trevor tagg

GENERAL MANAGER AT WEST-GRO FARMS INC.

FULL INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

Welcome to the AgSnacc Podcast where we take a look at careers in agriculture and the journey toward those careers. I’m your host, Erin Gorter, and we hope you enjoy this tasty AgSnacc. 

 

Erin Gorter: 

So, we're here with Trevor Tagg the General Manager of West Grow Farms Inc and the Manager of Bear Surf Property Company from Imperial California. So, hello Trevor and welcome. First, we just want you to describe what you do and what a typical day looks like for you as the general manager and manager of these two different operations. 

 

Trevor Tagg: 

Okay so, a typical day, it's a 3200-acre family forage ranch and the real estate company is I manage between 25- and 35-units some are apartment form some are houses and then there's the old ranches across so that...A typical day is, you know, starts about five or 5:30am…I have a younger brother that gets to the ranch and gets guys going. So typically, my day is more specific. I'll go specifically to what I have going on. If it's a…You know, a spray job that needs to be done. I kind of get right after that, or a lot of what I do deals with our hay sales. So, if I got to meet a truck or if I must go to the scale or things of that nature. That's usually in the morning until 9, 10, 11 O'clock from mid to late morning, to the early afternoon, is usually more of getting around the ranch to make plans for the next morning. One thing about Imperial County when we order water, we order water from before noon, to receive the water the following day. So, you have to do whatever you do to make those decisions and get your orders in before noon, in order to figure out what's going on. So, the right up until that you know 10 11 12 o'clock hour, it involves that sort of field checking or things of that nature to help make those decisions. And then usually after lunch about one o'clock I usually go into the office and from my office I can kind of manage most of what I have to do so during the day. I have a I know we can't see this over voice, but my calendar that I have here is my life so, throughout the day, if I'm receiving emails on my phone or phone calls, I'm constantly on the side of the road writing down all the things that need to get done once I get into the office and then when I get into the office, I have a list of what needs to get done that usually goes on until three, four or five o'clock in the evening and that's more or less pretty typical 

 

Erin Gorter:

Very good. So, we like to kind of know where you came from. So, what was your kind of high school experience. Like, were you involved in any sports extracurricular activities you take any special classes?  

 

Trevor Tagg: 

So, the high school, I went to, there was a graduating class of 660. I was one of... it was mostly Hispanic. I was one of like 35 white kids in my entire class. So, we grew up with a lot of like Hispanic culture and stuff. It was something that I really thought was cool. It's how I ended up being bilingual. Simply because I just am nosy and want to talk to people. So, doing a different language was just something that was cool to me. I was a four-year letterman in golf. I was a four-year letterman in basketball. I was, I was a decent athlete, growing up I was also a mathlete as well school. School is.... I LIKED SCHOOL. I liked being in class. I liked the school part I admit, I probably didn't apply myself as much as I should have because it kind of came easy but, beyond that, I just liked being there. I like being around people. I like being around my teacher's administration and stuff like that. I raised hogs in 4-H for 11 years. I never had animals in FFA, but I did participate in FFA for a bunch of other things, including like you know…impromptu speaking and all kinds of welding, I… 

 

Erin Gorter: 

I bet you were good at that. The impromptu speaking 

 

Trevor Tagg: 

Yeah, I, I have some ribbons. So, and then, during the summers. I was a beekeeper. I worked during the summers as a beekeeper. And the biggest reason why is because my, my dad was a lot harder on me and my world revolved around golf. And my goal, my whole goal of my whole life was to play collegiate golf. And so, to play in the tournaments and stuff. I had to find a job in the summertime, that could, I could afford me the ability to pay for them. And also give me the time to leave when I wanted to. And so, there was a couple local beekeepers down here that have been good to me. And that's that was, that was rough shot and that's what high school is like. 

 

Erin Gorter:

Bees pay bills. 

 

Trevor Tagg: 

That's right. That's right, yeah. 

 

Erin Gorter: 

Okay, so did you expect in high school that one day Trevor Tagg would be in this profession, and this would be your job. 

