Karst chat with Barry Bedwell: On the next step for the California tree fruit industry

03/31/2011 12:17:02 PM
Tom Karst

3:14 p.m. Karst: Take us back a few years; how did you get your start in the industry?

3:15 p.m. Bedwell: I grew in the central valley in Madera, Calif., a small town. I was one of those kids who wasn’t from a farm family but if you wanted to work during the summer you usually wound up trying to do something on a farm, from trying to pick Thompsons for raisins – that’s no fun, I’ll tell you that – you get those kinds of jobs. Then you tell them you know how to drive a tractor and you are not really sure you do. You get on a tractor and hope you don’t break anything. When I went to (Fresno State) I ended up being an accounting major and I went to work after college at Ernst and Ernst, which was at that time a big accounting firm in Sacramento. From there I was hired as a controller for a farm organization in the Central Valley. That’s where I become involved in agriculture.

3:17 p.m. Karst: What do count as one of the things you look back on reflect on in your career? What else to you want to accomplish?

3:18 p.m. Bedwell: When I look back, being involved in production agriculture gave me the opportunity to work originally for a grape growers cooperative called Allied Grape Growers and I was able work with Allied for 13 years. What I really appreciated was working for farmers who are inherently honest. They want to do the right thing, and it is a world that has become so complicated and the consumer is losing the understanding of who and why their domestic food production is so important. The (farmers) weren’t driven by egos, and they weren’t even driven by economics purely, although let’s face it if we don’t have economic viability, no one is going to be around and you have to make a product. But it was always about what they did, whether they produced the best rapes or the best peaches, there is a pride in what they do. At the same time, there is need for assistance, particularly at the company policy level, so that our friends who are the consumers don’t make decisions with unintended consequences that will invariably result in outsourcing our food production if we are not careful.

We talk about the need for regulation – absolutely – but you don’t do it to the point where you don’t give the tools for these people to provide you with the products. Whether it is food safety or food security, there are some many reasons to make sure you maintain a domestic food supply. So when I look back, it is always about the job satisfaction you get in making sure that these people are represented by education those decision makers, which I think well intended most of the time. But some many times their decisions are detrimental and they just don’t get it – and connect the dots and understand the total impact of these decisions. So that’s what I always look back to and that’s why I enjoy coming to work because working for people that do a great job for all of us. And they truly need, though, the assistance in communicating and educating others. I could be sitting behind a desk doing taxes right now. Would it be any fun? No.


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