Making It Work: Change in career paths leads to agricultural work


Issue Date: October 10, 2018
By Christine Souza
Kion Kashefi, enters a farm water sample at a laboratory in Woodland. Kashefi advocates for agriculture as a member of the Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers program and is a member of the Merced County Farm Bureau.
Photo/Christine Souza
Kion Kashefi, in his role as an agronomist/consultant samples soil from a Winters alfalfa field. Kashefi advocates for agriculture as a member of the Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers program and is a member of the Merced County Farm Bureau.
Photo/Christine Souza

(Editor's note: This is the first installment of a three-part Ag Alert® series about different paths young farmers and ranchers take as they build their agricultural careers.)

He had planned to become a doctor, but Kion Kashefi says a summer spent working outdoors at his grandparents' cattle ranch inspired an entirely new career: agriculture.

"I really enjoy agriculture and the lifestyle," Kashefi said, adding that he "wanted to do something different than what I was on track to do."

"I studied very hard in school and was valedictorian of my high school," he said. "Having spent three years as a biology major focused on pre-med at UCLA, the summer my grandma passed I stayed on the ranch in Catheys Valley to help."

Making the decision to switch gears to pursue a career in agriculture, Kashefi said, was difficult. In 2006, he completed coursework at UCLA, earned a bachelor's degree in biology and returned to his hometown of Modesto to look for a job in agriculture.

"When I came back to Modesto, I was kind of disappointed, thinking I should have got an ag degree," he said. "I talked to another person in the industry and they told me about becoming a pest-control advisor, a PCA. It sounded like a pretty good career path, and it was nice that I had a biology degree to cover a portion of the requirements needed for the license."

A chance phone call to Stanislaus Farm Supply led to a job offer for a position that provided on-the-job training while Kashefi completed his PCA and certified crop-advisor certifications.

"Farm Supply helped me a lot through my career development," Kashefi said.

During 10 years at the company, which specializes in farm products and services, Kashefi's career developed and grew. He gained experience as a PCA and in sales and management, and ultimately became the vice president of sales. In this role, he was involved in expansion of sales in new territories in California and Nevada.

"I started getting to where I understood more of what the company was about, how important the community was, and got more involved on the management side," Kashefi said.

While at Stanislaus Farm Supply, Kashefi returned to the classroom and, in 2010, earned a master's degree in nutritional biology from the University of California, Davis.

Last August, he decided to leave the farm supply company to pursue a new opportunity as regional sales manager for Ag Technologies, a wholesale fertilizer company that specializes in products to help farmers improve soil and water quality. He also works as an agronomist/consultant for Anteris Agronomics, a firm that provides farmers with compliance-related services such as data collection and development of nutrient-management plans.

"It (Anteris Agronomics) is solely to help growers comply with regulations," Kashefi said. "The requirements aren't going away, so if we can help provide a very efficient and high-level service to growers at an affordable, reasonable price, then that's the goal."

Though the regulatory burden on farmers remains a key concern for California farmers, Kashefi added, "One thing that is undeniable about California is, because of the climate here, it does allow you to have options on what you farm—and that is a huge asset."

Although he did not grow up on a farm, Kashefi has immersed himself in the business during the past 11 years, and said he has gained a love and appreciation for agriculture. To learn even more about agriculture, Kashefi joined the Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers program, for people ages 18 to 35 involved in agriculture and related businesses.

"It's important for people my age and younger to get involved," said Kashefi, a member of the Merced County Farm Bureau who represents Madera, Mariposa and Merced counties on the YF&R State Committee.

Regarding the benefits of YF&R, Kashefi said he joined the program for its leadership development, networking and community-service opportunities, and to learn more about the Farm Bureau organization.

Now settled into his agricultural career, Kashefi lives in Modesto with his wife Sarah and their two young children.

(Christine Souza is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. She may be contacted at csouza@cfbf.com.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.