livestock, it was so much more. He helped all of his students develop a love for agriculture and a love for animals. Ben also organized fundraisers to help with student scholarships and activities. He had a big influence on his students and his own children who continue his love for raising sheep. This is a testament to just how Ben Beam has ‘outlived his life’ today.

Bruce Fry is a fifth generation California farmer from Lodi, California. He grew up working on the family ranches part-time while attending school. He holds a degree in Agricultural Business Management with a focus on Farm and Ranch Management from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He joined the two family businesses full-time and is now the Vice President of Operations of Mohr-Fry Ranches a diversified farming operation since 1855 and President of Fry and Son. In addition, Bruce has consulted on vineyard and orchard development and management in the area. Bruce currently farms 12 varieties of winegrapes on 600 acres in the Lodi area, and the operations sells to over 20 wineries from large to boutique, locally, and out of state.

Rudy Maggio first began farming at 12 years old when his father Roy Maggio was stricken with polio and was paralyzed from the waist down. Rudy took on most of the work in the vineyards with guidance from his father. When Rudy was 20 years old Roy Maggio and Son was formed and Rudy was a full partner. Together, father and son farmed grapes, leased property and did custom farm work. Rudy and Roy started their father and son packing company Riviera Fruit Company which shipped grapes to Canada, Chicago, and East Coast locations until 1980. In 1980, Rudy transitioned from shipping fresh grapes to delivering and selling his grapes to Gallo, The Wine Group, and Bronco Wine. In August 2002, Rudy along with Don and Rocky Reynolds, purchased the East Side Winery which became Oak Ridge Winery, LLC. Rudy was the General Manager and ran Oak Ridge Winery from 2002-2020. He had the vision to foresee the tremendous opportunities of growing the winery to what it is today.

Diana Pellegri Muller was born in Stockton and raised on Union Island. Growing up she worked in the fields, packing asparagus, and tending to the tomato hot beds. She also did the payroll for the farm hands that harvested tomatoes on the family’s ranch. After the birth of their first child, she has been co-owner of Muller Ranch with her husband Elmer, a diversified farming operation raising asparagus, alfalfa, tomatoes, sugar beets, and cereal grains.  The operation also included horses, sheep, and goats.  For over 50 years, Diana has been very active with 4-H Clubs. Diana has also served in many roles with the San Joaquin County Fair as well as Ag Fest. Diana is a member of the California Women for Agriculture and has served as area director. In 2018, the San Joaquin County Fair named the sheep ring after Diana and Elmer.

Jim and Sam Tanaka are partners in Tanaka Farms, Inc. with their brothers Richard, Bob, and Joe. Jim, with his brothers Richard and Bob, as well as their father started farming in 1947. Sam started farming with his brothers in the 1950’s. Together, they grew the business from nothing to about 3,000 acres of diversified farming in both San Joaquin and Yolo counties. Tanaka Farms, Inc. became a highly efficient integrated agriculture business complex. They were among the first growers to use precision apply pre-plant fertilizer, transplant cannery tomatoes, operate their own laser leveling machinery, and adopt an integrated Pest Management program for cannery tomatoes resulting in a 50 percent reduction in pesticide use. Jim and Sam were both members of the San Joaquin Nisei Farmers League, an organization that helped farmers develop strategies to maintain their employees. They were also members of the San Joaquin Farm Bureau, California Tomato Growers Association and California Beet Growers Association.