The Fruits of His Labor: California’s 2023 YF&R Award winner reflects on a decade of innovation in produce

In San Joaquin County, Jake Samuel, California’s recent Young Farmers & Ranchers awardee reflects on a decade marked by persistent efforts and strategic decisions in fruit production.

Jake Samuel is this years’ state winner of California’s Young Farmer and Rancher Achievement Award. As a fourth-generation family farmer, Jake jokingly claims the title of CEO by birth, but his commitment to the family business goes beyond lineage—it’s a passion that has propelled the farm’s growth and success.

In 2011, the Samuel family dried around 2 million pounds of fresh cherries. Fast forward to today, and they are now drying nearly 10 million pounds of fresh cherries, processing 1.5 to 2.5 million pounds of dried cherries, and expanding into blueberries, apples, peaches, and pears. Jake’s journey involves not just running the harvester but orchestrating a symphony of technological advancements and business strategies.

As the CEO, Jake has transitioned from the field to overseeing day-to-day operations, emphasizing a broader perspective. Technological integration, such as the use of electronic sorters to clean fruit, showcases the commitment to efficiency and innovation. The shift from traditional brick-and-mortar stores to embracing e-commerce and farmers markets reflects a keen awareness of evolving consumer trends.

Jake acknowledges the stress that comes with managing a company of almost 100 employees, yet he takes pride in the remarkable growth achieved in just 12 years. The journey has been both challenging and rewarding, marked by a commitment to continuous growth and a refusal to settle for mediocrity.

While he admits that driving a tractor every day would bring contentment, his innate drive for growth and excellence pushes him beyond mere satisfaction. The realization of his potential and the farm’s capabilities fuels a desire for ongoing achievements.

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