Michael Stokes was born and raised in the farming business. A third-generation agri-businessman, Stokes began farming at the age of 18 when he worked for his parents. He and his brother, Bill, then ventured out on their own.
Today, he is the owner of Stokes Brothers Farms, Stokely Orchards, S&L Vineyards, Stokes and Lombardi Farms, and Benson Ferry Farms. His ventures include wine grapes, cherries, apples and alfalfa hay. He employs many youth in the community and believes it is important to keep them involved.
"Anything to do with the younger generation we have to support 100 percent. They are our future," he said.
For showing an example of being a rising star, Stokes was chosen as an inductee to the Lodi Community Hall of Fame. Tracy Williams, a longtime friend of Stokes', said he has given back in so many things and for so many years that he's worthy of rising-star status.
"He's very warm and kind hearted. When he does something, it's from the heart and not because of any other reason," she said.
Over the years, Stokes has been involved with the community of Thornton, where he has served as president of the Thornton Chamber of Commerce and currently serves on the Thornton Municipal Advisory Board. He hopes to eventually see a youth center, a small homeless shelter and meals on wheels program for the seniors in Thornton. He also supports Lodi and has provided funding for the LOEL Center, St. Anne's Festival, Thornton Mater Eccesiae and the San Joaquin Butterfly Hospice. He feels it is important to support the community because the people in it are the ones who help to build it.
"It's very important to give back to any community. This is our lifestyle," he said.
In 1996 Stokes joined the board of directors for the Lodi Boys and Girls Club, and in 2005 he was elected chairman of the board of directors. He currently serves as first vice chairman of the board and will serve a second term as chairman next year. Stokes was awarded the Jeremiah Milbank Society award for his support of the organization from 2005-08. He then was awarded the outstanding service award while serving as chair from 2005-06.
He feels the Lodi Boys & Girls Club is beneficial to keep growing children out of trouble. The organization helps educate the youth and it helps mix children of different cultures, he said. In the future, he would like to see the organization be able to survive on its own financially and to possibly open another branch.
"You walk in and see all the happy faces. It has a great opportunity for all kids," he said.
Stokes is a lifelong resident of Lodi. He graduated from St. Anne's School in 1981 and then from Lodi High School in 1985. He is married to Wendy Stokes, and they have two children, Elaine, 14, and Jake, 13.
Stokes is a member of the Lodi High School FFA Boosters Club. He also serves on the board of directors for the Lodi District Wine Grape Growers Association, the Resource Conservation District and the Reclamation Board for several districts in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Counties.
Richard Jones, a friend and colleague, describes Stokes as a friendly, very frank and open individual who is a "people person." He feels that Stokes should have received the award long ago.
"It's one of those honors that Mike has really deserved for many years — all what he has done, he truly is a man worthy of this award," he said.
Other inductees this year include Mark Armstrong, who has managed the Lodi Grape Festival for 18 years, for his contributions to agriculture; Sally Snyde, who serves as the president of the board of the World of Wonders Science Museum and led the effort in opening the museum, for her contributions to community service; Robert Gross, who performs with and served as music director for the Lodi Community Band and served on the board for the Lodi Community Concert Association, for his contributions to the arts; Thomas Peterson, who served as city manager and was involved in the revitalization of Downtown, for his contributions in government; and Elmer Kludt, who helped establish the Boosters of Boys and Girls Sports Organization and was active with the local Salvation Army, where he served on the board of directors for many years. He was nominated posthumously by Junelle Osterlie for his contributions to community service.
The Hall of Fame is sponsored by the Lodi Boys and Girls Club. Inductees will be honored at a dinner and program scheduled for Nov. 5 at the Boys and Girls Club headquarters, 275 Poplar St., near the corner of Stockton St. Cost to attend is $45. To make reservations, call the club at 334-2697.