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Karen Musson

musson

FCFB Board member Karen Musson is no stranger to the agricultural community or Fresno County. Born and raised in Reedley, she graduated from Reedley High School and received a bachelor's degree in marketing from California State University, Fresno. She is a partner in the family business, Gar Tootelian, Inc. (GAR), a major agricultural chemical distributor, located in Reedley.

Deep roots in agriculture

Karen's paternal grandfather arrived in Salem, Massachusetts in 1890 with the intention of earning enough money to return to Armenia to support his family. Unexpectedly, his plans changed and he became a U.S. citizen in 1896. He sponsored his two brothers and sister to the U.S. He married in 1903 and established a home in Chicago until 1914 when Karen's grandmother urged him to use their savings to purchase a farm in Reedley where they remained and Gar, one of their sons, was born.

Gar loved farming from an early age, but like many small farmers, the farm's revenue was insufficient so he supplemented his income by selling fertilizer and doing tractor work. He married Esther in 1944 and in 1949, they decided to use their savings to start their own fertilizer business. They sold to their neighbors. Customers recorded purchases on a small clipboard on the wall of the tool shed; there were no employees.

"At month-end, everyone in the family had a job," said Musson. "My sister and I stuffed and sealed statement envelopes. And since the office was in our home, we were never far from work."

Experience outside the region

In 1972, Karen moved to the Bay Area and spent five years in the corporate offices of a national retailer doing accounting, internal audit, collections and customer service. She later worked for a large international freight consolidator and airfreight forwarder managing accounts payable. In both positions, her responsibility required her to oversee the large conversion of financial records to automated computer systems.

In 1982, Karen returned to the family business and Greg, Karen's husband, accepted a commercial banking position in Fresno. Greg joined GAR in 1985; his financial and banking background helped to shape the company's growth and transition GAR to the next generation. Today, GAR is operated by the second and third generation of family members and Greg serves as the company's president.

Paying it forward

GAR is a member of numerous professional and agricultural organizations, said Musson. She explained that the Farm Bureau is what comes to mind when you think of an agricultural organization. The family has been a Farm Bureau member for a long time.

"It seems like a no brainer," said Musson. "No organization represents agriculture better than the Farm Bureau. I look forward to being a Board member because I see a lot of opportunity," Musson continued. She believes Farm Bureau is a great organization and hopes to help influence it by being more proactive in promoting the importance of agriculture.

Karen spends the majority of her time overseeing the Gar and Esther Tootelian Charitable Foundation's philanthropy and representing GAR's interests on many agricultural and non-profit organizations. "I try to encourage and cultivate as much as possible; it's always a growing thing. For me, it's about cultivating relationships. I believe it's important to promote a positive image of agriculture, educate consumers and nurture future leaders and farmers."

Karen can be heard daily promoting agricultural awareness on GAR's company sponsored commercials that are aired on KMJ 580/105.9 radio.

 

Meet Your Board Members Profile: Ag Today, February 15
By: Katie Rodgers