 

Trevor Tagg:

Absolutely not. I didn't want anything to do with it. In fact, my grandmother...So, I was very fortunate, before I was even a thought, my grandmother took a bunch of my grandfather's money and he made she made a fund for her grandchildren to get bachelor's degrees on her dime. Which is something that's very fortunate for all of us. However, the caveat to it was that as long as she was around. we were not allowed to come back to the ranch. And so quiet, quite literally, what happened in my case, when I graduated from college in 2008 the economy was rough. It was...the job market was next to nonexistent. And I came back to the ranch, just to make some, you know, spending money while I got myself into some MBA programs and I just never left. 

 

Erin Gorter:

Okay. 

 

Trevor Tagg: 

That's a little...that's a little bit about me not...I never had any intentions of coming back, both because I was told not to and because I had other ambitions. I was really interested in living on the coast and doing things in the ocean. 

 

Erin Gorter: 

Okay, so I guess…Kind of like hitting on that. How is your education and work life kind of viewed by your family when you were growing up? So, like that was your grandma like within your house. Did they expect you to go to college, did they expect you to go to work, was there an expectation, one way or the other, for you to be involved in agriculture, beyond your grandma's rule there. 

 

Trevor Tagg: 

Yeah, so that part about it. My, my parents were cool about there was never any expectations, one way or the other. I'd imagine they thought that I was argumentative and litigious so they probably thought I should be a lawyer, more than anything else. But, you know, no they didn't have many expectations so long as I... we had good grades, we were good humans, we didn't, you know, get into drugs and weren't terrorizing the town, things of that nature. My parents were cool. I will say that it didn't seem to me in our household that like formal education...you know what we were expected to get good grades, through high school, but we were never really expected to go to college. It wasn't anything that was pressed on us. We didn't really like go visit other schools. All my recruiting for golf, let alone my decision making for applications all came from me. I never had any help or any push by any means. And that was, that was kind of the expect... that was kind of where we came from. 

 

Erin Gorter: 

So why don't you go ahead and share a little bit about your education history after high school? Obviously, it was golf related it sounds like. 

 

Trevor Tagg:

So, I walked on at Cal State San Marcos and made the red shirt team. My... what, I guess it would have been my senior in high school, so I thought that I was going to play golf, like goal achieved box checked. So, I got into...I got into a ton of schools. I got into all the UC schools. I got into a bunch of Cal State schools. I got into a bunch of schools across the country. Basically, big football schools because that's the only way I knew of college really but, when a coach said that I could play golf there like, that was like, ding, ding, like that's what I wanted. Well, unfortunately, when I showed up, some unfortunate events happened, and I never actually ended up being on... I was on the team for a semester and just redshirted. So, after my third semester, I transferred to the University of San Diego for a few reasons: one, it's an awesome school. Two: it was a place that I was very comfortable being and a place I wanted to live... on the beach. Three: there's a lot of family lineage there so I admit it, did I think build a bit of a crutch to get in there, but at the same time it's really the only place I had my heart set and I transferred quick golf and I had a degree, like what would it have been three semesters later four semesters later. I graduated in three and a half years or something like that. I graduated with a degree in real estate and a minor in Business Administration. And then really from there...I mean, I didn't know what I wanted to do. I didn't want to come back to the ranch. Really, to be perfectly honest with you, my ambitions at that time were living on the beach and surfing like I'll be perfectly honest, I just couldn't find a job that could afford me that ability. So, after all my money fellow Yeah. So, after my money after I spent all my money, what little I had, I knew my grades were good enough that I could probably get into an MBA program. And again, like full transparency, I just figured I was going to buy myself two more years. I had to pay for it but, you know, I figured I'd buy myself two years and hopefully land somewhere and just live a different place. And I did. I got in. I got into a bunch of MBA programs. Some cool ones and at this point, 12 years later, I'm not too sure that I made the right or the wrong decision but one reason or another, I ended up staying on the ranch and it's been about 12 years. 

 

Erin Gorter:

Very cool. And so, you've been there for 12 years. And besides, squeezing in the occasional round of golf, what is your favorite part about your day at work. 

