A local rancher received recognition this year for his lifelong commitment to volunteerism.

The Victoria Soil & Water Conservation District No. 346 honored Gary Loest, 70, as the 2022 “Outstanding Friend of Conservation.” Once a board member of the Victoria County Farm Bureau, Loest currently manages a Mission Valley ranch filled with a few steers and heifers.

Loest said his work in agriculture can be traced back to his childhood. Since 1972, Loest has participated in the Victoria Livestock Show.

“Some families like to spend vacations at Disney World, but as for my family, our trips were to livestock shows,” Loest said. “That’s what we loved to do.”

In addition to the Victoria Livestock Show every February, Loest continues to travel with his children to livestock shows in Houston and San Antonio to this day.

Loest’s life goes beyond his experiences raising cattle and displaying his livestock around Texas. Some folks in the Crossroads, such as Victoria SWCD District Director Sherilyn Arnecke, know Loest for his involvement in 4-H programs. Loest said he enjoys helping kids prepare livestock for show.

“I make sure they’re doing the right things,” Loest. “It’s great to see the kids make friends from all around the state.”

Arnecke said she admired Loest for his humility when working with people.

“He’s always volunteering his time. 99.9% of the things he does in the community doesn’t involve payment. He likes to help kids succeed,” Arnecke said.

Loest said he was surprised when he found out he had won the award.

“I am not the kind of person who goes out looking for glory. Although I feel like I didn’t do anything to be recognized, it is really nice to be noticed.”

Leo Bertucci is a Report for America corps member who covers energy and environment for the Victoria Advocate.

Energy and Environment Reporter

Before moving to the Crossroads, Leo Bertucci studied journalism and political science at Western Kentucky University.