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This Tulare County dairy farmer won an award earned by few other Californians

Dairy cows munch on silage, alfalfa and milo at Airoso Dairy in Pixley.
Kerry Klein
Dairy cows munch on silage, alfalfa and milo at Airoso Dairy in Pixley.

FRESNO, Calif. — Joey Airoso has been a dairy farmer in the community of Pixley for more than 40 years.

“I’m a fourth-generation famer. Our family started dairy farming in Tulare County in 1912,” he said.

He produces milk, of course, but also exhibits his Holstein cattle at shows around the country. This year, he won one of the most coveted cattle showing honors: The Klussendorf Award.

It’s presented at the World Dairy Expo in Wisconsin each year to just one dairy farmer.

Joey Airoso.
Joey Airoso.

“The Klussendorf Award was developed to recognize those who exemplify a person with great character, sportsmanship, and dedication to dairy cattle shows. Joey Airoso certainly has all these attributes,” reads a press release from the expo. “One would be hard-pressed to find a more popular person showing cattle with his engaging personality and willingness to help anyone in need at a show.”

Airoso said he had no idea the honor was coming until it was announced in front of thousands of spectators at this year’s expo in October.

“It's truly special and quite humbling,” he said.

Dairy officials say Airoso’s service to the industry also helped earn him the award.

Ten years ago, when a youth livestock show lost state funding, Airoso rallied to find the money to help keep it going.

He did, and now, the Great Western Livestock Show in Tulare is reportedly the largest junior dairy cattle show in California.

Airoso says a key to being successful in agriculture today is being ready to adapt to new technology.

He also says it’s important is to stay upbeat, even in the midst of challenges like economic downturns and extreme weather events.

“We are one of the few countries on the planet where we are so prolific in what we can do here from an agricultural standpoint that we’re able to provide food for a lot of other countries that can’t grow their own,” he said. “Just always being able to think positive about what we do and be proud that when you walk into the store a lot of those products come from our farms.”

Kerry Klein is an award-winning reporter whose coverage of public health, air pollution, drinking water access and wildfires in the San Joaquin Valley has been featured on NPR, KQED, Science Friday and Kaiser Health News. Her work has earned numerous regional Edward R. Murrow and Golden Mike Awards and has been recognized by the Association of Health Care Journalists and Society of Environmental Journalists. Her podcast Escape From Mammoth Pool was named a podcast “listeners couldn’t get enough of in 2021” by the radio aggregator NPR One.