Meet a Farmer: Connor Chooljian of Del Rey Packing
A strong work ethic and uncompromising standards are foundational to Central Valley farming company, Del Rey Packing. For the past 80 years, Connor Chooljian’s family has been farming and packing raisins and that work ethic is still evident. Meet Connor and learn why he strives to master every skill on the farm, from tractor driving, to irrigating vineyards, and managing crews.
CA GROWN: What are you doing today?
Connor: Today I’ve been turning on a lot of our drip irrigation due to lack of rain this winter, and I’ve also been fixing some leaks. We have pruning crews working in the vineyards, and we have another crew tying the canes to the wires.
CA GROWN: What is your favorite part of farming?
Connor: Just having a new task to complete every day. Whether it’s tractor work or office work, there is always something new to do.
CA GROWN: How do you give back to the community?
Connor: Each year at Christmas, we make stockings with candy and toys and give to every student at Del Rey Elementary school. We also sponsor church and raisin industry events. My Dad, Gerald, serves on the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) board.
CA Grown: What drew you into farming?
Connor: Farming has been in our family forever. Although my dad is more on the packing house and sales side. I have worked here every summer growing up, working on tractors or forklifts. After high school, I went to Cal Poly and majored in Ag business. All the friends I made in college came from similar backgrounds and many went back into their family farming businesses like myself. When I graduated and came back to the family business, I did a lot of the manual labor on the farm. I still enjoy every part of farming.
CA Grown: What are your hobbies or past times when you are not farming?
Connor: I love golfing on the weekends. My favorite thing is going to the Fresno State basketball and football games. Tailgating is one of my favorite parts about football season.
CA Grown: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start farming?
Connor: First, learn all the basics of farming before you finance your own operation. You need to know how to do everything on the farm. Spend the time to learn and become well versed in all aspects of farming. When you are older and want to be a manager, you can’t really manage people effectively unless you understand what you are asking employees to do.
CA Grown: What are one or two things you do on the farm to be sustainable?
Connor: Definitely one thing is converting to drip irrigation to save on water and labor and create efficiencies. We’ve been upgrading our tractors that are better for the environment, using less diesel, and are overall more efficient. We are converting a lot of vineyards to a dried-on- the-vine process which automates the harvesting of the raisins which saves on labor costs. We are also working on planting a new raisin variety for the future.