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Ryan Klobas of the Napa County Farm Bureau wins a North Bay Business Journal Nonprofit Leadership Award

Ryan Klobas

CEO

The Napa County Farm Bureau

811 Jefferson St, Napa

707-224-5403;

www.napafarmbureau.org

Professional background: My background centers on professional public policy and politics, having held a number of senior positions in the California State Assembly, U.S. Congress, Contra Costa County and the California Governor’s Office.

Education: Juris Doctor, Golden Gate University School of Law, San Francisco; Bachelor of Arts degree, politics, Saint Mary’s College of California, Moraga

Number of staff: 5

Describe your organization: The Napa County Farm Bureau is the oldest industry organization in Napa Valley, having been formed in 1913. The mission of the Napa County Farm Bureau is to ensure the proper political, social, and economic climate for the continuation of a strong, viable, and sustainable agricultural economy in Napa County.

The Napa County Farm Bureau, like every county farm bureau in California, is a policy-based organization with a particular emphasis on public policy and politics, as it has been since 1913.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I’m a passionate person who likes to produce tangible and meaningful results that actually benefit others. I respect those individuals that not only talk the talk, but know how to walk the walk and I value that in my professional and personal life. In the sum of life, we should have things to look back on that actually made a difference for someone else.

What is your role in the organization?

As the CEO of the Napa County Farm Bureau and the Napa County Farm Bureau Foundation, I am charged with leading all facets of both organizations.

I work in conjunction with the Farm Bureau Board of Directors to achieve the vision and goals of Napa Valley agriculture for our members and our communities. Our board is comprised of industry leaders, vineyard managers, business owners and community leaders who continually serve the best interests of our membership.

How has your organization been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

At the outset of the pandemic, our organization quickly developed a set of COVID-19 resources for members to immediately assist them in handling the coronavirus.

We created a daily stream of information to our members about COVID-19 best safety practices in the workplace, created safety training material for farm workers, educated about how to comply with regulatory requirements, educated about workers’ rights related to COVID-19, best health practices at work and at home, how to deal with a COVID-19 outbreak in the workplace, created a COVID-19 toolkit for employers and employees, as well as TV and radio public service announcements not only for our ag workers, but for the community as a whole.

What are the ways your organization responded to increased demands for services, and fiscally, in what has your organization been forced to adjust?

Since the outset of COVID-19 and the recent fires in Napa Valley, the Napa County Farm Bureau has re-directed resources to immediately assist our membership of over 1,200.

There has been an increased demand for help with regulatory compliance and understanding all the new mandates that are now placed on employers and employees due to COVID-19.

The regulatory world has become highly complex and we have educated our members about their regulatory requirements, how to comply, etc. We have also directed many resources towards fire recovery in Napa Valley, with everything from assisting members with how to deal with damaged structures and burnt vineyards to financially assisting fire victims and their families.

What achievement are you most proud of?

At the Napa County Farm Bureau, the achievement I am most proud of is how the organization has dramatically grown over the last three years.

The Farm Bureau has come a very long way from where it used to be. Our membership has more than doubled, our program of community work has greatly expanded and we have grown the organization in immeasurable ways to serve our members.

The reason I am so proud of this is because I am the great-grandson of a Croatian immigrant who made a life for my family as a California farmer. By working so hard to assist our members, I feel I am making a difference in the lives of individuals just like my great-grandfather.

What is your biggest challenge today?

Our biggest challenge is dealing with the many impacts COVID-19 has had on the way we are able to conduct business. In a world where most encounters now occur via teleconference, it has limited our ability to hold gatherings with members.

As many have had to do, we have had to approach different ways of interacting with our members and approach different ways of engagement.

What is the next major project either under way or on the horizon?

