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