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A Fundraising Campaign in honor of John & Gail Kautz.


For their entire lives, John and Gail Kautz have sowed their own seeds of impact. Between their family, community, farming, and perhaps the most significant, the next generation of agriculturalists, the meaningful investments they have made do not go unnoticed. The Lodi couple are prime examples of skilled businesspeople, generous philanthropists, and servant leaders - with everything they do revolving around agriculture, and it’s time that is celebrated.

To contribute to this celebration, The James G. Boswell Foundation has pledged $1 million towards a $2 million fundraising campaign organized by the California FFA Foundation, in honor and appreciation of John and Gail Kautz.

“The California FFA Foundation is pleased to be launching the Seeds of Impact campaign, honoring philanthropist and agriculture leaders, John and Gail Kautz,” said Emily Rooney, President of Agricultural Council of California, and current Chair of the FFA Foundation Board of Directors. “The generous pledge from The James G. Boswell Foundation, another philanthropic, agricultural leader, reiterates the Kautzes impact and belief that the California FFA is preparing the agricultural leaders of the next generation.  We are thrilled to have the opportunity to leverage these dollars and broaden our support for students in FFA programs throughout California.”  


To say John was quite literally born into farming could not be more true. John’s German ancestors were farmers by trade, so when his family settled in Lodi, California, they too began farming in San Joaquin County. 

In 1940, John’s father acquired his own humble 40 acres that they made into a diversified farm. To this day, the family still owns the property on Live Oak Road, making John the second generation to farm in the Lodi region. 

The fond memories John made on those few acres, like milking his first cow at a mere seven years old, brought him years of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears, but also lots of promise. As a young boy, the thought of continuing the farming legacy started by his ancestors excited him and reinforced his calling to be a farmer. 

John recalls having had a particular interest in tomatoes, which he began growing as a member of his local FFA chapter. Similarly to his farming career, FFA was also “a natural fit.” John, a four-year member of the Lodi No. 1 FFA chapter, even served as chapter president. His involvement in this organization was yet another seed planted that would later grow into something much bigger.

Soon after graduating from high school, John became a member of the California Young Farmers, an alumni organization of the FFA, in which he was elected state president in 1956. His exposure through the California Young Farmers allowed him to meet with other farmers, understand our state's farming economy, and truly advocate for California agriculture. This would be just the beginning of his lifelong venture in California agriculture.


Unlike her husband, Gail’s introduction to farming wasn’t quite so natural. Born as a fourth-generation Oakland, California resident, ending up in the country was the least likely of paths but Gail now proudly brands herself as “a country girl that was accidentally born in the city.”

In 1948, Gail’s dreams came true when her parents bought a ranch in Calaveras County where they would spend most of their summers. Gail, an avid horse rider, often found herself getting lost in the hills for hours on end, and as she puts it, once she got a taste of real country living, “I couldn’t walk; I galloped.” 


It’s no surprise that when John and Gail had an encounter at a local pizza parlor in 1958, they hit it off. Between their mutual passions for farming and like-minded morals and values, marriage and raising children quickly followed. 

As the couple started their lives together, John continued farming on his father’s original 40 acres, constantly gaining momentum and growing sizably to the over 5,000 acres owned by Kautz Family Farms today. One of their business’s strengths was that John wasn’t scared to try different crops and even became involved in processing. In fact, to date, Kautz Family Farms has grown 35 different crops ranging from fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and flowers.

“Hopefully it will inspire others that are working hard to advance, that anything is possible if you work hard and stay with it,” John said. 

There came a time when the Kautzes’ business shifted to a greater focus on wine grapes, to which they currently farm more than 7,000 acres throughout the region. 

Gail’s childhood summer playground in Murphys was the perfect place to expand this endeavor especially because Murphys was gaining traction as a prosperous wine-growing region in California. 

Now known as Ironstone Vineyards, the land is home wine grapes an internationally known winery, and an amphitheater that features top musicians and bands. 

The Kautzes feel an immense sense of pride looking back on their farming journey, especially because each of their four children is still involved in the family business today. Some of their grandchildren have even followed in their grandfather’s footsteps and joined their local FFA chapter.


At the core of everything John and Gail do is the longing to sow their own seeds of impact. California FFA has been fortunate to benefit from the generosity of the Kautz family, and that’s because they see the value of agricultural education - for what it has done for them, their children and grandchildren, and thousands of FFA members.

