Two Rim Country residents recently won rare recognition for contributions to education and agriculture from the Arizona Cooperative Extension.
Gila County 4-H Club volunteer Lori Brown and Payson Mayor Kenny Evans received the Arizona Cooperative Extension award for significant contributions to agriculture and families.
The University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences operates a series of research stations intended to spread knowledge of conservation and agricultural practices. The organization in the past century has recognized 140 people for such contributions. At a recent gathering, the group added Brown and Evans to the list.
Lori Brown participated in 4-H in Gila County as a youth and is now a key volunteer leader. She has helped club members undertake many projects, some of them housed at her home.
She proved instrumental in developing the popular Agriculture Awareness program now taught throughout Gila County. The program culminates with a field trip for all participants to the Brown family’s H-4 Ranch where the youth participate in “hands-on” activities.
Each year, the Brown family donates many hours to make the Northern Gila County Fair a success. She usually brings at least 20 animals for the petting zoo, one of the most popular attractions. Lori also provides horse-drawn wagon rides for each and every child that attends.
She serves on various boards and committees throughout the county that focus on positive use of resources. She has been involved in receiving grants for not only youth programs but the integration of solar projects on various ranches.
KENNY J. EVANS
Starting as a farm worker, Kenny Evans assembled one of the largest family farming and agriculture enterprises in the country before his retirement in 1997. An author, inventor and educator, Evans has appeared as an expert witness at the state capital and in Washington, D.C. more than three dozen times. He is a nationally recognized expert on the subjects of western water and the use of technology to minimize negative impacts of traditional farming on the environment. His farming enterprise was recognized by both farm and environmental groups for wise stewardship and conservation of water and other resources.
Evans served at the state cabinet level under several Arizona governors. He has accumulated years of service on the board as an officer of many diverse public and private corporations.
In addition to serving the past six years as the mayor of Payson, Evans is currently president of the largest non-profit in the region and serves on the board of Payson Regional Medical Center. He also serves on the executive committee of the Arizona League of Cities and Towns, the state Municipal Tax Code Commission and the state Bioscience Steering Committee and on the County Extension Board.
He has been instrumental in starting or promoting the Community Health & Care Fair, the Women’s Wellness Forum, the Payson Area Food Drive; the Payson Community Garden; and in bringing a dialysis center to Payson. He continues to work to bring a four-year university to Payson. He has brought many jobs and over $10 million in grants to the community. He helped secure a permanent, sustainable water supply for the town and helped negotiate a global water settlement agreement with the Tonto Apache Tribe.
From migrant farm worker to corporate executive, he has been blessed and privileged to live the American dream.
Other Centennial honorees who have been selected from southern Gila County include Bob Boice (deceased), David Cook, Jimmy Griffin (deceased), Senator Bill Hardt (deceased), Cayci Vuksanovich and Terry Wheeler.
Also recognized for Gila County was Coconino County resident Al Medina. He made significant contributions to the science and management of natural resources in Gila County and throughout the Southwest.