After nearly 30 years at Western Growers, Hank Giclas is retiring.
Giclas, senior vice president of science, technology and strategic planning, ends his tenure on May 8.
In his most recent roles at the association, Giclas was focused on food safety and technology, which have seen monumental changes in recent years.
Giclas grew up on a farm near Buckeye, Ariz., and pursued a degree in agriculture at the University of Arizona.
“I just sort of fell in love with arid land agriculture, and I wanted to be in agriculture my entire life,” he said.
After graduating from the University of Arizona, he taught vocational agricultural to high school students for a couple of years, and then found an opportunity with Western Growers.
“I was hired as an advocate in Arizona, to be their government affairs representative in Phoenix,” he said.
“I told (Western Growers) in the interview, talking with legislators is a lot like talking to high school students, you really are just educating a different audience on agriculture.”
Giclas said he is thankful for opportunities to work on many issues on behalf of Western Growers members through the years, often taking on complex or controversial issues.
“It would be difficult to overestimate the contributions that Hank has made to the produce industry and to the leafy greens community,” Scott Horsfall, CEO of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, said in an e-mail. “He has taken the lead on developing food safety practices for the industry, has worked tirelessly to bring technology and agriculture together, and has always been a great friend to the growers, harvesters and shippers who work so hard to put safe and nutritious food on our tables. Hank will be greatly missed.”
A statement from Western Growers said Giclas has had a “larger-than-life impact” on the fresh produce industry.
“It will be impossible to replace him with just one person,” according to the statement. “So, we are actually looking to divide his role up into two positions and hope to make an announcement on one of those positions very soon.”
Over the years, his titles at Western Growers included vice president of science and technical affairs, senior vice president of legal affairs, and vice president of strategic planning, science and technology.
Giclas, who has a home in New Mexico, said he is retiring to be available to help with his aging parents, who still live in Arizona.
Giclas started with Western Growers in 1990 and is ending his career nearly 30 years later, in a time of unprecedented change in the industry with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s a tough time to retire because you don’t have the opportunity to really express your gratitude to the colleagues, to the growers, to the processors and to the shippers that you’ve worked with for over three decades,” he said.
Giclas believes technology will help growers face the challenges of the future.
The advance of agriculture technology, including automation and big data, is exciting to Giclas, who doesn’t rule out staying connected to the industry in some way.
While it may take another five years or more to automate more field operations, Giclas said Western Growers will play a role in backing needed research for automation. The association helps agtech startups through the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology.
“I appreciate everything that this industry has afforded me,” Giclas said. “The produce industry is unmatched in terms of the people that make it up, the ingenuity and perseverance — all of the qualities that make for good people. It has been my honor in working the industry.”