Welcome to stephenpavich.com...
Stephen P. Pavich
Address: 4050 S. Sarival Ave., Goodyear, AZ 85338
~ Cellphone: 602-300-8359
Bachelor of Science (Major: Viticulture / Minor: Plant Science), California State University, Fresno, CA (1971)
Professional Background ~
Consultant for Global Organics Goodyear Arizona.
Partner in Stephen Pavich & Sons (1971-1991) and Pavich Family Farms (1991-2001), Delano, California ~ A San Joaquin and western Arizona table grapes operation, which has been 100% organic since 1972. Vineyard Operations Manager (1971-1978); Director of Vineyard Operations (1978-1997); Director of Research and Development (1997-2001). With father, took business from 240 to 950 acres between 1971-1978; with brother, expanded to 4,500 acres, of which 3,400 acres were table grapes and 100 acres of navel oranges, from 1978-1997 on 11different farms in diverse climates and soil types in two states (Kern County and Tulare County of San Joaquin Valley, California; Harquahala and Dateland, Arizona)
Responsible for all aspects of: operations of grape growing and research and development, including implementation of unique organic techniques for each region; expansion of marketing division to include more than 60 growers of 75 different fruits and vegetables marketed under Pavich Family Farms label; management of personnel department and labor (to 1,200 employees at peak harvest), including labor negotiations.
Farming operation grew in early 1970s from gross revenues of $300,000 to more than $47 million in 1998
Developed line of dried fruits and nuts and became fifth largest raisin grower in California
Developed international business and grape operations in Chile, South Africa, Mexico, and Australia from 1995 to 2001.
Accomplishments and Innovations ~
1971 - First grower to identify limestone as soil amendment and treatment for San Joaquin soils
1971 - First company to use and develop styrofoam box for long-term storage
1971 - First company to bring back ground cover crops of 1950's
1972 - First large scale grower to go organic
1972 - First grower to utilize carbon dioxide in adjusting irrigation pH
1974 - First grower to develop a system that tied relationship of insect control to grapevine nutrition
1974 - First company to develop and use cardboard box in table grape operation, which later became the industry standard
1979 - First grower to utilize grape stickers around the stems to connect product to the consumer
1980 - First grape grower to receive award by EPA in sustainable agriculture
1982 - First grower to use bud studies in determining next season crop fruitability
1984 - Largest grower to be certified by California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF)
1985 - First grower to develop and utilize pesticide residue testing in marketing of table grapes
1986 - First grower to use Nutri-Clean in marketing of marketing of table grapes
1986 - First grape grower to advertise table grapes on television (in conjunction with Raley's Supermarkets with Eddie Albert as spokesman with Stephen Pavich, Sr. and Stephen Pavich, Jr.)
1986 - First grower ever to be recognized by National Academy of Science in its book, Sustainable Agriculture as one of top eight sustainable farms in U.S.
1987 - First grower to get FDA approval of sulfur dioxide protocols working directly with FDA Director of Enforcement
1988 - After alar scare, became only grapes which Ralph's Supermarket would purchase; first time a chain store locked out other growers
1991 - First family-owned table grape grower that grew grapes from earliest desert regions to latest San Joaquin region providing a grape supply for 9 months.
1991 - First grower to study in-field condition of soil-microorganisms, which provided identification of various forms of beneficial microorganisms that University researchers have not yet identified; studied soil-microorganisms that developed at the rhizosphere level.
1995 - First table grape grower to develop and utilize strippings into jumbo raisins growing to become 2-3 million pound raisin grower.
1997 - First grape grower to develop one pass systems in tractor operations allowing ability to do up to five different jobs with one pass and cutting tractor passes by 60%.
1998 - First grape grower to identify association between botrytis and grape nutrition developing simple test to ascertain whether grapes were susceptible to botrytis.
1998 - First grape grower to utilize compost tea for fungal control.
1998 - First grape grower to develop brewing systems in field to grow own beneficial microbes for foliage and soil.
