Tulare dairyman, Lee Coito, chairs World Ag Expo 2011

By Ron Goble

Tulare dairyman, Lee Coito, 68, is serving as the 2011 World Ag Expo chairman after volunteering in numerous capacities at the annual exposition since 1982.

While he worked mostly among dairy exhibitors during the show, Coito also worked out of the East Office and most recently served as the show grounds exit chairman.

The Coito family has a long dairy history. His grandfather immigrated to the United States from the Azores, a couple weeks before the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.  He was indentured for one year to pay for his trip to America, His grandfather later married and moved to Southern California where he went into the dairy business for himself.

Lee’s late father – also named Lee – owned and operated a dairy in Southern California in Dairyland which is now called La Palma. The family moved to Tulare in 1970. He and his two sons, Lee and John, became partners in the Tulare dairy venture, where the two brothers still dairy today.

Most of Lee’s growing up was in Artesia/Dairyland on his father’s dairy. When he was 7 years old, Lee would cut wires and feed the baby calves. Lee recalled they had one cow that couldn’t go into the barn, so he and his brother and two cousins each milked a quarter into a bucket.

Lee chores were to milk one string of 30 cows each day, before and after  High School. He did part of the feeding and other chores each day.  He also played football but still had his cows to milk and feed before going to play on the Artesia High School team. He was involved in 4-H as a youth and he and his brother John and sister Janet were featured on the National 4-H calendar, pictured holding his project steer “Tubby” which hung in the Department of Agriculture in Washington D.C.

After High School he attended Cerritos College in Norwalk, California.

Today, Coito Dairy features a double-10 herringbone parlor that handles slightly more than 500 Holstein cows that get milked twice a day. Their total operation includes about 1,200 head when counting calves and replacement heifers they raise themselves. Coito’s milk goes to Land O’ Lakes in Tulare.

Lee and wife, Linda, married for 49 years, have four daughters:  Andrea Moore, Melissa Coito, Tracy Rusnak and Rachel Coito. They also have nine grandchildren and one great-grandson.  Lee is now serving his third term on the Board of Directors of the International Agri-Center, Inc.