 

Trevor Tagg:

So, it’s funny, my favorite part about my day, and I think about this a lot. My favorite part of my day is also the part about my day that drives me the craziest and that is that I have all the freedoms in the world to do what I want to do. If I don't want to get out of bed, quite frankly, there's, I mean, I might catch some grief from my dad but ultimately, it's not like I'm going to lose my job right, I have all the freedoms in the world. So, it's an interesting responsibility because I.... not anxiety and not panic, but like constantly, your brain is constantly in motion. Trying to figure out what you should be doing. And if you're... if you're sitting idle, you always have the thought in your head like that I should be doing something right. You don't relax. So, there's a lot of times where I find that the monotony of driving certain pieces of equipment. For example, I do all our chemical application on our ranch. And I find it very peaceful when I'm just driving my tractor. Like, it's very peaceful, I can put on a podcast or I can put on music and I can you know drive around in circles on the ranch and I really enjoy that. But could I do it every day? No, it would drive me nuts because that's not the way my mind works. So, so to put not to put too fine a point on it that that, is it the freedoms, the freedom 

 

Erin Gorter:

Freedom is a wonderful thing. So, we're in the business of producing managing and marketing the distribution of food. I like food. And so, what is your favorite agricultural commodity food or not. 

 

Trevor Tagg: 

Oh, my favorite Ag commodity...what’s my favorite? I mean, a steak. I, I feel like I feel like I feel like it's going to have to be right up there like with a steak. And then if it's not that…Maybe an artichoke or an avocado some, somewhere in there. 

 

Erin Gorter:

Delicious. Those are some exclusively California grown ones to spoken like a true California farmer. Fabulous. Kind of reflecting, what was your biggest challenge kind of pursuing this career. It sounds like you kind of fell into it because it was family related which might be, I guess part of the challenge. 

 

Trevor Tagg:

So, pursuing this career like after 12 years, I don't know that I've, I've even met the starting line, if that makes any sense. The family dynamic is something that I am proud of and I'm serious about, but it's also probably the most difficult thing ever and I can understand why stereotypically some 70% of family business, not, not just farms and ranches, fall apart. It's very difficult. And it's also the most challenging part with what I deal with quite, I mean, quite simply, the generational gaps. You know, a funny story that that you know you have to learn to laugh and learn patience but like my dad does not like... he doesn't have his email address signed up to his iPhone because he doesn't like the little red icon dots when he gets emails and so like, you know, it's a funny thing on the outside looking in, but those types of challenges are, are the most difficult part for us. However, you know, there's also a great sense of pride. Knowing that this was here for multiple generations before, and you know my goals beyond finance and material are simply to be part of the bridge to keep it going to the next generation. Quite simply. 

 

Erin Gorter: 

Very nice let me think here…thinking about your career…If you could go back to high school Trevor Tagg, what would you tell yourself. What advice would you give yourself? 

 

Trevor Tagg: 

So, uh…You know, if I could give myself any advice, probably even true to this day, it would probably be to relax and don't sweat the small stuff and or, you know, don't make mountains out of mole hills. My grandmother used to tell me that all the time and I never knew what that meant. And now I'm starting to understand that and see that like I'm pretty...I know that I'm fairly OCD and pretty goal oriented and I find that sometimes I might get myself in a little bit more trouble than it's worth if I don't just chill out and let things be especially especially…You know I never dreamed, I'd have the ability to work with my brother me and him are polar opposites and it's the coolest thing that I do every day. But because we're polar opposites, I have to learn to chill out and patients don't sweat the small stuff is probably right up there at the top. 

 

Erin Gorter: 

Chillax. Always good advice. And can you think of any internship or volunteer opportunities that currently might be available for high school students where they could learn a little bit more about what you do for a living and your line of work? 