1999 - Developed first berm mover that worked on large scale level.
1999 - Developed mineral micronization of fertilizer and compost to 1000 mesh.
2000 - First grower to reduce and cure high nematode populations by using chitin degraders for under $50 per acre.
2000 - First grower to have complete no-till system of berm without any herbicides or root-pruning french plow.
2002 - First grower to use mustard plant to kill root-knot nematodes in field at cost of $3.50 per acre.
Professional Training and Development ~
Ongoing study and seminars of viticulture in Europe, Chile, South Africa, Australia, and California. 1997 - 2001.
Developed and taught seminars on all aspects of organic farming for growers in South Africa and Chile who marketed under Pavich Family Farms label.
Professional Associations and Memberships ~
1972-1982 ~ Member, Council of California Growers Board of Governors
1975-1981 ~ Board Member, Rag Gulch Irrigation District
1984-1996 ~ Kern County Representative, Certified California Organic Growers
1982-2000 ~ President, Harquahala Power District
1997-2000 ~ Board Member, Harquahala Irrigation District
1986-2000 ~ Board Member, California State Organic Board
1990 ~ Helped rewrite 1990 Organic Food Act for State of California
1985-1996 ~ Reviewer, grant proposals ($2 million) for California Sustainable Program (University of California)
1988-1992 ~ Reviewer, LISA Program, USDA
1996-1999 ~ Member, California Exotic Pest Board
1996-2000 ~ Member, National Organic Standards Board, USDA: brought first USDA Organic Label
2000-present ~ Member, Pierce Disease Advisory Committee
The Bakersfield Californian (25 April 1998)
Pavich Family Cultivates A Dream
By Steven Mayer
TERRA BELLA -- When Croatian immigrant Stephen Pavich Sr. arrived in California's Central Valley in 1953, he knew he could grow wholesome, delicious foods in this agricultural fruit basket. So he and his wife, Helen, leased 140 acres of prime farmland and proceeded to cultivate a dream.
Today, 45 years after Pavich first set foot in those fertile vineyards, his dream has evolved into one of the great agricultural success stories of the 1990s. Pavich Family Farms is the world's largest producer of certified organic table grapes ? and is a major player in the production and marketing of organic foods throughout the United States.
"The Pavich family has been a vanguard of organic farming for years," said Sandy Sanders, an organic farmer from Bakersfield. "They were into organic methods before organic was widely accepted."
In the late 1960s, Pavich's eldest son Stephen returned from college with a newfound awareness and concern that modern farming was becoming increasingly dependent upon synthetic pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers. The family began to think about a new direction ? a new path to a brighter future.
One day Stephen was working in the vineyard when he was overcome by pesticide fumes from a spray tank. The frightening experience would provide an added urgency to the changes that were already being considered in the family business.
"It was like a lightbulb going off," he recalled. "It was saying, the future for us is not here in this tank of pesticide."
Soon afterward, the family made a commitment to find a natural means of farming that would produce quality fruit using methods that were biologically and ecologically in balance with nature, and which fostered a safer working environment.
Today, the company grows nine varieties of table grapes and many other fruits and vegetables on more than 4,000 acres of certified organic soil in California and Arizona. Last year, Pavich Family Farms shipped more than 2.5 million boxes of organic fruits and vegetables to all 50 states ? more than quadrupling the company's volume during the past decade-and-a-half.
On a recent spring morning, with the snow-capped Sierras as a backdrop, Stephen Pavich walked along the rows of the family's home vineyard near Richgrove. He reached down to pick some samples of the lush, green grasses and wildflowers that grow between the grapevines.
As he examined the cluster, damp with the morning dew, he pointed out the beneficial characteristics of the plants, and how their presence in the vineyard fits into his holistic approach to farming.
Pavich cultivates a selection of wild grasses and flowers that help his vineyards thrive without the use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.
"One reason we grow this cover crop is because it provides a habitat for beneficial insects," he said. "The ladybug is our company mascot."
