CSU, Chico

Ciriaco Chavez, Agricultural Business

Ciriaco Chavez, Agricultural Business

When Chico native Ciriaco Chavez sets a goal for himself, he pursues it strategically and relentlessly. Case in point: when he decided to seek a career in agriculture. Chavez’s interest in agriculture developed when he returned to Chico in 2013 from a two-year mission in Chile and began to contemplate a career that would support and complement the family life he envisioned for his future. 

“My soon-to-be in-laws encouraged me to think seriously about my career path. When I thought about people whom I admired and who were successful, I realized that many of them worked in agriculture,” Chavez said.

He set to work building a network of agricultural professionals who could advise and mentor him in his chosen career.

 “I made a list of everyone I knew who worked in agriculture and set up a series of informational interviews,” Chavez said. “I asked each of them if they offered paid tuition for employees, whether there were internship opportunities available with the company, what potential career opportunities existed within their company, and finally if they could refer me to any other professionals in agriculture for a similar interview. In the end I met with 25 people and shared my resume with each of them.”

One of those interviews resulted in a paid internship, which became a full-time job that allows Chavez, now a senior, to pursue his degree in agricultural business while working. The Australia-based Boundary Bend Olives is one of the largest producers of olive oil in the world. Chavez started working with the company in 2015 when it was just starting up in California. Shortly after beginning his internship, a full-time agronomist position arose within the company, and Chavez stepped in. His responsibilities include managing all of the company’s agronomic programs, developing and negotiating contracts with the company’s partner growers and participating as a part of the management team to lead the business’ growth and performance.

Throughout his employment, the company has supported his pursuit of higher education. He now works for Boundary Bend Olives full time in the fall, then spends the spring semesters as a full-time student majoring in agricultural business while working part time.

Joining early with Boundary Bend Olives means Chavez has had the opportunity to grow with the company. He has worked his way up and is now meeting with and negotiating business deals with external companies, planning and coordinating harvest, and traveling internationally to Argentina and Australia to meet with growers and source farm equipment and technology for Boundary Bend Olives. While his role with Boundary Bend has grown, his technical skills are put to the test every day. Many of his tasks are computerized, and Chavez says the skills he learned in Professor Baohui Song’s “Computer Applications in Agriculture” class have been invaluable to his organizational skills.

Outside of his work, Chavez is also a member of the board of directors for the Olive Oil Commission of California (OOCC). OOCC exists to support California olive farmers by conducting research to assist farmers in successfully growing a healthy crop, developing and enforcing standards for the purity and quality of California olive oil, verifying California olive oil quality through mandatory government sampling and third-party analysis, and promoting simple, clear, and accurate labels for California olive oil. Chavez is the youngest person to ever serve on the OOCC’s board of directors.

Chavez credits his family for his success and continued motivation. His father, wife Elizabeth, 1-year-old son Ezra, and a baby on the way have all fueled his motivation and success as a not only a student and employee, but also as a son and father.

Chavez’s advice for students is to try the techniques that have worked for him—“Work hard. Be proactive. Be focused. Present yourself in a way that’s professional and separates you from your peers.”