Making It Work: Food-safety specialist finds work ‘intriguing’


Issue Date: October 17, 2018
By Kevin Hecteman
Lindsey Mebane serves as food-safety manager for Tasteful Selections, an Arvin-based grower of bite-sized potatoes.
Photo/Kevin Chin
Lindsey Mebane serves as food-safety manager for Tasteful Selections, an Arvin-based grower of bite-sized potatoes.
Photo/Kevin Chin

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

Lindsey Mebane's business may be small potatoes—literally—but her role in it is anything but.

Mebane is the food-safety manager for Tasteful Selections of Arvin, grower and packer of bite-sized spuds. The job appeals to the by-the-book Mebane.

"I am a very black-and-white person who likes rules, so food safety is right up my alley," she said.

She's been working for Tasteful Selections since 2010, the same year she graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a bachelor's degree in agricultural systems management and a minor in agricultural business. While looking for work in what she described as a tight job market, she came across an online job posting for a quality assurance/quality control specialist at Tasteful Selections.

"It was production ag and seemed intriguing, so I applied," Mebane said. She soon found herself overseeing quality control, food safety, organics and packaging. As the company grew, more people were hired and her job evolved into her current role.

As food safety manager, Mebane is responsible for food-safety audits at the farm and the packinghouse, organics in both settings, some regulatory items, marketing samples and community outreach.

Tasteful Selections farms nearly 10,000 acres spread out over three states, keeping Mebane busy year-round. In California, the grower operates in Bakersfield, Bishop, Blythe, Brawley and Stockton. The company also grows in Nevada and Arizona, moving around with the seasons.

"There is a lot of paperwork, monitoring and record-keeping involved, to make sure all the farms and packinghouse are keeping things as safe as possible for the potatoes headed to consumers," Mebane said.

Last year, she and her team audited 56 ranches, one harvest crew and one packinghouse.

When she's not busy with all that, she's involved with Young Farmers and Ranchers in Kern County. She's served as secretary and vice president and is now the group's historian.

"I got involved in the YF&R because one of my roommates said I should join with him," Mebane said. "We went to a meeting four years ago and I haven't stopped since."

Her YF&R chapter is very active, Mebane said. Proceeds from a charity farmers market in July helped build a garden at an elementary school in downtown Bakersfield. The chapter also helps with the Bounty of Kern County Farm to Fork fundraiser each fall. With November officer elections and the annual holiday party coming up, Kern County YF&R shows no signs of slowing down.

Mebane also serves as the District 5 state representative for YF&R, an experience she called "really exciting and eye-opening."

She grew up on a cattle ranch in Pine Valley, east of San Diego. Her family mainly raises Hereford-Angus-cross cattle and, for a time, grew dryland hay. The ranch has some interesting history to it, Mebane said—it once was owned by child actor Jackie Coogan, whose movie career began in the silent era and stretched to the late 1950s.

This year, the fifth-generation rancher married Bennet Mebane, whose family owns Western Stockman's Market north of Bakersfield. The Mebanes now have a blended family of sorts.

"My husband and I each have our own cattle," she said, "but we just registered a new cattle brand and are working on merging the herds."

(Kevin Hecteman is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. He may be reached at khecteman@cfbf.com.)

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