Mark Watte of Tulare, a diversified farmer and one of California agriculture’s leading advocates, died Friday. Mr. Watte, who had cancer, was 64.
Born in Los Alamitos, Mr. Watte’s family moved in the 1950s from Orange County to Tulare County, where his father George and uncle Albert farmed 560 acres.
Mr. Watte, born into a farming family, made it his career and excelled at it.
Along with his brother Brian, the pair managed George D. Watte & Sons farming. The family operation farmed 4,500 acres of pistachios, cotton, alfalfa, black-eyed peas and a dairy.
Brian Watte said his brother was a meticulous farmer who never settled for less. If there was a way to save water or fertilizer, or improve yields, Mr. Watte would try it.
He followed the same practical way of thinking in dealing with some of agriculture’s biggest challenges, including environmental regulations, creating a more stable water supply and improving agriculture’s public image.
“Mark wasn’t the type of guy who would just complain about something; he wanted to be part of the solution,” Brian Watte said.
Mr. Watte was a firm believer in sharing agriculture’s story with the public, especially when it came to dealing with the media.
“He would answer every reporter’s question that he could,” Brian Watte said. “Even when he was busy, he would drop what he was doing and take that call. He really wanted the public to understand the farmer’s point of view.”
Mark wasn’t the type of guy who would just complain about something; he wanted to be part of the solution.
Brother Brian Watte
When he wasn’t traveling to a meeting or farming, Mr. Watte enjoyed relaxing in his home with his family, especially his grandchildren.
“He would try to get to all of their swim meets, or soccer games,” Brian Watte said. “And it was a rare Sunday when we didn’t go over to his house for Sunday dinner.”
Tricia Stever Blattler, executive director of the Tulare County Farm Bureau, said Mr. Watte’s leadership will be greatly missed.
He was named Agriculturist of the Year by the Tulare County Farm Bureau in 2014.
“Mark was a tremendous leader and was always someone you could rely on,” Blattler said. “He also had a balanced view of things and knew how to get people to work together.”
Blattler said that even in the last stages of his life, Mr. Watte continued to lend his support for causes and projects in the community.
“He was such a man of honor and integrity,” she said. “He had been fighting through chemotherapy treatments, but he was still willing to help.”
Mr. Watte’s accomplishments and civic involvement are extensive. They include 1992 World Ag Expo Chairman, 2000 Tulare Farmers of the Year, along with his brother Brian Watte, and 2013 Tulare Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year.
He was involved with the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District, Friant Water Authority and the California Cotton Growers and Ginners Association. He also served for 20 years on the board of directors of Cotton Inc. and was its current chairman.
Mr. Watte served as a Tulare city councilman in 2010-12 and also was a member of the city of Tulare Board of Public Utilities.
Born: May 14, 1952
Died: June 17, 2016
Survivors: Wife Joanne; daughters Karen Tristao, Julie Starr and Tracy Bert; 10 grandchildren; siblings Michelle Noble, Brian Watte, Eric Watte and Denise Petersen.
Visitation: Wednesday, 4-7 p.m., Miller’s Tulare Funeral Home, 151 N. H St., Tulare.
Services: Recitation of the Rosary and Mass of the Resurrection will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at St. Aloysius Catholic Church, 125 E. Pleasant Ave., Tulare, with burial at North Tulare Cemetery.