Jim Maxwell founded Agriland Farming, Inc., a dynamic farm management company based in Madera County, which has grown from less than 2,500 acres in 1990 to oversee more than 25,000 acres of pistachios, almonds, walnuts, grapes, citrus, kiwis, and figs across seven counties, from Stanislaus to Kern.
Agriland’s clients range from individual owners with 40 acres to some of the largest institutional farm owners in the U.S. Their clients include several large nut processors and marketers and individuals from almost every major ethnic background. Maxwell believes that one of the critical strengths of the company is found in the consistent high ethical and business standards of its clients.
Maxwell, Agriland’s CEO, and its innovative management team have built the company into one of the largest nut growers in the U.S. In addition to the farm management divisions, Agriland has expanded specialized mechanical services available to outside clients.
“We originally started pistachio and almond harvesting companies to help our clients avoid the risks associated with late harvests, and we have ended up harvesting for many of our neighbors,” Maxwell said.
This same philosophy is why Agriland now runs a deep-well pump company; a farm supply company; and a more recent start-up dedicated to mechanical hedging and topping, mechanical stacking of pruning brush, mummy nut shredding, setting floors for a “no-till” approach to orchard floor management, and AF36 spreading to control aflatoxin in pistachios.
There is no doubt that talented managers and staff across all agricultural production disciplines have helped the company excel in providing “state of the art” farming services to owners of permanent crops. The approximately 275-full-time farm employees, some of whom have been with the company from the beginning, are asked to treat the trees and vines as though they are their own.
It is this mentality of employee responsibility and ownership that has helped Agriland excel in the farm management industry. From top to bottom at Agriland, all workers are considered to be part of the “family” and are often referred to as “associates”—as opposed to the traditional term “farmworkers”—and they are recognized as the company’s number one resource.
Maxwell and his team try to treat every member of the Agriland Family with dignity, respect, and compassion.
“We believe that it is not only the right and proper thing to do but that our clients and company will succeed based on how we treat each of its members.”
Hence, the company conveys compassion for its top resource by providing a wellness plan for every employee and their family. The company also hosts an on-the-farm health clinic, offers a 401K program, and gives holiday and paid time off to field employees.
The idea behind the health clinic began even before ObamaCare (the Affordable Care Act or ACA) was passed.
“I knew that although our associates would have access to ObamaCare, they would not be able to afford the subsidized insurance,” Maxwell explained. “Furthermore, they were not willing to buy coverage because most had not been to a doctor for many years and therefore did not see the need.”
“So, we entered into a joint venture with Camarena Health—a community-based healthcare provider,” he continued. “We built the small onsite brick and mortar clinic, staffed by Camarena doctors, nurses and other medical specialists regularly. Each company employee, individually and privately, meets with a doctor in a room equipped with an exam table and all of the important screening devices.”
“At the clinic, we do a biometric health screening for those associates who want it,” Maxwell said.
The screening measures physical characteristics such as height, weight, body mass index, vision, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and aerobic fitness, in addition to an A1C blood test to determine one’s risk of diabetes better. The screening and testing performed at the clinic are in addition to the health booths set up at picnics and harvest celebrations where employees can sit down and check their blood sugar and blood pressure.
“When we started testing, we wanted to identify the employees who were diabetic, pre-diabetic, or hypertensive, because we felt like these were health issues that, if identified early and treated properly, could help these ‘family members’ and make a meaningful, long term difference in their lives,” Maxwell explained
“The goal is to benchmark and evaluate changes in general employee health status over time,” he continued. “Once the metrics are understood, management establishes classes, such as nutrition and weight loss courses, which are presented during evening classes for employees and spouses to attend. We bring in instructors to teach those who are diabetic, pre-diabetic, or hypertensive what to do to protect their health.”
Of course, employees are not obligated to come to the clinic, but Maxwell encourages them by paying them for the time they are there.
“At first, very few employees signed up. Then I pleaded with them to go to the clinic to make sure they were healthy or to identify areas of health needing improvement. Still, very few stepped up.”
So Maxwell offered an incentive, a $50 Walmart or Save Mart gift card, “and that dramatically increased the signups.”
In addition to health-related classes, the company provides English as Second Language night classes for employees and their families.
“We built the Training Center for two purposes: to serve those who work here and their families and to serve the needs of the community.”
The company actively promotes the education of the children of their farm workforce by incentivizing academic excellence in middle school and high school, followed by college scholarships for those who qualify.
