John Salmonson speaks at a recent commencement ceremony at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Image via Cal Poly screen grab

published on June 20, 2022 - 1:17 PM
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Cal Poly San Luis Obispo awarded a Fresno transplant with an honorary doctorate for a lifetime committed to ag and education.

John Salmonson received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the Central Coast school, from which he also graduated and earned a bachelor’s degree in crop science.

Salmonson calls himself a “farmer at heart,” beginning in Nebraska before moving to Northern California by way of Ohio, Texas, Arkansas, New York, Tennessee — all the while seeing farms throughout the country.

“I got to see a lot of agriculture all over the place in the United States,” Salmonson said.

He was in Lubbock, Texas, when Salmonson got the call from his company to head to Fresno. While in Fresno, a small company named Monterey Chemical Co. had recently lost its president. Leaders at the chemical company saw something in Salmonson and asked him to take over and purchase it.

He arranged the deal and in 1971, Salmonson took over the company.

Under him, the company expanded to begin selling throughout California and then internationally. The company was renamed Monterey AgResources and 40 years later he sold the company to Illinois-based Brandt Consolidated in 2013.

Brandt kept Salmonson on the board until he retired in 2016.

The title marks only another notch in a lifetime of accomplishments and endeavors.

Salmonson has served on boards for the California Fertilizer Association, the Western Plant Health Association and the California Department of Food and Agriculture Fertilizer Advisory Board. His expertise in fertilizers and ag chemicals has taken him to Washington D.C. to advise various groups. Salmonson has also worked on several committees regarding rules for organic production.

In 2009, Salmonson received a lifetime achievement award from the Western Plant Health Association.

With Cal Poly, he is a member of the college’s foundation Board of Directors and is on the Dean’s Advisory Council with the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, for which he was selected as their honored alumnus in 2011.

His passion for education and mentorship goes beyond Cal Poly and extends to Fresno State as well.
His current company, Salmonson Ag Resources, connects him with graduates from the university, helping students find work after getting their degrees.

“I like making time for these college graduates,” said Salmonson, who still grows rice in Northern California. He also works with the WET Center at Fresno State and is an active member of the Central Valley Angel Group, providing funding and guidance to startups, with a focus on ag tech. A lot of innovators are bringing new and better forms of irrigation and fertilizer efficiencies, said Salmonson. But they often need mentoring.

Decades of experience make him an invaluable resource.

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