By Tim Linden
Henry Lee Giclas III was born in Socorro, New Mexico and recently retired in nearby Albuquerque, but in between, he lived an adventurous life that took him around the world and through several professions.
He is well known in the produce industry where he worked for Western Growers for 30 years but he also worked on the family farm, spent his 20s in the oil, gas and mineral exploration world, and spent a couple of years teaching vocational agriculture before settling into his WG career.
Hank’s journey began in New Mexico in 1959. During his youth, his mother was working on her PhD in molecular biology and his father was a mechanical engineer. Their careers had the family moving a bit with the young Giclas spending time in New Mexico and Arizona before moving to San Diego while a teenager and graduating from Clairemont High School.
During those formative years, Hank did develop a love of agriculture and the outdoors. When he was 16, he bargained with his parents to allow him to move to Buckeye, AZ, and work on the family farm, which is typically leased to local farmers. “My job was to burn weeds, set irrigation pipe and do other odd jobs,” he said. “I fell in love with desert agriculture.”
Upon graduation from high school, Hank went to the University of Arizona and pursued a degree in what was called soil, water and engineering. “I expected that I would graduate from college and work on a farm as a farm manager.”
But he admits that he might have been lacking some scholarly motivation at the time. “At the end of my second year, I decided to leave school and go out and work a little bit and figure out what I wanted to do.”
The short break turned into the better part of a decade. Giclas began working for an international company in oil, gas and mineral exploration. “I traveled extensively with all expenses paid, lived off my per diem and saved a lot of money.”
Every time he considered quitting and going back to school, the company gave him another hard-to-turn-down opportunity. “I was running crews all over the world in charge of people twice my age. I worked in Alaska on a project and then lived in Australia for a couple of years working on another project.”
But in the late ‘80s, in his late 20’s, Hank did come back to the University of Arizona. By then, the college had eliminated his major, so he switched to agricultural education. He did graduate, secure his teaching credential and begin teaching vocational agriculture in Mesa, AZ, splitting his time between the local high school and a junior high school. By then he had met and married Kathleen and they were expecting their first child. Budget cuts left Hank with only a part-time job in the school district, which would not suffice for their growing family.
“I started applying for jobs and saw a position at Western Growers that I applied for,” he said. “I was called in for an interview in the Phoenix office with Jasper Hempel. I remember I was sitting waiting to be interviewed and the person at the front desk saw her car being broken into in the parking lot. While she was on the phone with 911, the other line started ringing. She asked me to answer it. So, I picked up the phone and said ‘This is Western Growers, can I help you.’”
Hank did get the job and that pre-interview phone greeting has come to define his three-decade long career at the organization. He has served the association in many capacities with his ability to materially help the membership in one way or another his most important calling card. He has always been a loyal member of one team in the organization or another, with those teams creating great R.O.I. for the membership.
He was hired in 1990 in an advocacy position in the Arizona office of the association. In those years, WG also managed the local growers’ associations with Hank’s position serving as the top executive in those groups. He recalls that one of his early assignment dealt with finding relief from the whitefly, which was devastating the vegetable crops in the Southwest.
“We became aware of a numbered compound that didn’t have a name yet that had efficacy on the whitefly,” he said, referring to what would become Admire, a crop protection tool developed by the Bayer Corporation.
Hank immersed himself in the world of pesticide regulations and was able to help Bayer secure a Section 18 emergency registration for the whitefly. “It turned out to be the silver bullet,” he said.
Giclas spent the 1990s in WG’s Phoenix office and became the association’s “science expert,” as well as its Arizona legislative advocate. He became very familiar with the Section 18 process and secured many registrations for members in California and Arizona as they awaited full registration of various crop protection tools.
In 2000, Giclas moved to Sacramento in a similar position with responsibility over the California government affairs office. After a relatively short stint of about 18 months, Hank was transferred back to Arizona and then in 2003, he was moved to the headquarters office in Irvine as the vice president of strategic planning, science & technology. It is under that same title that he retired from the organization in May of this year, but the job itself has changed significantly over the years.
Hank admits that during those three years in the early 2000s that required three physical moves, he did consider his options as he and his wife had two young kids in elementary school and moving is always difficult. “But I love Western Growers and ultimately we decided it was good for the kids to experience different circumstances. And Western Growers took very good care of us with each move.”
In retrospect, Hank knows they made the right decision as he very much appreciates his Western Growers career and especially the 17 years working out of the Irvine office. “The beauty of my position is that all kinds of issues landed in science and technology. As humbly I can state this, people trusted me with a lot of significant issues. Maybe it is because of my cool and calm demeanor but the science and tech department was able to deal with a lot of very important issues over the years.”
Giclas said food safety became a focal point of the department after the spinach crisis of 2006. Cadmium and perchlorate have been two areas of concern within agriculture for many years. Both of which fell under the watchful eye of Hank’s department. And when Western Growers jumped into the technology world to help find solutions for some of the industry’s most vexing problems, again Hank’s department was given the lead role in this sector.
“These are important areas,” he said. “The LGMAs (Leafy Greens Marketing Agreements) are impactful. The Center (for Innovation and Technology) is impactful. The work we’ve done on cadium and perchlorate to move the industry our of harms way have been impactful.”
As he looks back on his career, Giclas is most proud of these opportunities where he believes he helped make a difference. And he admits, he is too young to retire. “I don’t think I reached the apex of my career, but my parents are not aging gracefully. I decided I had to spend more time with them before it was too late.”
Both Hank and his wife have family in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, so they moved back to New Mexico to be centrally located to those destinations. “We are midway between Tucson and Colorado, which is a great location for us. And we love New Mexico.”
Hank’s daughter, Hannah, who will soon finish with medical school and become a pediatrician, is in Tucson, as are his parents. Their family home is in Colorado as are many of Hank’s relatives. The majority of Kathleen’s family is in New Mexico. Rounding out the family unit is Henry Giclas IV, who is a financial analyst in Spartanburg, South Carolina. In New Mexico, the Giclases own a two-acre ranch in Albuquerque. “I have a ton of work to do on the ranch,” Hank says of his main retirement pursuit. “I am going to take out the stables and put in some fruit trees.”
Though, he has no intent to be anything but a hobby grower, one suspects he will find a way to grow the best fruit in New Mexico.
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