“We have to be able to tell seventh graders that if they get good grades and are qualified to go to college, we will be there for them by the time they graduate from high school. Our scholarships are generally $2,500 per student, per year, for four years of college attendance. When we give them the first scholarship check, we also present them with a new laptop computer for them to use in college,” Maxwell said.
Many farmworker families, going back generations, have never had a family member go to college.
“If a child of one of our farm employees works hard, gets good grades, and goes to college, he or she will likely be the first generation and possibly break the cycle,” Maxwell said. “And I believe that the children of these students will follow their parents and also go to college.”
In the age of social media, facilitating the connection between producer and consumer is more accessible than ever. Casey Kinler, Communications Manager with the Animal Ag Alliance based out of Arlington, Virginia, is not only urging farmers to jump on board the social media craze but is also focusing on helping zealous educators develop their message.
“Now more than ever, it is really important for individual farmers and ranchers to be on social media,” Kinler said.
Although this may be foreign territory for some, she recommends beginning with only one platform such as Facebook because it offers the biggest reach of people
To take it one step further, the Ag Alliance also works with college students, hosting an online scholarship competition where the goal is to teach them how to effectively communicate about animal agriculture. They just celebrated their 10th anniversary of the competition, where over 430 individuals from more than 40 different states participated.
“It’s really important for farmers to get out there and share what they’re doing on their farm and make sure that people in their community know that they are a trusted source.”
Monterey County Farm Bureau and Central Coast Young Farmers and Ranchers offer scholarships to high school seniors and college students for the 2014 – 2015 academic year.
Students must have attended and graduated from a Monterey County or San Benito County High School and plan to attend or are attending a university or community college majoring in an Agricultural curriculum. Scholarship award amounts are dependent on the number of applications and amount of awards given.
Erica Bianchi is the recipient of a $1,500 scholarship from CC YF&R and $1,000 scholarship from American Ag Credit. Erica is a graduate of San Benito High School and attends California State University, Fresno majoring in AgriBusiness.
Jimmy Goudge is the recipient of a $1,500 scholarship from CC YF&R and a $1,000 scholarship from American Ag Credit. Jimmy is graduate of Anzar High School and attends Cal Poly San Luis Obispo majoring in Agricultural Systems Management.
Lauren Bellon is the recipient of a $1,250 scholarship from CC YF&R. Lauren is a graduate of Anzar High School and attends Cal Poly San Luis Obispo majoring in Agricultural Science.
Heidi Morisoli is the recipient of a $750 scholarship from MCFB. Heidi is a graduate of Salinas High School and plans to attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo majoring in Agricultural Science.
Cecilia Krogsgaard-Sanchez is the recipient of a $750 scholarship from MCFB. Cecilia is a graduate of Salinas High School and attends Cal Poly San Luis Obispo majoring in Animal Science.
Jorge (Ben) Gomez is the recipient of a $500 scholarship from MCFB. Ben is a graduate of Salinas High School and plans to attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo majoring in Ag Environmental Plant Science.
Karina Medrano is the recipient of a $500 scholarship from CC YF&R. Karina is a graduate of Salinas High School and plans to attend Cuesta College (Ag major undeclared).
Lauren Ivey is the recipient of a $500 scholarship from CC YF&R. Lauren is a graduate of Salinas High School and plans to attend Modesto Junior College majoring in Animal Science.
Justin Carroll is the recipient of a $500 scholarship from CC YF&R. Justin is a graduate of Salinas High School and plans to attend Modesto Junior College (Ag major undeclared).
Justin Massa is the recipient of a $250 scholarship from CC YF&R. Justin graduated from Soledad High School and plans to attend Hartnell College majoring in Food Safety.
MCFB and CC YF&R are pleased to award scholarships each year to deserving students who desire a career in food production or ranching.
Both organizations work hard to give back to the agricultural community through fundraisers, bar-b-ques and support of other agricultural non-profit organizations.
Source: The Fresno County Farm Bureau
Proteus offers academic scholarships
Proteus is now accepting applications for its Standard and William Maguy Scholarships for the 2014-15 academic year.
The $500 Standard Scholarship is open to full-time college students or those planning to enroll as full-time students for the 2014-2015 school year, who are low-income status, farmworkers, dependent of a farmworker, or who have been served by a Proteus program in the past two years.
This scholarship program targets new or continuing students enrolled in two or four-year colleges, or accredited post -secondary institute.
The $1,000 William Maguy Scholarship is open to full-time students who have completed at least two years at a university or community college.