According to Pavich, the wildflowers, fiddleneck and lupine that populate his vineyards make an attractive home for insects ? like the ladybug ? that prefer to dine on a whole range of destructive pests.
The cover crop also produces an enzyme in the soil that is offensive to root-infesting nematodes, and the lupine manufactures nitrogen that serves to enhance the nutrient content of the soil.
"During the 1920s and '30s, cover crops were one of the main ways farmers got nitrogen into the ground," he said. "My father used cover crops during the 1950s."
The lupine and fiddleneck will be useful even after they die, Pavich added. The organic matter will be used to make compost which will then be returned to the soil, enriching it yet again.
"Organic farming is a process, not a materials-based method," he said.
"We depend on a living soil for our success."
Pavich scooped up a handful of the rich soil in the vineyard and inhaled its aromas. "It has the smell of the forest," he said with a sigh. "I love that."
While Stephen Pavich continues to be responsible for all aspects of the company's farming operations, his brother and company president, Tom Pavich, handles the business functions.
Tom has guided the family business through annual growth rates reaching 25 percent. That's even better than the impressive 20 percent sales growth the $3 billion organic industry has enjoyed annually since 1990.
And new ventures into a chilled "not from concentrate" orange juice and a dual-branded organic bran cereal featuring Pavich's well-known raisins, have the family-run company meeting one challenge after another.
A planned move, probably in early May, will relocate Pavich's main office to Bakersfield.
"The organic market is still small," Tom Pavich said. "It's around 1 percent of the total food system.
We've chosen to establish ourselves in this market niche," he added. "And we're pretty proud of what we have done."
As the baby-boomer generation ages, and interest in healthy eating continues to grow, the organics industry is poised for even more growth in the coming years. And Pavich is well-situated to take advantage of that growth.
"I think dad would be very proud of us today," Tom said.
"He was happy to see me and my brother embrace organic practices ? and he was able to witness the benefit organic farming has to the soil, the water and ultimately to the harvest."
Conscious Choice (September 1998) ~
The Pavich Family Farm
by Tom Meier
"Those who have vision and persevere in the face of opposition are the true pioneers."-- Anonymous
Steve and Tom Pavich believed in growing organically before it was widely accepted, and they persisted -- despite the naysayers, roadblocks, and challenges -- to build Pavich Family Farms into the world's largest producer of certified organic table grapes.
In 1971 at the age of 22, Steve Pavich had a vision -- that if his family farmed "the way God intended," success would eventually come. This was back when organic farmers were mostly small counterculture types whose products could be found wilting in the back of health food stores.
But in this "Field of Dreams" story, Steve has seen his father's 140-acre vineyard evolve into a 4,000 acre operation with links to an additional 40 independent farmers whose products Pavich markets. With the help of his younger brother Tom, the company president, Pavich has brought organics to millions who might never have been exposed, and the brothers have helped give organics a respectability in the marketplace once deemed impossible.
A Family Collaboration ~
What allowed Pavich to prosper while many other early organic growers floundered were the complementary talents of Steve (farming) and Tom (business). Steve was the first to run a successful organic operation on a large scale, blending old world methods with modern techniques. And Tom broke new ground in the 1980s when he introduced organic produce to large supermarket chains, thereby helping to bring organics out of the counterculture and into the mainstream.
Recently named the "Organic Duo" and recipients of Self Magazine's Movers and Shakers Award for being two of the nation's top 25 food influentials, Steve and Tom are into organics more for love than money. And, though humble about their accomplishments, their mission is helping change the way food is grown in this country.
Pavich Family Farms was started in 1953 by Steve and Tom's parents, Croatian immigrant Stephen Pavich Sr. and his wife Helen, when they moved to the central valley of California to grow grapes. In those days, says Tom, most farming was basically organic, and their father used old world, time-tested techniques like cover crops, compost, and beneficial insects to control the plant pests.
For a few years they prospered, but in the early 1960s Stephen Sr. was approached by the chemical companies, who came in with the pitch that the new chemicals developed would help increase his yields. So to keep up with a changing industry, Stephen Sr. started applying pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and their yields did grow -- for awhile.