Ryan Klobas

CEO

The Napa County Farm Bureau

811 Jefferson St, Napa

707-224-5403;

www.napafarmbureau.org

The next major project on the horizon for us is reinventing our Ag In The Classroom program and designing new ways for the Farm Bureau to interact with students in Napa Valley as we teach them about Napa Valley Ag and the role that it plays in their lives and in our communities. Our work will include lesson plans for teachers, educational material for students and a lot of other exciting things.

What product or service would/or is helping you do your job more effectively?

Working in conjunction with the California Farm Bureau governmental affairs team and legal team in Sacramento, we are able to more effectively assist our members with everything from regulatory compliance, local policy proposals and not only more effectively advocate on their behalf, but at the same time more effectively educate members.

One of the things that sets the Farm Bureau apart from others is the vast California Farm Bureau structure that has dedicated governmental affairs teams, legal teams, communication and media teams and policy teams that are top experts in their fields.

Working in tandem with them is what makes the Napa County Farm Bureau unique and gives us an advantage for our members. It’s the unique aspect most often touted by Farm Bureau members as one of the reasons they feel so well served by the Farm Bureau.

How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?

There are so many factors that influence agricultural policy in Napa County and throughout California.

As a policy-based organization, over the last three years we have seen more and more agricultural issues becoming prominent headlines that encompass a wide range of opinions and feelings. These issues can directly impact our membership and the way that they are able to do business, so we have had to ensure that we are able to directly address these issues on multiple fronts.

Often times, a policy issue will become a political issue and different skill sets are required to address each issue as they arise.

Agriculture is becoming increasingly impacted by public policy issues and our profession needs to adapt to those changes and recognize that unique skill sets are needed to address them.

Describe a fond memory you have about working with a staff member or client of your organization?

One of the roles I enjoy most is sitting on our scholarship interview panel, where our foundation annually awards scholarships to high school seniors who are pursuing college study of agriculture.

A moment that stands out in my mind is when I interviewed a young woman about her college aspirations and the work she was currently doing in high school. During the interview, she acknowledged to me that she didn’t have many friends because they didn’t understand her love of agriculture and working with animals.

I immediately told her of local leaders in our community who were just like she was and introduced her to others who shared her passion of agriculture and helped her to make friends with people who could connect her to others. The joy I saw in her face when I first introduced her to local leaders is something I’ll never forget.

What other community involvement would you like people to know about?

As the organization that represents all of agriculture in Napa County, we are fortunate to be able to serve on multiple boards and organizations throughout the county, such as FFA, 4-H and other organizations that work in agriculture. It helps us to broaden our reach and use the vast Farm Bureau resources to help others.

Most admired businessperson outside your organization:

Johnnie White of Pina Vineyard Management. Although he is the president of the Farm Bureau, I have a deep respect for Johnnie and the work that he has done consistently to help agriculture in Napa Valley.

He has been involved for years as a member of the California Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers & Ranchers program, served as its chairman, and continues to be a leading figure at California Farm Bureau.

Last year, Johnnie and his wife,Kendall, were honored by the California Farm Bureau for achieving excellence in their fields. He is widely respected and is someone that can be relied on without question. He always has distinct ideas for our members that have produced real results for them and their families. He has been a driving force at the Farm Bureau that has transformed the organization.

QUICK TAKES

Current reading: “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” by John Maxwell

Stress relievers: Vacations to Croatia

Favorite hobbies: Weekend trips exploring new cities; dining with friends; hiking

Social media you most use: Instagram

Typical day at the office: There is rarely a “typical” day at the office. A day can include being pulled in many different directions and usually includes committee meetings, member meetings, reading detailed briefs on current agricultural policy issues, meeting with elected leaders, engaging in press interviews, conducting speaking engagements, devising policy, etc.

Best place to work outside of the office: Members’ work places. I love to interact with our members where they work, as our membership is so varied and unique.

Words that best describe you: Passionate, focused, thinks outside the box

Anything you want to add?

You are only as successful as the people you surround yourself with and I have an amazingly talented and dedicated staff that contributes to my success every day; Hugo Nevarez, Corrin Armstrong and Kristen Grave.

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