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March 23, 2017

Love of the Outdoors Leads to Farming Career

CA Director Profile

Don Cameron

Vice President

Terranova Ranch Inc.

Helm, CA

Director Since 2016


NORTHERN CALIFORNIA ROOTS: Don Cameron grew up in Redding in Northern California, a couple hundred miles north of San Francisco. His father worked for the Public Utilities Commission and it was his dad’s transfer to Fresno when Don was in high school that brought him to the San Joaquin Valley.


FRESNO STATE LAUNCHES A CAREER: After high school, Don went to CSU Fresno majoring in biology and expecting a career in wildlife management. He loved the outdoors and wanted a position close to nature. He attained an internship with the Mendota Wildlife Area, took a test for a permanent position with the organization and thought he was on his way. “I passed the test but received a letter stating that I was NOT randomly drawn by the computer to begin the interview process.”

Still hankering for an outdoor job, Don took a training internship with the University of California Extension Service. He worked with ag advisors and very much enjoyed the work. That led to a position at an ag lab where he collected soil samples. His next career stop was for a chemical company working on that side of the ag sector. Around this time he became a licensed PCA (pest control advisor), which eventually led to a position with Terranova Ranch in 1981.


THIRTY-FIVE YEARS WITH THE FIRM AND COUNTING: Three and a half decades have gone by quickly with Cameron moving up through the ranks and landing the general manager position in 1987. Today as vice president, he oversees the operation which counts more than 7,000 acres of crops including almonds, wine grapes, seed crops, carrots, vegetables and several other commodities. Within that acreage, about 10 percent of it is in organic production. The company focuses on the production end of the business selling its output through various established shippers such as Grimmway Farms and Harris Ranch. It is currently in the process of converting some wine acreage to vegetable production because of what Cameron calls an over-production in the California wine grape business.


A FARMER AT HEART: By necessity, Cameron has to spend a good portion of the time behind the desk working on all the projects endemic to a larger farming operation; but in his heart, he is a farmer. “I like to be considered a farmer,” he said. “Field work is what I like best.”

Partly to indulge that habit, he is a grower in his own right with close to 400 acres of his own land in production. His operation is called Prado Farms and consists mostly of almonds, walnuts, processing tomatoes and an alfalfa crop grown for seed. Recently he traded a pistachio grove in one county for some land in another, largely because of the availability of water on his new land. “It’s in Fresno County, which has a much better water situation,” he said.


FAMILY LIFE: Don and his wife, Elisa, have been married for about 14 years and have a blended family that includes two grown sons and two grown daughters. None of the four are directly involved in agriculture as their professions are a water attorney, an entrepreneur with, a special education teacher and a city college professor. Cameron says his love for the outdoors continues to dominate his life including his free time with hunting and fishing being regular pursuits. The couple live on the farm which he says “is in the middle of nowhere, north of Helm and 35 miles southwest of Fresno. It’s an unverified address,” he says, seemingly proudly.

Cameron has absolutely no regrets about his career choices noting that “it takes a special kind of person to be in agriculture. It’s a lifestyle. You have to be committed to it.”

While he loves the outdoors and living on a ranch with no neighbors within earshot and very few that can even be seen, quite ironically Don and Elisa’s favorite place to get away is New York City. “We love to come to New York a couple of times a year, stay in Manhattan and take in a play. We really enjoy that.”


THE FUTURE OF CALIFORNIA AGRICULTURE: Though urbanization has not played a role in the limiting of Terranova’s agricultural pursuit in what is very rural California, Cameron said the future of agriculture in the state is still very challenging. “We have a difficult road ahead. There are a lot of hurdles to jump if you want to be successful.”

He said he is an optimist but listed over-regulation as one challenge that makes it very difficult to survive. “We have a lot on our plate in California,” he said.