Q & A: Brad Gleason
Brad Gleason, President of West Hills Farm Services, Inc. (Fresno, CA), President of Montage for Ag (Fresno, CA) and Partner in Nature’s Joy, Inc. (Fresno, CA).
13,000 acres of pistachios and almonds.
Brad grew up with an appreciation of farming. As a kid, he frequently visited his grandparents on their Delta farm — west of Sacramento — where they commercially grew sugar beets, alfalfa and tomatoes. Brad didn’t start farming until decades later when he joined a third-generation grower on the Westside of Fresno as the controller, and eventually the president. Prior to joining this operation, he worked as a certified public accountant.
Philosophy as an ag employer:
West Hills Farm Services is a farming operation for land owned by Brad and his partner, Gregorio Jacobo, and the company is also a farm management service provider for land that is owned by others. The company’s philosophy is to care for other’s farms as though it is their own. The operation has been successful, in large part, due to having a team of committed and loyal employees. As an employer, Brad shared how West Hills strives to provide employees with a positive work environment including an attractive benefits package, which includes an annual bonus that is divided among all staff — both in the field and office. The company has two annual traditions to bring all employees and their families together with a summer ranch party and a winter holiday party.
Stewards of the Land:
Brad and his partner strive to be good neighbors, literally, through farming practices which means a lot when dirt is involved. When it’s easy to cut corners, they keep in mind how their operation can impact the farmer next door, the community miles away or the global environment. There are a multitude of farm practices, known as cultural practices, that farmers can choose when they work the land. For West Hills Farms Services, cultural practices are prioritized by environmental impact. For example, orchard prunings can be shredded and used as mulch on the orchard floor, or prunings can be burned (on approved burn days). West Hills policy is to shred prunings instead of burning prunings. Another example is growing vegetation in orchard rows which are then mowed instead of disced to minimize dust. Dust and smoke are contributors to air quality problems in the San Joaquin Valley because the 400-mile long valley is surrounded by mountains. As a result, smoke or dust get trapped and contribute to pollution. The San Joaquin Valley has made vast improvements in air quality due to businesses like West Hills adopting air-friendly business practices.
Message on your pistachios:
Brad sells retail consumer packs of pistachios under the label “Nature’s Joy.” Brad is a partner in the company, also called Nature’s Joy. He explained the meaning behind the label is to communicate to consumers that it is a fun and healthy snack. Pistachios have a tremendous health message that is emphasized in messaging and packaging.