Tonight we honor David Gill with the Hartnell College Foundation Leadership award.
It is difficult to imagine anyone more deserving of this award than David, a man who leads by the fine example he sets for his colleagues, his friends, and for the students of Hartnell College.
David Gill has been uncommonly successful in every facet of his life:
--His business interests span nearly every realm of agriculture, from growing to processing to shipping.
--His family is a constant source of joy. He and his wonderful wife, Susan, have two sons and two grandchildren, who are their life’s passion.
--And even in the realm of hobbies—his love of sports, for instance--he has managed to reach a pinnacle that most can only dream of.
David’s success is not because he lives in a world different from the rest of us. It’s because he takes full advantage of the world we all inhabit, making it more productive, more fulfilling, and more exciting.
It’s because he sees opportunity where others see only challenges.
It’s because he believes in the value of hard work and good people, and acts on these beliefs every day;
It’s because he embraces the opportunities to learn from others, and to give back what he has learned;
And it’s because he dares to think big.
Many of you already know the vast network of land, contracts, and partnerships that mark David’s influence in the agriculture industry. Beginning with a 200-acre farm shortly out of college, David and his brother, Steve, have built their farming operations to cover 14,500 acres. Their Rio Farms is consistently listed in the Top 100 U.S. Vegetable Growers. Their Gills Onions is the largest fresh onion peeling operation in the country, with more than 100 million pounds processed annually.
“Farming is hard work,” says David.
Most of his advice comes in small, potent packages like this. Here are some more of the words that he lives by:
“There are no shortcuts to putting in the time and getting the experience.”
“Find good people and stick with them.”
“Hedge your bets.”
“Keep learning new things.”
David has applied these lessons to his life as a farmer, resulting in powerful partnerships with many companies throughout the valley, and building interests in several others, including the nation’s largest grower of organic produce.
Or, as one of his friends says, “David never met a deal he didn’t like!”
Hard work, good people, hedge your bets.
David even applied these lessons to one of his passions—golf. He had become something of a golf fanatic in his late 20s,, and he would go to the Bing Crosby tournament each year, wanting desperately to be invited to play. Rather than let fate take its course, David studied what it took to be invited. He made sure he met the right people, did the right things, and lobbied hard. When he was invited to the 2000 AT&T Tournament, he made the most of the opportunity and invited his best friend to caddy for him. On the last day, half of King City showed up to cheer him on and he won the Pro-Am tournament with his partner Skip Kendall, beating Tiger Woods and his partner by 4 strokes. Their 39 under par result bested the tournament record by four strokes. David was named the Most Valuable Amateur that year.
Hard work, good people, keep learning.
And although Hartnell cannot count David among its alumni—thanks to a high school ag teacher who convinced him to go to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to get a degree in crop science—we can count him among our most loyal supporters. He has always had a soft spot for Hartnell, ever since he was a boy and thought he might come here to play football. When that didn’t happen, he lost touch for some time.
But then about 15 years ago he found us again, and we’re so glad he did. It was when some people he knew and respected—notably Bill Ramsey—started telling him about the things that Hartnell was trying to do for the community. David agreed to join the board of the foundation, and he was happy to offer his advice from an industry perspective.
And he hasn’t stopped helping Hartnell since. He and Susan were invaluable in getting the King City Center established in South County, for which we are so grateful. And, it was David’s leadership and enthusiastic support of the ag program at Hartnell that has led to the renaissance in the program that we are experiencing now.