A pest control adviser (PCA) who began his career checking crops in Arizona more than 50 years ago; a regulator who relies on education to bolster her enforcement duties; and a PCA who reaches outside his profession to educate urban legislators about agriculture were the honorees at this year’s California Association of Pest Control Advisers annual conference.

Jon Jessen of Yuma, Ariz., founder of the Gowan Group of agricultural related companies, received CAPCA’s Outstanding Contribution to Agriculture winner for 2012.

Jessen was raised in a small town west of Fresno. After graduating from the University of California, Davis in entomology he served in Korea as an army medic. After discharge he drove south through the San Joaquin Valley to the Coachella and Imperial valleys looking for a job in agriculture. He found one in Yuma, Ariz., checking cotton and vegetables for a local cooperative.

Soon he started his own crop consulting and then went into retail sales. This led to the Gown Group of companies which now has 750 employees in 17 countries. The companies market, register and develop proprietary plant protection for global sales in more than 60 countries.

Karen Francone, an environmental program manager for the California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s central regional office in Fresno also received a CAPCA Outstanding Contribution to Agriculture award this year.

Francone began her career with the Fresno County Department of Agriculture in 1981. She ascended to the role of chief deputy agricultural commissioner. She left the county three years ago to take her current position.

Francone was nominated for the award for “bringing much need common sense along as her enforcement guide.” She has been a strong advocate for agriculture over the years.

Steve Hardgrave of Fresno, a PCA for more than 30 years, is the 2012 CAPCA Member of the Year.

Hardgrave is described as “a person that listens and stays calm in any situation. He is the person you want on your team.”

This past year when CAPCA took on the fight to protect PCA licensing from the proposed changes by DPR, Hardgrave reached out to his area’s state legislature representatives to educate them on how as pest control advisers protect crops in the Central Valley.