On July 23 2015, past president of the Marin County Farm Bureau, Joseph “Joey” Mendoza Jr., passed away peacefully after a battle with cancer. Joey was the third generation in his family to operate a dairy on the Point Reyes Peninsula. Joey, a lifelong dairyman, was known for all the time that he spent advocating for the dairy industry in particular and agriculture in general.
For decades, he served on the Board of Directors of the Marin County Farm Bureau, as well as serving two years as president. He also served as a representative on the board of the Western United Dairymen, a state-wide organization that advocated for the California Dairy Industry. He was also involved in other agricultural causes. His involvement took him to wherever he felt he could be effective; locations could include a community meeting in Point Reyes, a hearing in Sacramento, or trip to Washington D.C.
He was also active in Marin County issues during as era where the Agricultural community and the “environmental” community realized that they had many more goals in common than they realized. It was during this era that members of the nondairy community took the time to travel to Sacramento to advocate for an increase in milk pricing, because it had been realized that the most effective way to protect the dairies was to keep them profitable.
There is a photo in John Heart’s book Farming on the Edge of a stern Joey talking to a member of the environmental community with a caption that reads; “Starting to Talk”. Some of those conversations lead to many of the programs and partnerships that we see in place in Marin County today. This picture was one of many in the chapter titled “Crisis and Alliance”, where stories of the need to comply with new water quality rules of the 70’s nearly closed every dairy in Marin County.
The photo also captures an early glimpse of what would become Joey’s trademark black cowboy hat. In more recent years It was that hat that was seen at numerous farm bureau events, as well as county fairs, and Tomalas Braves’ sporting events. The one thing that all these events had in common is that Joey was there to support the community. It might be to support the dairy industry, agriculture in general, or the students at the high school, his goal was the same, support those he believed in.
Joey also had a great sense of humor and a big infectious laugh. There was also one comment made at his service that rang true with me. It was said that Joey had a funny story from the past about almost everyone he knew. I lost track of how many time he repeated a comment that I had made to him when I was 10 years old. Thirity years later I was still hearing that comment repeated back to me followed by his bigger-than-life laugh.
The attendance at Joey’s service was a testament to him by everyone that he was involved with. St Vincents’ church was standing room only and there was even a contingent that held fourth around the fountain outside during the service.
It was a great turnout in honor of a man who had lived life to its fullest. The Marin County Farm Bureau Board of Directors adjourned their last meeting in his memory and then we made our way to the local Pt Reyes watering hole and raised a glass and made a toast in Jory’s honor.