Q: Jim, please tell us about your background when it relates to farming, agriculture and greenhouse farming?
JB: “I literally grew up in a greenhouse and purchased my parents’ retail nursery and wholesale/retail growing operation right after graduating from college. That’s where I found my passion in growing bedding plants, native trees, shrubs and poinsettias and learned there is no substitute for getting your hands dirty and working hard. I loved the challenges the business presented; meeting greenhouse heating and cooling requirements in the extreme heat and cold of foothills weather, managing a seasonal staff, adjusting cultural variables to make sure plants were blooming or colored-up to meet the demands of our customers at holiday times. To promote our business, I developed a weekly radio show which aired for one hour every Saturday and afforded me the opportunity to interface with interesting experts in our field.”
Q: The life’s journey that brought you to work for Agra Tech is inspiring. Please share it with us.
JB: “Life events prompted the closing of our nursery and I became involved in a different line of work. Though I left horticulture for a time, it never left me. Our local high school here in Angels Camp, CA has a stellar agriculture program which has won several national awards. Every day I passed the school’s empty greenhouse and decided I’d like to become involved in getting the beautiful facility up and running. With a green light from the Ag faculty, I mounted a volunteer effort to raise the funds necessary to get the cooling system operational, installing an energy curtain system and high tech environmental controls which I knew were essential for the success of a new program. I learned the greenhouse had been manufactured by Agra Tech, Inc., one of the world’s leading manufacturers of commercial greenhouses. Ray Pound, who had originally constructed the structure, was instrumental in providing the technical advice and hands-on support I needed. As more and more people in our community joined to support my efforts, our scope grew. In all, we were able to raise over $30,000 in donated funds to create a self-sustaining program to educate students in how to raise a healthy crop and bring it to market. I enjoyed this volunteer effort so much that I went on to earn my credential as an agriculture educator. Shortly after the greenhouse was up and running, I found myself suddenly very unemployed due to corporate downsizing. That’s when I phoned Ray Pound at Ag Con again; this time to ask him if he knew of anyone with a job opening. He suggested I phone his brother John who hired me at Agra Tech soon after our first meeting.”
Q: You have a higher purpose to be involved in this industry and I can tell you’re very driven and passionate about your job at Agra Tech. Please explain.
JB: “I strive to make information about agriculture and horticulture accessible to anyone who wants to learn. Education is exciting to me–both when I am sharing information and when I am receiving it. There are opportunities for me to learn every day and I love being part of this dynamic industry.”
Q: Name several of the more noteworthy projects you’ve been involved in during your employment at ATI?
JB: “Each project we work on is unique and presents site-specific requirements. There may be nothing more exciting than to stand inside a newly-constructed greenhouse that meets the requirements of our client. Among the highlights, it’s been my privilege to work on the positive pressure commercial greenhouse for the Lincove Research Facility and on the insect exclusion greenhouse for Willits and Newcomb.”
Q: What is your title at Agra Tech and what is your job description?
JB: “As a sales engineer at Agra Tech, it’s my job to make sure the client has the information necessary to make decisions pertinent to the construction of greenhouses to meet his needs. It is also important to be available to the customer long after his project has been completed. I enjoy this interface with our customers and make myself readily accessible to them in order to facilitate excellent customer service and satisfaction.”
Q: Tell us what your average work week is like.
JB: “There really is no “average” work week here at Agra Tech. My day is dictated by the needs of our customers whether those needs require me to be in the office or on the road. I travel extensively so that I am able to be of service to my customers.”
Q: How do you think this industry will change within the next 10-20 years?
JB: “In the future, I see Agra Tech at the center of advancements in controlled environmental agriculture. Insect exclusion structures will continue to be vitally important for the health of plants and the industry at large. Our company strives to provide the best possible solutions for its customers.”
Q: Tell us some personal things about you, Jim.
JB: “I enjoy my life in the rural community of Murphys, CA, where I have a deep interest in the native vegetation, geology and wildlife that makes the area so naturally beautiful. My wife is the secretary at an elementary school and writes a column about foothills gardening for Sierra Lodestar. My daughter Jill is Director of Sales for an engineering/manufacturing firm and my other daughter Jane is a pediatric nurse who cares for children who have undergone organ transplantation.”
Q: Describe why you like working for a family business like Agra Tech.
JB: “I am passionate about my work at Agra Tech because it satisfies my creativity, allows building relationships with clients and gives me the opportunity to facilitate sales and construction of world-class agricultural structures to the industry’s finest growers. What can I say about working for the Pound family? They are excellent employers who appreciate their employees and are proud of their business. They are creative, innovative thinkers striving to create solutions to 21st century needs. It’s extremely exciting to work for such a dynamic company!”
Q:What are your personal and professional goals?
JB: “I love my job and strive to continue learning from my customers on each project we work together to develop and construct. In the future I look toward continuing to move ATI and agriculture-at-large forward with the advent of new concepts and solutions for our industry. These are exciting times! On a personal level, I continue work in my community to sow “Seeds of Kindness” in our schools. Over the past several years, this effort has grown to include all 22 schools in our county. It’s a remarkable program which affords me the opportunity to work with an inspiring group of educators and students. We help children and adults to focus on the connections we have with one another and how we, as individuals, may influence others in a positive way.”
Written by Ed Attanasio