August 1, 2023

WG Director Profile: Bob Giragosian

Managing Partner of Kern Ridge Growers, LLC

Director since 2022  |  Member since 1977  |  D-9 Kern County/Bakersfield

While narratives of generational family farmworkers resonate within the ag industry, Bob Giragosian has independently charted his own unique path to achieve success.

Bob began his agricultural career in Fresno, where he worked as a farm laborer throughout high school and college. After receiving his BA from California State University, Fresno and his MBA from Claremont Graduate University, he got a job with Marshburn Farms in 1978, immersing himself in the growing, packing and processing of carrots and other vegetables. Soon after, Bob joined Grimmway Farms, where he worked as General Manager for 16 years. “When I started at Grimmway, we had about 100 employees, and when I left, we were at about 3,000 employees,” he said.

Today, Bob is the Managing Partner of Arvin, Calif.-based Kern Ridge Growers, a position he’s held since 1996. Kern Ridge Growers is a year-round shipper of conventional and organic carrots and has been a leader in the carrot industry for more than 35 years. Alongside carrots, Kern Ridge also farms, packs and ships oranges and bell peppers under the Kern Ridge label. Since joining the company, Bob has helped contribute to a remarkable expansion of the business, with sales growing from approximately $10 million to an impressive $60 million.

“We’ve been in a very good position with our business in general,” he said. “I consider us somewhat recession-proof because no matter how bad things get, people will still eat carrots, oranges and bell peppers. We don’t have any glamor products; we just offer the hardware products.”

His dedication to ag spans decades, and Bob remains steadfastly committed to improving and advancing the industry. “I love everything about ag. There aren’t many opportunities for you to do the same thing for 45 years and still be successful while finding it rewarding the entire time,” he said.

But working in the same industry for 45 years doesn’t equate to complacency. Quite the opposite, in fact, according to Bob. “What we do today versus what we did 40 years ago, it looks like a whole different business,” he said. “This industry has changed so much over the years, and if you don’t change with it, you won’t survive.”

Embracing technology and innovation has been a deep-seated passion for Bob, and his efforts have helped improve both quality and cost at Kern Ridge Growers. “I’m very involved in the design and modernization of our plants,” he said. “We do a lot of in-house construction with the help of outside engineers and specialists. Our plants are very modern, and because of this, we’ve gone from all hand labor to mostly automation.”

Bob helped facilitate the company’s purchase of Green Valley Cold Storage, a plant that had laid dormant for nearly 40 years. At the height of its operation, Green Valley Cold Storage had been the largest stone fruit packer in the country in the 1950s and early ‘60s, Bob explained.

“We restored the plant, which was built 100 years ago, to its original configuration and beyond,” he said. “We reconditioned it and turned it into a modern and automated plant, like our other operations.”

According to Bob, automation has allowed the business to survive, even with a dwindling workforce. “The workforce is getting smaller, and if we can’t make changes, we can’t exist. The lives of our employees have been improved by automation. The work is a lot easier than it ever was before, and it’s a lot more rewarding,” he said.

Bob was elected to the Western Growers Board of Directors this past November, making it his first time serving after five nominations. “I really wanted to get on the board because I felt I could bring a lot of experience and different viewpoints to benefit the ag community,” he explained. Bob said he’s most looking forward to actively contributing to water policy, legislation and labor issues and currently serves on the water and legislative committees.

“Agriculture is a great business—and it’s very rewarding—but it requires a lot of dedication. Feeding people is a wonderful thing.”