YF&R profile: Jesse Lopez
Involvement is key for this agriculturalist
From an angry bull to a bowl of salad, Jesse Lopez is more knowledgeable than most people.
The most recent Excellence in Agriculture award winner for the California Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee splits his time between his "real" job as Western sales service manager for Tanimura & Antle and competing on the California rodeo circuit as a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
Lopez, a lifelong resident of Monterey County, is the son of immigrant farmworkers from Mexico. Instilled with a strong work ethic, he was driving tractor and moving irrigation pipe at the age of 16 while at the same time staying in school and being active in such extracurricular activities as Future Farmers of America.
Jesse Lopez is a full-time agricultural enthusiast, both in his job as Western sales service manager for Tanimura & Antle in Salinas and as a high-ranked bull rider on the California rodeo circuit.
He carried that drive to succeed on through college, where he received a degree in agricultural business and marketing from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Lopez gives a lot of credit to his parents, who encouraged him to continue every step of the way. Internships at Wilber Ellis and Gilroy Foods helped him broaden his grasp of agricultural marketing and it is all paying off for him at Tanimura & Antle, the Salinas-based vegetable grower-shipper, where he has been employed for the past four and a half years.
Lopez said he is a strong believer in the importance of being involved as a matter of self-preservation, something that is even more imperative for people in agriculture.
"It is definitely important that people get involved at an early age. It introduces us not only to local issues, but legislation that goes on in our communities, at the county level, the state level, the national level," he said. "I think it is important that we all get involved, not only in agricultural organizations, but also in local politics, whether it's the school board or water commissions."
He cited a recent event in Salinas where CFBF President Paul Wenger was the keynote speaker. Wenger, who is an alumnus of the same Alpha Gamma Rho agricultural fraternity at Cal Poly as Lopez, spoke on the importance of becoming involved at a young age. Several candidates for local public offices were in attendance, and Lopez said the event helped drive home the point to those office seekers that farmers and ranchers have some clout with their votes.
But what about bull riding? The answer is simple. When Lopez was in high school, several of his friends were involved in high school rodeo competition. Because he wasn't in a good position to buy and maintain a horse, he gravitated toward bull riding. That was two decades ago and he's still going strong—he made it to the California circuit finals last year and is currently ranked in the top five among California PRCA bull riders.
When asked about his most memorable bull ride, Lopez says it was actually one that he doesn't really remember. He explains: "It happened at Cal Poly during the Poly Royal Days. I got knocked out on my saddle bronc horse right before the bull riding event. I vaguely remember getting on the bull and somehow, the Lord willing, he must have ridden it for me because I barely remember even riding the bull and it was probably one of the best rides I ever had."