Fresno Farming Pioneer Jack Woolf Passes Away

Fresno Farming Pioneer Jack Woolf Passes Away

FRESNO, CA - John Leroy Woolf Jr., better known as Jack, was a pioneer in the Fresno farming community and left an indelible mark on the industry. After decades of tireless work creating some of California’s largest and most successful farming operations, Jack Woolf passed away at his Fresno home at the age of 102.

A WWII U.S. Army veteran, Woolf returned to the United States and began working for cotton farmer Russel Giffen, during which Woolf impressed many with his skills of planning, execution, and management. In 1974, he purchased some of Giffen’s farmland and launched his own company: Woolf Farming Company.

Woolf was among the first to plant almonds and pistachios in Fresno County, a crop that now generates roughly $7.8 billion in revenue each year.

Throughout his career, Woolf worked to ensure that water efficiency was top of mind, all while laying the groundwork for farming and processing higher-value crops. He was involved with decision makers on this matter, serving on the Westlands Water District Board of Directors from 1976 to 1992.

“It would be impossible to overstate the contribution Jack Woolf made to irrigated agriculture on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley,” said Tom Birmingham, General Manager of Westlands Water District. “There simply are not enough superlatives to describe Mr. Woolf, but he will always be remembered as a man of great integrity and a true gentleman.”

Woolf was involved with several boards and organizations, including the National Cotton Council, The University of Santa Clara Board of Regents, the Fresno Historical Society, The California Tomato Growers Association, among others.

He is survived by his wife Bernice and six children: Anne Franson, spouse Don; Nancy Woolf; John Woolf, spouse Mary Pat; Mike Woolf, spouse Shelly; Stuart Woolf, spouse Lisa; and Chris Woolf, spouse Sarah. He also leaves behind 24 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Jack Woolf was a man so in love with the land that even at the age of 100 he would visit the office two or three times a week. Fresh produce truly changes our hearts and minds, and Jack was a pioneer for both.

Our condolences go out to Jack’s family and friends at this time.