Serving the community since 1970

A Starrh passes

Farm leader, local patron

Fred Starrh, longtime farmer and leader in the cotton industry, passed away last week at the age of 89.

He passed surrounded by family at his home following a stroke.

A Shafter resident since his family made its way to Shafter from Arizona in 1935, Starrh was a leader in the cotton industry, at one time serving as the chairman of Cotton Incorporated. He played an instrumental role in the merging of Cotton Incorporated and the National Cotton Council.

He also served as a director of the San Joaquin Valley Quality Cotton Growers Association, advisor to the National Cotton Council, director of the Kern County Water Agency, a director of the California Farm Water Coalition, founding president of the Farmers' Cooperative Almond Huller and president of the Kern County Farm Bureau.

During the George H.W. Bush administration, Starrhwas appointed to serve on the Cotton Agricultural Trade Advisory Committee and Cotton Marketing Committee by Secretary of Agriculture Ed Madigan. He advised on the development of the 1990 Farm Bill.

Away from the agricultural world, Starrh was still a leader, serving his community for over 15 years on the Kern County High School District Board, as well as a trustee for the Richland School District. Starrh was also a founding member of the Shafter Recreation District.

The City of Shafter was touched by Starrh's life, including his many hours of service as well as his generosity. Former Mayor of Shafter and current City Councilmember Cathy Prout said, "I feel fortunate to have known and worked with Fred in the city for many years. He will be truly missed by so many people he has touched throughout his life."

Starrh influenced not only the business of agriculture, but also touched people personally by giving them opportunities to thrive themselves. Son in law Jay Kroeker said, "Fred not only strove to be great in his business, he also wanted those who worked for him and around him to thrive and be great as well."

An example of this was this statement made by Carlos White of Insect Lore, Inc.

"Fred Starrh was not only my friend, but was in a great way the reason for my success. He offered to hire me to check his fields independently and with that and getting just a few farmers' fields, I had enough money for my family to survive."

White went on to say that when he and his wife started a very small business, establishing The Butterfly Garden, it was very challenging in the beginning. The business struggled at first and his partner decided he didn't want to continue, leaving them on their own. But, after the show of support from Starrh, Insect Lore ended up being more successful than he could have imagined. "Because of Fred and his support, children all over the United States and the U.K. have been able to watch a wonder of nature. He had so many great qualities and was loved by everyone who knew him."

In a statement, City Manager Scott Hurlbert expressed the sense of loss from the city.

"Fred Starrh was a pillar of the Shafter community. He was a Korean War veteran, successful farmer and very active on various boards in Kern County. Fred was an energetic promoter of the City of Shafter and found numerous opportunities for he and his family to give back to the community, including the high school theater and Ford Theater/Tin Cup facility. His presence at local restaurants and civic events and his friendly smile will be deeply missed."

Starrh was a leading supporter of the local theater, music and art programs in the city, signified by the naming of the Shafter High School Auditorium as the Fred Starrh Performing Arts Center. Starrh was also honored with his inclusion into the Cotton Incorporated's industry Hall of Fame, was named Shafter's Farmer of the Year, received the Western High Cotton Award and his recognition by the American Society of Agronomy.

Starrh also served the nation, going into the service when his number was called, stationed for two years in Washington State. It was there that Fred met Nancy Johnson, who would become his wife of 54 years and mother of his four children, Fred Jr., Larry, Carol and Anne. After losing Nancy to cancer in 2009, Fred found happiness again when he married Linda Colvard, his companion until his death.

Starrh returned to Shafter after his stint in the U.S. Army, becoming an industry leader in the cotton industry, as well as in the later years, in the almond and water industry. Starrh was also well known for his decade-long lawsuit against local oil company Aera Energy, Inc. Starrh had claimed -- ultimately, successfully -- that the company had knowingly contaminated his groundwater, resulting in a multimillion dollar judgment in his favor.

For all of his achievements and accolades, Starrh earned during his lifetime, his career took a backseat to two loves that towered over them, his God and his family. Starrh enjoyed spending time with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Starrh attended the Shafter Congregational Church and enjoyed singing in the choir.

His legacy lives on in his wife Linda, his children Fred Starrh, Jr (Cris)., Lawrence Starrh (Shana), Carol Kroeker (Jay), and Anne Ashley (Dale). He also leaves behind his grandchildren, Adam (Laura) and Dana Starrh, Keith (Maraci), Michelle (Brian), and Brent Starrh, Bradley Kroeker and DeeAnn Edick (Brian), and his two great grandchildren, Colt and Walker Starrh.

He also leaves his step-daughters Cindy Bynum (Larry) and Dora Gatlin (Don), his step grandchildren, and his many nieces and nephews.


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