( Photo courtesy California Giant Berry Farms; graphic by Amelia Freidline )

Joe Barsi thinks of himself as an optimistic people person who is a lifetime learner.

He has drawn on all those qualities during a 25-year produce career that included stops in California, Minnesota, Atlanta, Washington and a few jaunts abroad. 

The president of Watsonville-based California Giant Berry Farms grew up in Watsonville, but not in a farming family.

His interest in agriculture was spawned by a few good friends who seemed to enjoy good, rewarding careers in that field.

After earning a bachelor of science degree in agribusiness with a concentration in marketing from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, he completed an internship at Gold Coast Packing in Santa Maria, Calif., then headed to Eden Prairie, Minn., where he worked his way up to general manager of the Western region for C.H. Robinson Worldwide before joining California Giant in 2005.

“He gets people very involved. He strives to better himself and the business and people around him.” — Bill Moncovich, California Giant Berry Farms

A highlight of his first stint at Cal Giant was helping develop a business plan for the company’s blueberry program.

“It was a fun time,” he said, working with a superfood that fit well into his passion for health and fitness, and it afforded him opportunities for international travel as he met with growers in South America and throughout the U.S.

He earned a master’s degree in business administration from Santa Clara University while at Cal Giant.

He left California Giant in 2012 as vice president of business development to assume the presidency of Dutch-owned Tradin Organics U.S.A. LLC near Santa Cruz, Calif.

The position offered him a chance to grow his leadership skills and build on his international experience as he sourced organic ingredients from all over the world.

His next stop was an 18-month stint as president of Enzafruit Products Inc. in Wenatchee, Wash., before rejoining California Giant as chief operating officer in 2018.

He was promoted to president in January 2020.

Barsi said it was rewarding to see how far Cal Giant had come with its blueberry program and international operations in Mexico when he returned to the company.

He most recently has taken a special interest in sustainability and decided to work with the sustainably grown certification program with SCS Global Services, Emeryville, Calif.

In August, a Cal Giant grower, Watsonville-based Satsuma Farms, became the first strawberry grower to receive sustainably grown certification from SCS.

As he accumulates one success after another, Barsi said a guiding philosophy has been the acronym DWYSYWD — Do What You Say You Will Do — created by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, best-selling authors of “The Leadership Challenge.”

“I have a mindset that life doesn’t get any easier. There are going to be bumps in the road. You’ve got to enjoy the good times. The challenging times are going to come, and you just have to embrace them and work through them.” — Joe Barsi, California Giant Berry Farms

Barsi also feels he has developed the ability to connect with people, which includes customers, employees and growers at California Giant.

Bill Moncovich, California Giant CEO, praised Barsi as a “very well-rounded young man” who “knows all the sectors of the business” — including transportation, growing, buying and selling.

“He gets people very involved,” he said. “He strives to better himself and the business and people around him.”

Barsi said he tries to be upbeat and optimistic, but he also is realistic.

“I have a mindset that life doesn’t get any easier,” he said.

“There are going to be bumps in the road. You’ve got to enjoy the good times. The challenging times are going to come, and you just have to embrace them and work through them.”

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