Not only does John feel an inherent draw towards FFA because he is an alumnus, but he also appreciates the organization’s work in sowing the seeds of future agriculturists, especially as younger generations become less interested in farming. 

“Our purpose in supporting ag education is to bring along our young people into the agricultural sector and help them advance and grow,” John said. “Inspiration is everything for young people.” 

Similarly, Gail sees FFA as an experience for young people, who may not otherwise be involved in agriculture, the opportunity to do so. It also gives these students experiences in professionalism, personal development, and discipline; things Gail was mesmerized by after attending a state FFA conference.  

“Most people are four to five generations removed from the farm, and programs like FFA can help connect people back to their roots,” Gail said. “Agriculture needs more well-educated young people, and that’s what FFA will do.”


One of the most significant ways the Kautzes have supported FFA is by leading one of the nation’s most well-respected car shows held at Ironstone Vineyards, an idea started by Gail. Now in its twenty-eighth year, Ironstone Concours d’Elegance is touted as one of the best of the best, bringing in over 300 antique and classic cars, all in support of California FFA, California 4-H, and agricultural education. As Gail puts it, when they discussed where the funds would go, FFA and 4-H were the “no-brainer” recipients. 

“I'm a believer, if you're going to donate money, you need to see where you're going to give it and so that's why I enjoy having 4-H and FFA members come and be present,” she said. “They have fun showing off some of their projects. The car show people love it, so I think it's been a win-win.”

Since its inception, the event has raised more than $1,000,000 with nearly $200,000 supporting California FFA.

“They’re our future leaders, so it’s a personal interest for us,” Gail said. “It ensures that what we’ve worked so hard for will be in good hands.” 

The Kautzes’ unwavering dedication and commitment to supporting agricultural education has made waves within the agriculture community. Their emphasis on supporting an organization like FFA, which is training the next generation of agriculturists, is intentional, John said. 


“The agriculture industry is a small community to begin with, and we need to expand that,” he said. 


As industry leaders, John and Gail’s admirable actions have encouraged others in that small community to do the same. The Boswell family have been longtime friends of the Kautzes, both serving as pioneers in California agriculture and tremendous supporters of California FFA. 


“John and Gail Kautz have spent a lifetime building an agricultural business and reputation second to none,” said James W. Boswell, president of the James G. Boswell Foundation. “Throughout this endeavor, they have been loyal and dedicated supporters of the California FFA.” 


The Boswells and Kautzes have the same vision and purpose for California agriculture, which has inspired the Boswell family and The James G. Boswell Foundation to pledge $1 million towards the “Seeds of Impact” fundraising campaign, in honor of John and Gail’s nobility and philanthropic efforts.


“It is now time to honor John and Gail by naming a special endowment for the benefit of the California FFA,” Boswell said. “The James G. Boswell Foundation is proud to pledge our support to the ‘Seeds of Impact’ campaign in their honor. It is our hope and request that the California agricultural community will join together to support this campaign to recognize and honor John and Gail for all they have accomplished.”


When the Kautzes heard of the fundraising initiative being presented in their honor, Gail humbly shared they were in a “state of shock,” especially because they never viewed anything that they’d done as extraordinary. 


“We’re just privileged to be able to do a good job in an industry that we love,” Gail said.


What’s unique about this campaign is it not only raises funds for California FFA members but simultaneously shows gratitude for John and Gail, who are esteemed role models in agriculture. 


"This campaign aims to bring together the past and present generations of agriculturists to support our industry's subsequent producers, innovators, and leaders while paying homage to John and Gail,” said Matthew Patton, executive director of the California FFA Foundation. 


And, as John puts it, there’s no better time to support youth in agriculture.


“Here is our opportunity to really do something good for the future of agriculture,” John concluded. “You can’t take it with you, so do some good with it.”


Editor’s Note: Donations made to the John and Gail Kautz, “Seeds of Impact" Fundraising Campaign are tax deductible. If you are interested in contributing, please visit

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Join us in support of students across the state improving agriculture, community, and themselves through their experiences in FFA.


The James G. Boswell Foundation has pledged $1 million towards a $2 million fundraising campaign organized by the California FFA Foundation, in honor and appreciation of John and Gail Kautz.

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