By Julie Fernandez
Representatives of Tulare Noon Kiwanis caught Rick Borges in his element Monday afternoon when they notified him he was Tulare’s Farmer of the Year.
Borges was having lunch with a large group of other World Ag Expo volunteers in the Social Hall at the International Agri-Center, where he and family members have spent countless hours volunteering for more than four decades.
The community will honor Borges at a luncheon on Wednesday, March 19, at the Heritage Complex. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door and can be purchased by calling Celeste Thomas at 559-686-5854 or 559-280-1481.
Thomas said Borges’ fits perfectly the Kiwanis Club’s description of Farmer of the Year.
“Our main criteria is what they have done for the community,” Thomas said.
In Borges’ case that is a lot.
“Most of my community involvement currently is with water and agriculture groups,” he said in an interview shortly after he was surprised by the announcement.
Following in the footsteps of his father, Richard, who was World Ag Expo chairman in 1981, Rick Borges spearheaded the show in 1989, becoming the youngest chairman ever at the age of 28 and the first second-generation chairman. His mother, Mary Borges, also has volunteered with the show for years.
Borges also served 12 years on the Buena Vista School Board when his two children attended, again following the lead of his father.
Richard Borges never lectured his son about the importance of helping to create the kind of community in which you want your family to live in, but quietly taught by example, Rick Borges said. “I just kind of followed along.”
And serving has brought its own rewards, he said.
“It’s the joy that you get back … the people you meet from all walks of life that you would never have met otherwise; it’s broadens your horizon and it makes me a better person,” Borges said.
In addition to his farm show and past school board involvement, Borges is also past president of the International Agri-Center board, which produces World Ag Expo and other events and operates the AgVentures! Learning Center.
Much of his attention these days is focused on water issues. He serves on the Tulare Irrigation District Board of Directors and the Friant Water Authority Board. He also is president of the Kaweah and St. John’s River Association and a Tulare Irrigation Company director.
Concerns about water quality issue led to the recent formation of the Kaweah Basin Water Quality Association of which he is president and a director.
In the years when his children, Greg and Breann, were younger, he and his wife, Susie, were involved with the Tulare Western High School Aquatics Boosters. He served as president for four years.
He is a past president and has served for the last 10 years on the board of the Tulare County Cabrillo Club. And as a member of the Knights of Columbus, he has helped with that organization’s annual fish fries. He also is an active member of St. Aloysius Catholic Church.
Through all this he has had the unfailing backing of his family.
“It’s just great to have a family who supports you when you’re doing all this,” Borges said.
Susie Borges said she loves the fact her husband is so involved in the community.
“I think he’s a great example for everybody in his life,” she said.
Their two children grew up at World Ag Expo and “they enjoy it like we do,” she said, adding they also volunteer at Cabrillo Club functions.
Borges and his father are partners in farming 700 acres of cotton, corn, wheat, alfalfa, blackeyes and pistachios. His son, Greg, is also involved in the operation.
This is the 95th year the farm has operated on the land where his great-grandfather, E.R. Borges, settled in 1919, Rick Borges said.
“On some of my best days, I’m working on the tractor, with no cab and lots of fresh air,” he said.
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