By 1971, however the soil had become depleted of nutrients and living organic matter from the heavy application of chemicals, and yields started to diminish. The chemical companies' answer was to apply more synthetic fertilizers to "force" the plants to grow.
But Stephen Jr., freshly back from Fresno State, had a feeling the family was "being conned." Believing that they could grow a bountiful harvest by farming in harmony with the principles of nature, he and his family began to look for alternatives. "We basically wanted to improve quality," Tom explains. More from necessity than from a pie in the sky idealism, the family worked to find a better way.
Then one day Steve, while working on the farm, had the epiphany that would change the course of Pavich forever -- and the future of the organic industry. He had climbed inside an empty, washed pesticide tank to retrieve a broken mixing handle. Once inside, he was overcome by the fumes. He got dizzy and lost consciousness, and a farm worker had to drag him out.
"It felt like crawling out of a grave," Steve recalls. "But it was a message from God, saying the future for us is not here in this tank of pesticide."
That incident gave the final impetus to seek out a better way of doing things. Retrieving some of the old-fashioned methods and combining them with modern techniques, Pavich began to put together an organic farming system.
The Resolution ~
"We wanted to farm in harmony with the principles of nature. In 1971 I was like 'that's it. There's no other option,'" Steve explains. "I vowed never to go back to conventional. And it was never about the money. I knew that if we farmed organically and were good stewards of the land, God would provide the answers. And I said to myself 'Don't sweat the money stuff because it's going to come your direction anyway.'"
"But we were really sticking our neck out and taking a big risk," Tom adds. Their farmer neighbors said it couldn't be done, even though they respected the Paviches as good, honest people. "Basically people didn't understand it. It was strange for them, even though as little as 15 years before that everybody was basically farming organically."
The chemical companies had less respect. They said, "That Pavich boy is a real fruitcake."
The Paviches spent the '70s learning about organics through trial and error. "Back then there was no textbook. We were navigating uncharted waters," says Tom. And yet they persisted, although the marketing in the early days was challenging. Most of their accounts were health food stores and co-ops, a steady if limited market. "But we knew we had to make this work," says Tom, "because once we learned about organic agriculture it just made so much sense. And we knew that the direction of conventional agriculture was not sustainable."
Tom spent most of the '70s working for Xerox as an MBA, but he knew everything that was happening on the farm. Steve and family got the farming side down during these years, and in 1980, Tom returned home to lead the company's business and marketing efforts. "Down deep in my heart I knew I'd be back, he says. "But this period of my life allowed me to develop professionally in a way which I never would have been able to if I'd stayed on the farm."
Breaking into the Mainstream ~
Even in the '70s, the Paviches knew there was a market for organics. The challenge was in tapping into it. Supermarkets were leery about carrying organic produce, fearing it would make the rest of their produce look bad. They also wouldn't touch the organic produce unless a continuous supply was available.
Tom's business expertise became valuable. He convinced the California supermarket Ralph's to carry their grapes. Pavich received thousands of consumer letters praising their efforts and asking for more organically produced fruits and vegetables. "We knew we struck a nerve here," says Tom. "We knew consumer demand was there." But Ralph's balked because the Paviches couldn't deliver a continuous supply.
"We couldn't get the big stores to support it," Tom explains. "So the business struggled through the '70s. We wanted the big chains to step in and help make a change in our food system, but they didn't. It became clear that the barrier to the growth of organics was lack of channels of distribution."
But with Tom persisting at the helm, the family had a breakthrough in the middle '80s that would affect not only their business, but the marketing and overall respectability of organics in the marketplace. They acquired more acreage and expanded their operation so they could deliver a continuous supply of grapes to supermarkets. And they began to sell other fruits and vegetables too, which were partially produced by smaller farmers and marketed under the Pavich name.They landed large accounts at two of California's major supermarket chains, Raleys and Ralph's. From there came other large accounts, including Jewel, Dominicks, and A?.