 

Trevor Tagg:

So, in individual production companies, especially family farms and ranches, I can't imagine that there's too many out there like us. There's just, it just would be very difficult at this point, however, I think the large chemical companies: Nutrien Ag Solutions...I know Dune Company of Salinas, Dune Company of Imperial County, Helena…Companies like that, especially to get into production agriculture, in my opinion, that is easily the best way, for a few reasons: one, there's opportunities for you to be abreast of guys that have many, many decades of experience. And then also, since you're not tied to an individual ranch, you're seeing multiple ranches, with both the same commodities and different commodities, so you can see how I grow lettuce versus how my neighbor grows lettuce. Now, I'm not saying I'm right he's wrong or vice versa. But what I'm saying is you're, you are put abreast of many ways to skin a cat and a lot of times, I mean, including like my PCA that I use right now is a product of one of those internship programs and it's amazing.... This is such a small industry, the opportunities that present themselves to people, young people, who are just there, you know, they're just in the truck. They're just riding around their standard on a ditch bank and they just happened to be there because we do need so much of that. 

 

Erin Gorter:

What about you just said there in the truck riding around like is that something that some more family-owned farms could do is takes take some high school students out like a day on the farm with them. 

 

Trevor Tagg:

Not only do I think we could. I think we should. I'm a pretty big advocate…I do a lot of AGED advisory speaking and like ag class speaking as much as I can with our local high schools and stuff. There's an incredibly disconnected gap between food production and food consumption and the most interesting part that I find is, is that since we as producers are so terrible at talking about what we do and marketing what we do. People don't understand that…and so I get in these classrooms and like you know it's a little overwhelming since I don't do it all the time but, I might be in front of like 50 kids and all start talking and have a captivated audience talking about hay bales because people don't realize how much there is to it and all the sudden it becomes fun. It's not just suspenders, and wheat stuck in your mouth. There's a lot to it. And I think that we, in general, as in production need to focus more on young people. In fact, it's kind of one of the things that my brother and I have, you know, we're, we're admittedly, we're kind of years away, because we are still fairly young, but it is something that we talk about often and are absolutely focused on. 

 

Erin Gorter:

Yeah, so there you hear it if you're ever down in Imperial County, California. Look up Trevor Tagg and you can go ride around with him and learn that there's more to making hay bales and growing lettuce and it can be fun. 

 

Trevor Tagg:

Yeah. 

 

Erin Gorter:

So, I guess kind of a last question, kind of in that vein too... Is there any seed you would like to plant for anyone else…anybody out there who might be interested in pursuing a career in your field? 

 

Trevor Tagg:

 The one thing, this is perhaps a little crass but, there's no next generation of California or really US agriculture. Which means the job market is wide open. I mean quite frankly; it was never presented to me that way in college. I never thought about that. I figured it out since I'm in the industry down here and like you look around at who I'm dealing with and most everyone's twice my age, and it... So, from my perspective, I was like, wow, there's a there's a huge need for all of that. On the other hand, as far as like fulfillment and stuff like Ag is different, every day, for the most part, depending on your gig, you are outside in a different place in the world moving about all the time and if you really care about what you're doing, no two days are the same. So, there's no such thing as complacency. My mentor, one of two mentors, that are very important people to me, is 71. He’s still my fertilizer to this day. And I, I spent an hour with him, and he was telling me about a bunch of things that he learned and he’s 71 has been doing this for almost 50 years…And like I for me, that's pretty cool. I think that's pretty neat. And I see a lot of fulfillment. A lot of the older guys that I see that have gone through their careers are people that I look at and say, I hope I become that person if that makes any sense. And that is enough for me to know that I'm pretty sure I'm doing what I need to be doing. 

 

Erin Gorter: 

Very nice. Well, thank you again we have Trevor tag here of West grow farms Inc and bear surf property company from Imperial California. Thank you so much. Trevor for visiting with us today and sharing a little bit about what you do. 

 

Trevor Tagg:

Yeah, no problem, anytime. Anytime. 

Thank you for listening to this AgSnacc, a production of the Brock Center for Agricultural Communication at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in collaboration with the South Coast Region Agricultural Education Consortium. For more information, please visit our website at www.agsnacc.com. That’s www.a-g-s-n-a-c-c.com.