Written by The Business Journal Staff
Dusty Ference, Executive Director
Kings County Farm Bureau
What we do: Kings County Farm Bureau is an advocacy organization representing agricultural producers in Kings County. Currently over 800-members strong, we achieve our primary goal of advocating for local farmers and ranchers by working with elected officials and agency staff and by providing input whenever and wherever the opportunity arises to protect, preserve and enhance agriculture in Kings County.
Family: Wife, Shanna Ference
Tell us a little about your career to your current position.
I began my agricultural career as a farm manager responsible for a specialty citrus operation in Tulare County. I managed the operation for over five years before deciding to transition to my current position as the executive director/CEO of Kings County Farm Bureau.
What brought you to the Kings County Farm Bureau, Dusty?
While farming, I served on the Tulare County Farm Bureau Board of Directors, where I realized the importance of advocacy on behalf of the industry. After deciding to leave the farming operation, I knew that a career that would allow me to advocate for California’s most vital industry at the professional level would be an ideal choice. When the opportunity with Kings County Farm Bureau (KCFB) presented itself, my decision was an easy one. What better opportunity to represent the most crucial industry in the world than to work as a county Farm Bureau executive director.
What are some of the big issues the Farm Bureau is keeping an eye on currently, Dusty?
The most important issue we are currently watching and working on is water. After that, we continue to participate in discussions regarding land use, pesticide regulations and, of course, high-speed rail.
What are your goals with the Farm Bureau, Dusty?
The goals of this organization are to protect, preserve and enhance agriculture in Kings County. My goals as the director are to become a reliable, trustworthy source of information regarding agriculture, in addition to being a proactive representative for the industry in Kings County.
What is the importance of the Young Farmers and Ranchers program, Dusty?
The Young Farmers and Ranchers is an important committee for Farm Bureau because it exposes young members of the community to Farm Bureau. Members are between the ages of 18 and 35 and are involved in production, banking, business and many other areas of the industry. Participation helps members develop leadership skills while volunteering time as active, vital members of the organization. Many of our current board members first got involved with Farm Bureau through YF&R.
What’s in the future for Kings County agriculture, Dusty?
I believe the future of agriculture in Kings County is going to be interesting. Over the past few years, the agriculture landscape in Kings County has changed considerably, and I do not think we have seen the end of those changes. Between fluctuating commodity prices, a water crisis and ever-changing regulations, farmers are adapting as best they can, and that is exciting. Producers are implementing new technologies that are increasing efficiency and assisting with conservation efforts, all while continuing to produce a safe and affordable food supply.
What was the best advice you ever received, Dusty?
I was expressing concern over my ability to do a job that I was hired to do, and someone I respected very much said to me, “Do it.” When I asked him to explain, he said, “The best way to do something is to set your mind to it, then do it.” Elaborating further, he said, “You know what the outcome needs to be, so if there is something specific you do not know how to do in the process, figure it out as you are working.” That stuck with me, and now when I question whether or not I will be able to do something, I tell myself to “do it,” and it hasn’t let me down yet.
What was your very first job and what did you learn from it, Dusty?
My first “real job” where I punched a time clock and worked a regular schedule was for an ACE Hardware garden center. The education that came along with this job was priceless. I quickly learned the value of an honest day’s work, not only to an employer, but also to oneself. To this day, I remember the feeling I got after receiving my first paycheck and how good it felt to have earned it.
What are your roots in the Central Valley, Dusty?
I moved to the Central Valley as a sophomore in high school to be closer to extended family. That is where I met my wife and many great friends. Since then, I have worked and lived in the Valley, experiencing many of the wonderful opportunities it provides. My wife and I currently live on 60 acres as part of three generations on her family’s farm.
What do you like to do in your spare time, Dusty?
Much of my spare time is taken up by agriculture. My wife and I, in partnership with her grandmother, own a flock of laying chickens that produce 60 to 80 brown eggs every day, and this season we started a citrus fruit stand. When time permits after these activities, I enjoy fly-fishing and traveling with friends and family.