There’s a balance to be found between honoring the past and preparing for the future. Fresno County farmer Nick Rocca knows that.
Rocca is a fourth-generation farmer who grows almonds, raisin grapes and pumpkins. He and his dad, Randy Rocca, also have farm management and grape harvesting companies, and the family is considering getting into agrotourism. He also works for as an equipment specialist for Sun Pacific Farms, which operates across much of California.
Rocca graduated from high school in 2007 and wanted to get right into farming. He said his dad gave him some words of wisdom: It was not a good time to go into farming.
“Prices were way down, and we were about to hit the recession in 2008,” Rocca explained. He said his dad encouraged him to go to school for a business degree.
Rocca attended California Baptist University, where he was on the water polo team. After a couple of years, he was injured and had to stop playing his sport. He moved back home and decided then to work for the family.
Again, his dad had other ideas.
“He did not allow me to take the easy road and just come work on the family farm,” Rocca said. His dad told him if he’s going to really get into farming, he had to go “cut his teeth” working for someone else. “So, he made me go find a job. I went to work for a commercial winegrape harvesting company.”
He helped with managing crews and did other work around winegrape vineyards. He said it was “basic” farm work, such as tractor work, irrigation and harvesting.
“But all the while, I was really wanting to create the same legacy that my grandpa and dad had created. So, I’m thankful in the long run that my dad forced me to not just take the easy road and come work for him,” Rocca said. “He really made me learn the trade the hard way. Fast forward another four or five years and I was approached about managing my own ranch for the first time. That grew into more and we started a farm management side of our family business.”
He said he’s loving every second of it. As he continues in the family business, Rocca has a sharp focus on the generation that is rising up after him. He served as the Fresno County Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers Chair and is now the incoming secretary on the executive committee. He said his goal is to be the president of the county farm bureau in the next six to eight years.
“My grandfather was on the board. My dad was on the board, and I just I have a passion for agriculture and what it takes to make sure that it makes it to the next generation,” he said. “I feel like living in the state of California, we get caught up in the doom and gloom of regulation and the lack of water and all the what can’t we do and what’s bad and how bad it is. And really just my goal is to be a part of the ‘What can we do? And how can we help?’ The collective voice will always be louder than a singular voice.”
Rocca is passionate about making sure farming continues into future generations in California.
“What agriculture has meant for my family over the last few generations has allowed us to serve our community and love our fellow neighbor in this,” he explained. “In the sense that we’re all human beings, number one. And so, how can you be a part of your community and help and give back and do things? Well, farming has allowed us to be really involved in our church and be involved in other local organizations.
“I’m on the Fresno Chamber of Commerce board and our job there is to make sure that businesses are surviving and thriving in Fresno County and that the quality of life for people living in Fresno is good,” Rocca continued. “We’ve already seen that through how our state is legislated and how our water is manage, it seems like if we left it to its own devices, it would fail. So, we’ve got people that have made it their life’s goal to make sure that farming in California and in the United States still has generations of viability.”
He said he plans to continue to be one of those people. He said he understands why people choose to move their farming operations out of California, but he would like to be part of the force that corrects those reasons.
“People sell the ranch and move out of state because it’s an economic decision for them. It breaks my heart because I wish it wasn’t. I wish they were successful here and I wish the cost of living and the cost of goods wasn’t as high,” he said. “But it is, and so we have to do the best with what we’ve been given. I feel like I’ve got multiple generations of blessings that I now have to manage, and I want to do my best so that my son and daughter and their kids have the same opportunities that I had growing up. If agriculture fails completely in California, it’s not going to be because I sat around and did nothing.”
He said if he could leave a message for those future generations of farmers, it would be that there were people in the current generation who cared about them.
“I would want them to know that the people who cared the most, they fought. They’re the ones fighting for agriculture in the state. They’re taking personal time away from their family to make the next generation better.” He also encourages involvement and perseverance. “Prioritize your life. Family first, and make sure they know that they came first and you did everything you could to support them. If that meant getting involved in agriculture or getting involved in local politics or getting involved in whatever you feel led to, get involved. But don’t stop fighting. That’s the biggest thing. If you stop, the things you’re fighting for will lose.”
You can listen to the full interview with Nick Rocca in the Aug. 3, 2021 episode of the MyAgLife Daily News Report at myaglife.com.