"My favorite part of my role as executive director is educating the public; agriculture is a unique and diverse industry that many people don’t really understand and I love being able to interact with business and community partners and help educate and inform them about the agriculture sector."
Tricia Stever Blatter cares A LOT about the future of agriculture which is why as Executive Director of the Tulare County Farm Bureau, she is dedicating her time to ensure there's a pipeline of energy and talent that is drawn to this career path. And, we are tremendously grateful for her because as you know, Tulare County is the #1 largest agriculture-producing county in the nation!
We were excited to interview Tricia because we were curious about her career path, how she navigated and found success in a male-dominated field (no pun intended), and who she admires in her life.
What is your favorite part of being Executive Director of the Tulare County Farm Bureau? How did you get started in your career?
My career began with the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom in 2000, I have now been employed within the Farm Bureau federation for 16 years total. I spent 7 years in Sacramento at our California Farm Bureau state office, first working on agriculture education programs, and then as a field representative for over 26 county Farm Bureaus. My formal education is in Ag Education and Communication. I earned my BS, MS and two secondary specialist credentials in Agriculture at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.
My favorite part of my role as executive director is educating the public; agriculture is a unique and diverse industry that many people don’t really understand and I love being able to interact with business and community partners and help educate and inform them about the agriculture sector. I love working for farmers, and being a spokesperson for this industry.
What is a piece of advice you'd give to a young person thinking about pursuing agriculture as a career?
The agriculture sector has immense employment opportunities and choices, but the core skills are so necessary. Agriculture needs people in all career trades to be good spokespeople for industry, who understand the farm economy, the business realities of agriculture, the costs of production, labor, and regulation in this state. As young people consider careers in agriculture we need those 21st Century workforce skills: accountability, leadership, self-starter, punctual, good time management, strong work ethic and the technical knowledge of the industry. I strongly recommend internships, summer jobs, and working in a variety of agriculture roles while refining a career goal.
In what ways are you and/or TCFB involved with our region's young people? Why is this important to you?
The Farm Bureau takes a very active role in youth leadership development. Tulare County Farm Bureau has been a leader in this area, having funded a Youth Leadership Program for high school juniors, annually the past 32 years. We spend approximately $100,000 annually in ag education programing and in awarding scholarships and we host numerous educational events, special projects, fund school garden grants, host teacher seminars, and prepare teaching resource materials for thousands of local youth. We are very dedicated to youth outreach because the farming industry is an ‘aging’ workforce, with the average farm owner over the age of 57, we need to help recruit and retain future professionals for the industry. We see making our annual investment in the high school leadership program one of many ways we build awareness and connectivity to young adults in our community. We also sponsor and support many of our local high school agriculture departments, the FFA and 4-H programs in the county, we see these as integral career development programs for youth.
We know that more women are pursuing careers in agriculture - can you tell us about your own experience?
Women are a very large and emerging part of leadership in the agriculture sector, but it has always been true that agriculture is considered to be ‘male dominated’ and that farmers are usually men. The industry has many talented, bright, articulate, bold women in career paths – but they do have to be incredibly good at what they do – and they have to be willing to earn their place in industry through hard work and perseverance. Women are not handed jobs in this industry without earning them; just the opposite – they usually have to be twice as good as their male counterparts to be competitive and successful in this industry.
I have always felt like the agricultural professionals I work for see me as a ‘daughter, wife, sister’ – and that does mean that I have to overcome some of those perceptions to be taken seriously, and be respected for my opinions and my talents. In the agriculture workforce, women are very accepted – but they have to walk the fine line just like in many other industries to avoid being perceived as overly aggressive or assertive.
Who is someone you admire and what quality do you most admire about them?
A former professor, Dr. Joe Sabol, emeritus from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. “Dr. Joe” was my faculty chair for my Masters Committee, and taught for over 30 years in preparing teacher educators for agriculture. Dr. Joe met me at Exeter High School when I was just a sophomore in the FFA chapter – he left a remarkable imprint on me about college, and future career choices. Dr. Joe was a mentor, friend, and amazing faculty member that gave me wise and sage advice all throughout my college and post-graduate career. He is very much responsible for the career choices I have made and the successes I have achieved the past 20 some odd years. The quality I admire most about him is that he has a zest for life, he’s passionate, enthusiastic, and exudes confidence and the moment you meet him, you will want to be around him and soak up that enthusiasm. He’s now retired, but has a presence on social media that allows decades of his former students to still bottle up a little of that Dr. Joe enthusiasm!
What are you reading lately? Listening to? [for fun]
I read numerous agriculture publications of course for work… but my favorite pleasure reading is a mystery novel series by Marilyn Meredith, she’s a Springville author, who writes a fascinating mystery series about Tempe Crabtree, a Native American woman, and a sheriff deputy in the fictional town of “Bear Creek” in Tulare County.
Anything else you'd like us to know?
I am married, and my husband Robert is an Agronomic specialist for a farming company. He manages moisture sensing equipment to help regulate the application of crop materials and water to large acreages of crops. We live in Exeter and have only ‘four-pawed children’. We serve as ‘foster parents’ for the Labrador Retriever rescue program of Fresno, and have raised and rehabilitated over 18 rescued dogs and placed them in loving homes the past two years.
Thank you, Tricia, for your tremendous contributions to agriculture and to our community!