Jo Ann Switzer is truly a “Country Girl at Heart.” She’s blazed the trail with boundless energy and enthusiasm as life presents many opportunities to share her love for cattle ranching, the agricultural industry and the legacy of pioneer families in San LuisCountyo county.
The fifth and sixth generations of the Arnold/Switzer family are still ranching on the original homestead in Pozo. Her ancestors,
who symbolize the pioneer spirit, settled in California with a willingness to endure hard times, to explore new places, do new things and raise their families. Jo Ann’s great-grandparents, James and Anna Sinton Arnold, arrived in New York in 1875; James from England and Anna from Ireland. Jo Ann’s grandparents Thomas and Josephine came from Nebraska, settling in Santa Margarita in 1913; later buying the family ranch in Pozo in 1919. They had three sons — Claude, Loyal and Guy Arnold.
Jo Ann’s parents are Guy and Grace Arnold. During the Great Depression, Thomas lost the ranch, Guy stepped in and bought the note, buying the ranch. At the end of World War II, the economy allowed Guy and Grace to pay off the debt of the ranch and buy more ranches in the Pozo Valley. Along with farming and the cattle herd, they raised registered Hereford cattle. As a youth, Jo Ann learned to process the cattle’s registration paperwork. Little did Jo Ann know that this knowledge would help later in life.
She’s the youngest of her siblings Mary (deceased) and John Arnold. In 1936, Jo Ann was the first baby born at the Mountain View Hospital in San Luis Obispo. She attended the one-room school in Pozo from first to sixth grade. Since she was the only student in her class, her parents chose to send her to Santa Margarita Elementary to complete seventh and eighth grades. Besides being “scared to death” and feeling the major culture shock from being the only student to having 17 in her class, she also had to ride 18 miles on the bus to get to school — from Pozo to Santa Margarita. The next step was Atascadero High School and SLO Junior College (now Cuesta College).
Jo Ann married Don Switzer in 1956.
“The very most important thing I have accomplished and am most proud of is having our four wonderful sons,” Jo Ann said.
The Switzers are a family of accomplishments. Jo Ann’s father Guy joined forces with a few neighbors to bring electricity to Pozo in 1947. Jo Ann’s uncle Claude Arnold served as a San Luis Obispo County Supervisor from 1932 through 1940. Today, Jo Ann’s niece Debbie Arnold serves as Fifth District County Supervisor.
She has participated in every Mid-State Fair since 1946. She showed her champion lamb at the first Mid-State Fair in 1946. In the early days, she was active in the Pozo 4-H Club and earned the title of County All Star. She continued to show lambs and steers, still holding the record for having six 4-H champion steers; the most champion steers anyone has ever shown. She also earned many ribbons for her sewing and canning entries.
Alex Madonna was a long-time family friend. When he decided to pursue the registered Hereford cattle business, he called Jo Ann to coordinate the paperwork and operation. It was an amazing experience and education. Alex and Jo Ann traveled the Western United States and Canada to buy cattle. They met amazing people along the way.
For the past 14 years, Jo Ann has served as the Livestock Superintendent at the Mid-State Fair in addition to serving as a member of the board of directors for eight years, from 1986 to 1994; being the major force in starting Cattlemen’s & Farmers Day in 1987. Jo Ann is active in county, state and national Cattlemen’s Associations, serving on many committees at all three levels. She’s been the Secretary/Treasurer of the San Luis Obispo County Cattleman’s Association for 33 years. She was the first woman to serve on the San Luis Obispo County Cattlemen’s Board of Directors as well as the first woman to be honored as Cattleman of the Year.
Jo Ann has played a major role in the Cattlemen’s Western Art Show with her friend and dedicated co-worker Dee Pellandini. “Jo Ann works tirelessly to see that the behind the scenes workings of the show come off as seamlessly as possible,” Dee said. “Jo Ann is there to make sure everyone has what they need to do their job. Having Jo Ann in my life makes putting on the show much easier. Jo Ann is a dear friend and I treasure that she’s part of my life!”
Other distinguished roles include being a founding member of the Cal Poly Rodeo Boosters Organization and the San Luis Obispo High School FFA Aggies Backers; serving on the Cal Poly Animal Science Advisory Council for the school of agriculture; being honored in 1998 by the induction to the Cal Poly Animal Science Department Hall of Fame and the California State Fair Rodeo Hall of Fame; and receiving the Western Fair Association Blue Ribbon Award.
She was one of 17 women chosen by the USDA to travel to South America on a fact-finding mission. She is a member of the California Mid-State Fair Hall of Fame, has been involved at Templeton Livestock Market for more than 30 years; and was instrumental in starting the Tri-County Bull Sale held in Templeton for more than 25 years.
The roots of the Pioneer Day tradition run deep with the Arnold and Switzer family.
Honoring the Pioneer Day tradition since 1950, Jo Ann served as an attendant to Bell Patricia Cooper Twisselman in 1950. Daughter-in-law Cindy Twisselman was Belle as was her mother Nola Cooper Twisselman. Jo Ann’s Aunt Hazel Kuhnle Arnold was a Belle as were her twin daughters, Jo Ann’s cousins, Kathy Arnold Loftus and Claudia Arnold Russell. Granddaughter Hailey Rose Switzer served as an attendant to the Belle in 2010. This Pioneer Day, Jo Ann’s attendants Cindy Switzer, Terri Switzer and Kim Brown will accompany her in the beautiful Queen’s carriage. The 88th Pioneer Day will soon be part of their family history.
Congratulations Jo Ann. Well deserved!