As if to foreshadow the memorable "God made a farmer" Super Bowl ad, Hansel Kern was named the 2012 North Fork Citizen of the Year at a dinner celebration in North Fork's Town Hall Feb. 2.
Kern was elected by previous citizens based on the more than 13 years he has helped North Fork School students with an organic garden behind the primary playground. During those years he has donated his time every Friday as well as supplies and manpower to help the students learn not only how to grow, but to enjoy, eating the fruits and vegetables from the garden as served by the school cafeteria.
Each class has its own raised garden area that is used for both a spring and fall planting. Many weeks the Kern children, Rebecca and now Aaron, help in the garden as do interns from around the world who come to the Kern Family Farm to learn about organic farming techniques.
A gifted stonemason, Hansel did the stonework in front of Kennedy Hall at North Fork School and at the base of the memorial for Jerry Bishop and at the steps in the front of the Ross Cabin, a preserved home accessed by a trip on the Sierra Vista National Scenic Byway, which starts in North Fork not far from the exact center of the state. Aaron designed the stone benches and demonstration area at North Fork's Sierra Mono Museum and Hansel and Aaron installed them.
Hansel and his wife, Sue, are owners of the Kern Family Farm, which supplies fruits and vegetables to more than 150 North Fork families each year. They also give to the Sierra Mono Museum and the produce is given to elders as well as those in need.
In his acceptance remarks Hansel spoke of using our hands to make a living and urged that those skills be taught as well as the all other important subjects. He also acknowledged his wife Sue who works in Fresno so that he has the time to give to the garden project. Hansel serves on the board of the Ecological Farming Association and helps with Clovis' annual Stone Fruit Jubilee held in June of each year. He was born in Colorado but moved to Oakhurst as a young baby.
"Oakhurst got too busy for us," he said, indicating that was what prompted the 1974 move to North Fork.
As tradition dictates, outgoing 2011 Citizens Vince and Ginny Smith hosted the spaghetti dinner with the help of friends Don Vasconcellos, Tom Donoher, Mary Proper, Michael Olwyler, Connie Popelish, Pat Miller, Vivian Mahar, and Don and Sharon Grove.
As a new tradition, the North Fork Lions Club was named Organization of the Year for its many contributions throughout the year. Most notable was the new cement walkway outside of Town Hall.
Madera County District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler was emcee and Chuck Thrapp sang and strummed the guitar during dinner. Just before the naming ceremony, Thrapp and Robyn Flory (another nominee with her husband, Al) sang "North Fork My Home," which was written in 1982 by Dave Novell who sings with Thrapp and Flory under the name Sugar Pine.