Meet a Farmer: Scott Rossi of Tanimura & Antle
Farming 7,000 acres and 10 different crops, isn’t easy, but Scott Rossi enjoys the challenge. And the best part of his job? Growing healthy, tasty vegetables for people all over the globe. Meet this Salinas Valley farmer who is dedicated to the land, and his craft, farming.
CA GROWN: Tell me about the history of the company and your role there.
Scott: Tanimura & Antle is a fourth generation employee owned family farm based in Salinas, CA. The company started in 1982 when Bob Antle and George Tanimura came together to form a partnership that has built the company you see today. Today, the company ships over 1,000,000 cases of premium fresh produce a week, employs around 7,000 people annually, and farms about 40,000 acres a year. We pride ourselves in quality, service, and innovation in our operations. We’re known for top quality products, high tier service for our customers, and are always reaching forward to find the next innovation that will push our industry forward.
I am from a fourth generation farming family. I was born and raised on a family farm in Hollister, CA.
I graduated from California State University, Chico with a degree in Agriculture Business. I started with Tanimura & Antle in 2004 as a production intern. In 2005, I started farming with the company full time, and in 2006 was put in charge of my first ranch, a 160 acre farm in Spreckels, CA. Now, I am responsible for farming 7,000 acres, growing ten different vegetable crops including lettuce, romaine, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, and Tanimura & Antle’s Artisan® lettuces, sweet broccoli, and red onions. I am directly responsible for 120 hourly employees and four farm managers, and my growing region extends from Soledad to Castroville.
CA GROWN: What does a typical day look like for you?
Scott: My day starts out with a short 30 minute drive to work. Around 6:00 AM, phone calls start coming in various fashions. During the day, I manage and respond to any challenges that come up on the farm, anything from tilling the land to harvesting the crop. Weather dictates a lot of our daily activities and it’s been hot lately, so we’ve had to irrigate the crops more than normal. The majority of our acres are next to the coast, so we are protected by the foggy, cooler weather. Every day is different, and my day to day activities change frequently. It’s difficult to define a “typical” day for a farmer. I visit each of the ranches, check to make sure everything is working as it should, and make adjustments as needed. We try to incorporate new innovative ideas into our daily activities to continue to operate the farm more efficiently. In farming, there‘s a different twist to every day and every day is unique. We have weekly meetings where different departments get together as a team to discuss our growing operations, current challenges we’re facing in the field, and forecast and strategize for any upcoming hurdles we can see on the horizon. As a farmer, there is never a dull moment in the “Salad Bowl of the World”. It’s a very high paced industry, and its always changing.
CA GROWN: What drew you into the farming profession?
Scott: My family grew various crops in the Hollister area, so my childhood was unique growing up on the family farm. I could walk out our back door and be right on the farm. So, all I knew growing up, was farming. When I was deciding what profession I wanted to go into, I remember my dad advising me that farming isn’t for everybody. At the time, I didn’t understand his advice, but looking back on our conversation 15 years later, I understand what he meant. It takes a lot of hard work and hours to be a good farmer; you have to be truly dedicated to the job and your land. Being outdoors and working with the dirt and having the freedom to be outside were all important factors to me. Farming is a challenge every day, and we constantly have to adapt. That type of uncertainty and lifestyle isn’t for everyone. Majoring in Agriculture Business also opened my eyes to the agriculture industry and had an impact on my career direction. Aside from college and my family’s background, there were a lot of individuals who helped to mentor me along the way. When I was first starting out, they really taught me the ropes of farming in the Salinas Valley. I attribute a lot of my success to them.
CA GROWN: What are some ways your company gives back to the community?
Scott: Tanimura & Antle is a generous contributor to community and educational programs that support agriculture, children’s health, and other social services that help those in need. We have been a long-time supporter of many organizations such as Ag Against Hunger, local FFA programs, Relay for Life, and the Salvation Army.
CA GROWN: What are your hobbies or pastimes when you’re not farming?
Scott: I enjoy being outdoors, sports, hunting, fishing, off-roading and hanging out with the family
CA GROWN: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Scott: First and foremost, growing healthy tasty vegetables to feed the world. Being a farmer is rewarding and challenging. I love being a part of one of the largest grower-shipper companies in the industry. I also find it rewarding to pass along the knowledge that I have gained from past generations, to keep our farming community thriving.
CA GROWN: What is Unique about Tanimura & Antle?
Scott: Tanimura & Antle is an innovative and forward thinking, employee-owned family farm. We are always looking to the future and striving for innovations to leave the land healthy for future generations, improve efficiencies, and to do more with less. We are unique in many ways. For starters, Tanimura & Antle chooses to hire all of our own employees from seed to shipping, rather than use labor contractors or outside companies. It’s always been a part of our culture to foster relationships with our employees from the day they are hired. We have a very unique culture here and everyone is like family; from the Tanimuras and the Antles, to every employee in each department. Over 15% of our employees have been with our company for more than 20 years. In addition to that, all of our employees are eligible for the same benefits as the owning family members. We provide low cost employee housing, and as of 2016, all employees are also owners with the launch of our ESOP program. We say we like to control quality from seed to shipping. We do just about everything here in-house, from planting and farming to harvesting, cooling, and selling, which is also a unique characteristic of our company.
CA GROWN: What would you say has contributed to past success, and what are some things being done to ensure continued success?
Scott: Food Safety has and will always be our first priority. We are committed to sustainable, social, economic, and environmental practices in the production and distribution of our fresh produce. Past success had hinged on knowing what the customer wants and delivering on our promises. Striking the right yields at the right time has been critical to our success. Being innovative and forward thinking toward the next steps to continual improvement and making sure they are implemented has been a priority. The leadership and vision from our founders, Bob Antle and George Tanimura, have been passed on from generation to generation and inspires employees to strive for the best in their roles every day.
CA GROWN: As a California farmer, we know that you have a long list of activities you undertake on your farm to care for the land and its resources. What are one or two ways that you’re most proud of or you feel are innovative ways you care for your land?
Scott: The use of technology has contributed to our sustainability practices and caring for the land in many ways. In 2014, we began developing an automated transplanting system called Plant Tape that improves efficiencies from sowing the tape, germination in nurseries, to transplanting in the field. We are also proud to be utilizing another cutting edge technology that mechanically weeds our crops. Another machine in development is an implement that automatically thins fields. The industry is challenged every day to fill open job positions and these automated technologies help us to supplement our work force and get the job done.
Tanimura & Antle growers are among the most innovative in the industry. Seeking efficiency that aligns with our commitment to quality and land stewardship has led to remarkable innovations on our farms. Each field is individually farmed and monitored to ensure the utmost quality. Growing produce is a dynamic process and timing is critical. We believe that the only way to ensure premium quality produce is to keep our fields in our sight from start to finish, controlling each step along the way.
CA GROWN: What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a farmer?
Scott: Be patient. Farming is not easy. It needs to be your passion! It’s demanding and the hours are long. Find a mentor to help you understand the industry and guide you. Be dedicated to the land!