Meet a Farmer: Ryan Van Groningen of Van Groningen & Sons
Van Groningen & Sons takes pride in offering high quality produce year-round. There main crops are watermelon, cantaloupes, honeydews, sweet corn, pumpkins, almonds and walnuts. We had the chance to catch up with Ryan Van Groningen and learn more about his family’s farming operation.
CA GROWN: What are you doing today?
RYAN: Our farm is definitely on a commercial scale so my role during this time of the season is sales. For most of the day, I’m talking with our customers, getting orders, projecting what’s coming and what volumes to expect. We have 4 other sales people and selling our products is our main responsibility.
CA GROWN: What is your favorite thing about farming?
RYAN: What I love most is how volatile and different it is every day. You think coming into a day that it might be slow and then it turns out not to be. You never know what kind of curve ball is coming at you so the days are not monotonous. There is always something different to do each day.
CA GROWN: How do you give back to the community?
RYAN: One of our main things is our donations to the food bank. When we have product that doesn’t meet market standards, we are able to donate to a food bank. It may have a slight blemish on the outside but the eating quality on the inside is still very good.
CA GROWN: What drew you to the farming profession?
RYAN: I grew up in the farming industry and it has always been a part of my life. It was never expected or pushed upon me to continue farming but I always knew it was what I wanted to do. My exposure to farming from an early age and then college, I just knew that agriculture was where I wanted to be.
CA GROWN: What are your hobbies or pastimes when you’re not farming?
RYAN: I have 3 kids that are 9, 7, and 6, so hobbies don’t happen too often. I love spending time with the family. After spending long hours at work, the normal things like going in the pool, playing with and spending time with the family is what I enjoy doing. At this stage of our life, our hobbies are our kids and supporting their activities.
CA GROWN: What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a farmer?
RYAN: Farming is not just about labor and working in the fields from sunup to sundown. That’s only part of the process. Farming is a business with a lot of moving parts and a lot of different roles. When it comes to advice, just know that it’s not going to be easy. There are many different roles and responsibilities in a farming business so there is a place for anyone committed to agriculture. My grandfather said, “If it was easy, everybody would be doing it.” I think that’s what makes agriculture special.
CA GROWN: We know that you have a long list of activities you undertake on your farm to care for the land and your community. What is just one or two of the most innovative that you are really proud of?
RYAN: Sustainability wise on the farming side, all acreage is drip irrigation and that alone has saved a substantial amount of water. We are using less water, and are able to produce higher yields per acre. As a result we are producing more food with less input. We have a feed lot where we send our product culls to be used as feed.We have a processing plant, where we make watermelon concentrate which is used as an ingredient in other products. Every part of every product we grow is used in one way or another. Everything we produce has a use and there is no waste and we are very proud of that. Not only does it make good financial sense but is it also good for the environment.