Rick Stark loves his job as the growers relations manager at Sun-Maid Growers of California. He knows the value of customer service and loves the contact with growers and industry members on a daily basis. “The thing about this job is that one phone call or one person walking through your door can change your whole day’s plan,” he said.
Stark said no two days are exactly the same because growers and business support members inundate him on a daily basis with a flurry of questions. “When you can take someone who may not understand something [with the business] and help them understand, it feels good.”
Stark has served for one year as the manager and enjoys the assortment of tasks provided by his position. “The best part about my job is the variety of work and the people. Everyday is a different set of challenges and opportunities. I know it sounds cliché, but this is truly how it is.”A road to raisins
When Stark graduated from California State University, Fresno in 1979 with an Ag Business degree, he didn’t hesitate in getting a job in the industry. Growing up in Easton, it was no coincidence that he would pursue a career in the Central Valley.
In his first three years after college, Stark worked for a farm management company, which managed 10,000 acres and 14 permanent crops that covered areas from as far south as Arvin (near Bakersfield) and as far north as Madera. “This is where I learned the geography of the valley,” he said. “I learned all about marketing orders and how different crops are raised.”
Stark then worked for Sun-Maid for a short time (less than two years) as a field representative, but left to farm table grapes and sell farm supplies for seven years with Gary Pitts Farming, Inc.
I received great experience in progressive farming,” Stark said. “I had a tremendous learning curve at this job. I learned about fertilizing, bud studies, foliar spray and increasing quality and berry size in table grapes.”
In 1989, he returned to Sun-Maid to work as a grower relations representative, working his way up to his current position as growers relations manager in January 2006.
Stark was recently named to the FCFB Board of Directors as the Raisin Commodity Chairman. He brings to the position 20 years of raisin grower’s experience, a well-established understanding of immigration reform and expertise on Integrated Pest Management.
With his involvement with Sun-Maid and experience in the raisin industry, I felt that he would be a great fit as the raisin commodity chairman,” said Russel Efird, FCFB President. “He is involved with the industry everyday, and I thought that he would provide a great level of up-to-date information to the board.”
Stark identified two substantial issues facing agriculture -- immigration and water. “FCFB has long-worked on both of these critical issues, and I look forward to providing new ideas and insight to the board.”
In addition to FCFB, he serves on the newly formed National Grape Wine Initiative, whose goal is to coordinate funding and research for all grape research. This includes all aspects of the grape industry, including wine, table grapes and raisins. He also serves on the Raisin Administrative Committee, established by the USDA marketing order.Family, hobbies go hand-in-hand
During his spare time, Stark loves to play golf as a member of the Kings River Country Club. When he is not relaxing on the golf course, he builds and flies remote-control airplanes.
When it comes to sports, baseball is Stark’s passion. It is not uncommon to run into him at a Grizzlies game. “I am a lifelong Giants fan and follow the 49ers faithfully. I also follow the Grizzlies and the [Fresno State] Bulldogs.”
Stark will be celebrating his 30th wedding anniversary in July with his wife Cherryl, who grew up in Fresno. He has two daughters: Hillorie, 26, and Heidi, 24. Perhaps his most rewarding hobby is taking the nine-hour drive to Phoenix to visit his daughter Hillorie, son-in-law Jeff and his new baby granddaughter Audra, who will be two-years-old in July.
Meet Your Board Members Profile: Ag Today Mar 07
By: John Migliazzo