"Size became our advantage," says Tom, "because with continuous production we were able to bring organics to people who would never have had the opportunity to consume organic or become educated about it. Jewel is a great customer of ours and they never would have touched us unless we had a continuous, professional supply of product that was done in a top quality manner that we could guarantee. It's not easy for a farm to do this. You have to get to a certain size to be able to achieve that. There have been many casualties in the organics business, and many farmers failed simply because they were too small."
Once they landed the first supermarket chains, business began to grow at a steady rate.
Attacks from the Establishment ~
Things didn't settle down to smooth sailing after that. Steve recalls that battle lines were drawn when their grapes started competing head to head with conventional grapes. Pavich grapes became the only brand sold at Ralph's, and the farm establishment was threatened. "As long as we were selling to hippie co-op stores they didn't care. They said, "Let them be a bunch of drugged out counterculture hippies and do their organic nutcake alfalfa sprout thing." But it was a different story when Pavich grapes were competing with conventional grapes -- and winning.
Having raised the ire of conventional farmers and many chemical companies, the Paviches soon felt the government breathing down their neck. "We were attacked by everybody, the FDA, the EPA, the United Farm Workers, and others. They were trying to find fraud. One year the state of California tested our grapes nine times for pesticide residue. We said, 'Hey give it your best shot, because there's nothing here and we don't care how much you look.'"
Winning By Example ~
Never able to find any evidence of chemical use, their attackers eventually gave up. "And now we have what we feel is a real respect amongst our peers, which is what we wanted all along," Steve explains. "We're not saying to conventional growers 'You guys are wrong and you're evil empire people for using all your chemicals.' We just felt that our example was enough. And now people are looking at us and saying "If Paviches can do it successfully, so could we -- and if you can't fight them, join them."
The Pavich family business continues to grow at an unprecedented rate. From 1983 to 1998 Pavich grew by over 300 percent and continues to grow at a rate of 25 percent a year, which is better than the 20 percent growth for the organic industry as a whole.
In addition to their 4,000 acres in California and Arizona, Pavich has more than 40 independent producers in the Pavich "family of growers." Today Pavich markets over 100 products and plans to continue to expand the product line in the coming years. In 1997, Pavich shipped 2.5 million boxes of certified organic grapes, up from 600,000 in 1983. They now employ between 150 and 700 people depending on the season. Pavich produce can be found at both natural and mainstream supermarket chains nationwide and in Europe and Japan. In addition to being the largest producer of certified organic grapes in the world, they're one of the country's highest selling marketers of certified organic produce overall.
"Now that the channels of distribution are open, both our business and the organic industry will grow as fast as the supply can grow," says Tom. "The demand is there."
Getting Big by Honoring the Small ~
Paradoxically, the larger the Paviches get the more they support the small farm culture and the small gourmet organic farmer. As Pavich grows, so does its "family of growers." Pavich's goal is not to force small growers out of business -- which has been the dominant trend in agriculture for the last 50 years -- but to embrace and support them. In order to ensure a continuous output of some of their products, Pavich buys certain vegetables en masse from smaller growers. Many of these smaller growers make most of their living selling in farmers' markets or to gourmet restaurants, and some even run community supported agriculture operations or survive by subscription farming. Selling the extra volume to Pavich allows many of them to stay afloat. So Pavich is actually contributing to the economy of the small, local grower. The family sees this as a way of giving something back to the organic movement and providing a needed service to the small grower.
In addition to marketing produce from smaller growers here in the States, the Paviches are now extending their family of growers internationally. They're importing certified organic fruit from Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and South Africa. In El Salvador, Pavich is working with indigenous Indians who grow organically, giving them a market for their produce. "To have these people be successful is really gratifying," says Steve.
The Paviches have been organic farming innovators, not so much because of any single innovation, Steve explains, but in their overall system of farming. They've applied a holistic system of organic farming to large scale production, something that had not been done before. They share this system with their family of growers to ensure that these growers are farming up to Pavich standards.
