Farm Supply–An Inside Perspective

When asked to write an editorial about Farm Supply Company, my first reaction was a bit over-confident. I have worked at Farm Supply a long time, am a veteran employee, and I’ve got this! Then the doubting voices in my head began to speak. They pointed out a few things. I’ve never ridden a horse, never been in FFA, or 4-H. I’m not a capable gardener. I don’t even own a pet. The voices made a few good points. I’m about as un-ag as you can get.

I began to question my ability to produce something worth reading and a piece that wouldn’t shame the company that I love so much. After some thought, I decided all I have to do is write the truth and speak from the heart.

SLO1Our story began in 1950. Farm Supply Company was born to supply San Luis Obispo’s local dairy and dryland farming operations with products. These farmers created our cooperative and we haven’t looked back. Over the years, we have adjusted to changing technology, and today we serve a very diverse agricultural community.

In addition to being a 2600 member agricultural co-op, we are fortunate to have a large customer base of homeowners, pet owners, landscapers, gardeners, and hobbyists. We sell inventory that includes fertilizers, chemicals, livestock feeds and supplies, drip irrigation, plants and all the accoutrements, all things for your pets, western-style clothing and home décor.

In the people department, we foster a culture of open communication and trust. By doing so, we are able to attract and retain quality employees. We have a strong and very dedicated team, reflected by the fact that over 30% of our employees have been at Farm Supply for 20 years or more.

In preparing to share our company with you, I reminisced about the many times I have watched my co-workers solve problems. I work with approximately 110 people who know how to do seemingly a million things. They are a microcosm of our customers at large. My co-workers are simply amazing people. On any given day at Farm Supply, our staff can troubleshoot anything from faulty irrigation systems, first aid for livestock, how to prune your fruit trees, set up your fencing project, and grow your chicken flock. I’m sure you know that you can receive this information online, but what you will not receive on the internet is our personal touch coupled with authentic helpfulness. These people are genuinely interested in your work or home project.

Our leader is Jim Brabeck, who began his career at Farm Supply in 1965, working on our pump rigs. Our Pump Department is still in service today, providing installation and repairs of water pumps for wells. In the late sixties and early seventies, Farm Supply was a much smaller operation, run by 14 dedicated employees. Jim, General Manager at the time had to pitch in and help with every facet of the company. He loaded trucks by forklift, swept the floor, worked the cash register, answered the phone, and “went over the books” every day. Things did seem simpler then, but the hard work was just the same. Today, he is President/CEO of a company that has 5 stores running the distance of two counties, and a staff of many. This is the foundation of Farm Supply’s success.

We fully understand our reason for being, as I have already explained. What I haven’t mentioned is our deep desire to participate in our community. We follow the lead of Jim, who you have met, and Cara Crye, our Vice-President of Communications. Cara is passionate about agriculture. A portion of her job is to make sure Farm Supply is doing its part to support youth in agriculture. We do this by offering events like the Quiz Jam at both the Santa Barbara and Mid-State Fairs. Young people ages 7 to 18, team up and face a series of stations with hands-on farm/ranch related challenges. It’s fun and educational. This event started in 1999 and now has 400 participants per year. This makes Cara happy, and if you see her at any of our events, please introduce yourself, as she would love to meet you. This is not just “something to say”, she would really love to meet you. Tell her Pam sent you.

In addition to having a presence at our fairs and other community events, we offer free educational clinics year round at all 5 of our locations, where you can learn about canning, tree pruning, backyard gardening, rodent control, and growing a Giant Pumpkin, and more! This leads us to another Farm Supply sponsored event, The Great Pumpkin Contest, which originated in 2006 by our very own SLO County Farm Bureau. Ten years later, under the direction of Farm Supply, and organizer Cara, we are still going strong. When asked about the reason for the Pumpkin Contest other than a seasonal activity, Cara replied “I love bringing agriculture to downtown San Luis Obispo. The Great Pumpkin Contest is the perfect vehicle to provide our community with an evening of fun, facts, and sharing our passion for agriculture.”

cowStarting this year we are ecstatic to participate in the Cow Parade, an international public art exhibit that features work specific to the local culture and local artists. These amazing cows will be on display throughout our county, culminating in an auction with proceeds benefiting local non-profits, The Land Conservancy, Arts Obispo, and the Heritage Foundation. Our cow representing local agriculture is being created, and we are anxiously awaiting completion.

Thank you for reading this, I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to write about our company. Farm Supply’s mission is to remind us all how to uphold the values of treating people with respect, dignity, and kindness, all while authentically helping people, selling products needed to support their farm, ranch, home, or business.

By Pam Pickering

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