Two of the nicest belles you’d ever hope to meet from two of Lassen County’s most influential ranching families have been named the Old Timers of the Year for the Lassen County Fair. The honors go to Bernice Hagata and Midge Swickard, who will participate in the Lassen County Fair Parade that begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 22. Both women worked the ranches when they were younger — Hagata’s husband Frank passed away in 2013, and Swickard’s husband Jack passed away in 2001.
The Hagata’s family has owned and operated its Willow Creek ranch for 113 years — Frank’s father homesteaded the property in 1904 when he immigrated from France. Bernice and Frank raised three children on the ranch, and today the fourth generation of the family handles the ranching operation.
Hagata has earned many awards over the years, including the Woman of Achievement Award from the Soroptimist Club, Honorary Chapter Farmer from the Lassen High School Future Farmers of America, an Outstanding Contribution to Lassen County award from the Lassen County Board of Supervisors and the Lassen County Cow Belle of the Year award.
Swickard married Jack in 1952, and a ranch they owned in San Jose was purchased by IBM at the start of theSilicon Valley days. They bought the ranch in the Willow Creek Valley in 1959, and brought their parents to Lassen County. They had two sons and nine grandchildren.
Todd and his wife Lori — with seven generations of experience raising cattle — now run the ranch. Swickard said she’s especially proud of the ranch’s premium, 100 percent natural beef now available to the public.