This scholarship will be given to a person who exemplifies the larger-than-life quality of Proteus’s former CEO, William Maguy, who focused on empowering and serving people.
Those interested in applying should have a GPA of 3.0 or higher and demonstrate their community involvement in organizations that serve others.
All applicants’ primary residence must be in, Kern, Kings, Fresno, or Tulare counties. The deadline to apply for the Standard Scholarship is April 2, 2014, and the deadline to apply for the William M. Maguy Scholarship is April 30, 2014.
For more information, or to download the application at http://www.proteusinc.org/.
Charles P. Lake Rain for Rent Scholarship now available
Twenty scholarships in the amount of $1,500 will be awarded to students to help them pursue a career in agriculture, engineering or construction management.
Applications will be accepted through Friday, April 18, and must be submitted to the Fresno County Farm Bureau, 1274 W. Hedges Ave., Fresno, 93728. To read/print the Charles P. Lake/Rain for Rent Scholarship Brochure, please visit, www.rainforrent.com/company/scholarship.aspx.
Scholarship applicants must have completed their freshman year at an approved college/university and must be currently enrolled for the next school year.
Junior college students who are registered as sophomores and fall within the requirements may apply.
Farm Grown scholarships available for 2014 high school graduates
The Gar and Esther Tootelian Charitable Foundation Farm Grown scholarship applications are now available for graduating high school seniors.
The successful candidate will be awarded $1,000 each year and an honorable mention finalist will receive $500.
Candidates must be high school seniors graduating in 2014 who will pursue a degree in an agriculturally-related field.
Applicants must be in good standing and go to school in Fresno, Tulare, Kings, Merced, Madera, Mariposa or Kern counties.
For more information and to apply, click here. The deadline to apply is April 1.
Friends of the California State Fair Scholarship available
The Friends of the California State Fair Scholarship Program awards California’s most promising students with scholarships ranging from $500 to $5,000.
This year, they will award more than $34,000 in scholarships to deserving California students.
College students and graduating high school seniors who exhibit academic excellence, leadership potential, civic engagement and a strong sense of personal commitment to continuing education are eligible to apply.
The deadline is March 7. For more information, or to apply, visit www.bigfun.org.
Central Valley Chapter California Women for Agriculture Scholarship available
The Central Valley CWA is pleased to announce the call for 2014 scholarship applications.
Scholarships are offered to high school and college students studying for careers in agriculture-related fields.
The applications must be received by mail on or before March 28, 2014. No hand-deliveries or email applications will be accepted.
For more information, or to download the application, click here.
San Joaquin Valley Quilters’ Guild Scholarships available
The San Joaquin Valley Quilters’ Guild is pleased to offer one $500 scholarships to students interested in fiber related arts.
Qualified applicants include those focusing on fiber as an art medium or those with skills in costume or clothing design or textiles and textile conservation.
High school seniors and college students may apply.
Preference will be given to students enrolled at least halftime in a Fresno County college or university.
Application, two recommendations and a photo of the applicant must be postmarked by April 1 to receive consideration for this year’s scholarship.
Email the 4-H program coordinator at email@example.com for a scanned copy of the application.
Fresno-Kings County Cattlewomen’s Association Scholarship available
The Fresno-Kings County Cattlewomen’s (FKCCW) Association is offering a scholarship.
Applications and information are available online at http://www.fkccw.com/.
4-H Scholarships available
There are a number of scholarships available to 4-H members and alumni.
Visit http://ucanr.org/scholarships for more information about Fresno County 4-H, California 4-H or other scholarships.
The Responsible Nutrient Management Foundation is pleased to offer scholarships in the amount of $2500; available to students attending an agriculture-related program at a post-secondary educational institution in the United States during the 2014-2015 school year.
This scholarship opportunity is the result of a cooperative commitment between Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers, Ag PhD, No-Till Farmer Magazine, Capello USA, PNC Bank, and RFD-TV; and intended to further the education of students who demonstrate the ability to clearly articulate the importance of responsible nutrient management not only for the future of the agricultural industry, but also for our culture as a whole.
Equipping the leaders of tomorrow with an understanding of the delicate balance between high-production agriculture and environmental stewardship will be critical as agriculture strives to more efficiently and sustainably produce food and fiber to feed and clothe the world. The Responsible Nutrient Management Foundation is committed to the future of agriculture and the youth who represent its leadership, and believe this scholarship will help bring bright students closer to their goal of a career in agriculture.
Deadline for application is May 31, 2014.