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June 11, 2015

Preordained Career Provides Satisfaction

Director Profile

John McPike

Vice President

California Giant Berry Farms

Director since 2014

Member since 1985

FAMILY BACKGROUND:  It is a story played over and over again in the fresh produce industry of a career passed from father to son.  John McPike grew up in Watsonville where his father of the same name managed several different vegetable grower-shipper operations during his career, including West Coast Farms.  The elder McPike was successful in his own right and served a stint on the Western Growers Board of Directors during his career.  Son John joined the board in 2014 as a representative of the Cal Giant Company.  “I always figured I’d follow in my dad’s footsteps and I did,” he says of his produce industry career.

GROWING UP IN THE AG SPACE: Young John spent his summers in high school and college working the fields either driving a tractor or on a harvesting crew.  It was no surprise that he went off to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in the late 1970s and emerged in 1981 with a degree in crop science.

STARTING HIS CAREER DOWN UNDER:  “For my college graduation, I received a one-way ticket to Australia,” he says.  John worked for a citrus company as a fieldman and contemplated making the land down under his permanent residence.  “I thought about it but couldn’t get a permanent visa.”  So he came back home and went to work for a Los Angeles wholesaler.

THE BERRY CONNECTION: McPike started with Cal Fruit on the Los Angeles market selling lettuce, a skill and a commodity he no doubt learned from his father.  “After a while, the Gilfenbains, who owned Cal Fruit, opened up a shipping deal in Santa Maria.”  McPike moved to Santa Maria to help run that deal, which included a strawberry farm.  He stayed with Cal Fruit for a couple of years and then joined Cal Giant as their man in the Santa Maria area.

A CAREER IS MADE: For about 25 years now, John McPike has worked for Cal Giant from the company’s Santa Maria office.  He basically manages the growing operations for the company in Oxnard, Santa Maria, Salinas, Watsonville and Florida.  In Santa Maria he is centrally located—at least for the California farms—and can get to each of the firm’s farms and growers within a few hours.

THE WESTERN GROWERS CONNECTION: His connection with Western Growers goes back to the days when his father was on the board.  It seemed like a natural to get involved himself when the time came.  Just as he is an offspring of a former WG board member so are many of those whom he is serving with.  But he noted that there are several members whose years of service span the terms of he and his father.

ON THE PERSONAL SIDE: John and his wife, Kathy, have been married 26 years and have three daughters who respectively graduated from the University of Washington, Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo and Chico State.  At this point, none have matriculated to the family business of agriculture.  John considers himself an outdoors kind of guy and enjoys hiking as well as playing golf.