The Silent Revolution ~
Although Pavich has inspired a number of growers large and small through the years to make the transition to organics, their influence extends far beyond this small niche. In what Tom calls the "Silent Revolution" currently going on in agriculture, certain organic practices are being incorporated into conventional farming. "The soil building aspect of organics is very easy for a conventional farm to adopt and they can see quick benefits." Using compost to nutrify the soil as well as cover crops in the off-season that get ground into the soil as natural fertilizer can reduce a farmer's need for synthetic fertilizers because the soil is more alive and can provide natually more of what plants need to grow.
Organic as the Future of the Food System ~
Both Steve and Tom feel that it's an exciting time to be in the organic industry, and their family farm is poised to remain a leader. Currently, organics represent one percent of the food industry in this country, and the Paviches see that figure mushrooming. In the next ten years they see organic food becoming the mainstream of the food system rather than just a niche.
"In the next 50 years I think our food system will look a lot different," Tom muses. "I think technology will continue to play a role but the basics of farming organically will have to be there. I also believe that labor-saving devices will proliferate as labor shortages continue. This will enable organic to capture a larger and larger market share. We'll see technology coming, in that respect. But we have to still keep the soil basics this way. Nature evolved this way over time. We can't change that. The bioengineering people want to. They want to genetically modify that. That can't be allowed for organic."
As organics grows, the brothers feel that there will be a place for both large and small growers. "I think small farmers can excel in services that we and other larger farmers cannot, such as food being delivered the same day it was harvested.."
Steve adds: "I personally think this diversity in the industry is healthy. Some farms are getting bigger but there's a whole group of new young farmers out there. One of the great things about the whole organic movement is that it has provided opportunities for many of the smaller farmers to get in at entry level. Some of these farmers deal exclusively with the restaurant trade. And they do really well, like the baby leaf organic salad farmer who is making a daily delivery to his local gourmet restaurant or smaller store. I think there's a place for all levels of organic farmers."
Keeping the Family Farm ~
The Paviches' grass roots, family style of business is still alive and well. Their plans for the future include expanding into more commodities and bringing in even more small farmers into their family of growers. And they have every intention of keeping the family business in the family. Their plans are not to sell out to larger companies, but to grow in a way that supports a network of family farmers like themselves. "I'm not here to help out Monsanto. I'd rather help support Jimmy's Acres or Billy's 40- acre broccoli patch," says Steve with obvious pride.
Safeguarding Organic Standards ~
This deep commitment will help keep the organic industry pure so that the organic philosophy doesn't get coopted by larger companies whose main goal is to maximize profits instead of care for the land. Tom feels that the new organic standards also will help safeguard this, provided the USDA continues to listen to consumer comments when drafting up their definition of organic. "We must remain vigilant," Tom says, believing that most in the organic industry will self-regulate and keep the organic definition pure, out of a deep commitment to organic practices.
Steve, who is on the National Organics Standards Board that the USDA put together, is more skeptical about the standards. He says it should be the consumer, not the government, who calls the shots. "It's almost like they have put a dome over the city of Washington, DC and there's just no communication with the regular folks. The special interest groups have got such a stranglehold. I went in there with good intentions and being very naïve; I came out of there saying 'Wow; no wonder nothing gets done.' If consumers ever really knew how bad the situation is, they would probably all become organic shoppers overnight."
The Dream is the Future ~
Steve and Tom have built the field of their dreams, and they did it by being "grounded dreamers." The brotherly combination of business and farming have taken Pavich to the forefront of the organic industry. In an odd turn of events, many of the farmers who started out doubting the Paviches are now coming to them for advice.
And the Pavich family's dream has come full circle. Their father, who died in 1988, started farming naturally; then, after a ten-year tryst with chemical farming in the '60s, they began farming organically again. Now they've got the size of a conventional farm with the attitude and values of a small family farmer. People who equate organic with small farming said it couldn't be done, but the Paviches have been showing them different for decades.
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