Turlock Unified School District
Married. Wife, Lynette, and four children: Shay, 25; Gary, 24; Taylor, 20; and Kaily, 15
Other Hobbies: Owns a local Hofbrau restaurant with two of his children
As a child, Scott Soiseth ate lunch in the same cafeterias he now manages as foodservice director, in the 13,800-student Turlock Unified School District. After high school, Soiseth took classes in firefighting and business, before starting his own restaurant. He sold the establishment eight years later but recently bought it back. One constant in his life has been working on a 20-acre almond farm.
“The ranch has been in the family—it was my wife’s parents’ place—for about 40 years. My wife planted it as a young girl. I didn’t farm before this; I married into it. I was a city boy. I’ve been married to my wife for almost 30 years and I just started farming when I was 16 and dating her. To be with my wife, I had to go out in the field and rake as well. She would get me to do the hard stuff so she wouldn’t have to.
Twenty-five years ago, all the work was done by hand. So I learned how to farm from the time I spent as a young man working the fields with my wife. As I got a little older, I started doing more things like working the tractor. Once I got married, I would go out and help my father-in-law, who also worked another job. When he became ill, I took on more and more.
When we were looking for a house, my father-in-law offered an area on the farm to build on. We built our home in the middle of the orchard. It was finished just as my first daughter was born. This is now my thing that I do with my children.
I think my father-in-law was smarter than we thought—we were getting a house, but he was getting a whole group of workers. When he passed away, I took on the full responsibility of managing and working the farm. It was almost like the old stories of families growing up on the farm. The last five years, I’ve become more a part of a farm than I’ve ever been. My mother-in-law, despite her age, is still involved. Right now, we’re irrigating, and she’s out there irrigating with my son.
We are fortunate that the farm has been passed down from generation to generation. It is free and clear so there is no payment on it. More and more, family farms are becoming a thing of the past. If you don’t over-expense it, the family farm is still very viable. I think that’s how we’ve kept the farm in the family all these years. Again, having the kids work decreases your labor.
We’re getting into our harvest season now. We have some slows times, but we are working on the farm in some capacity year round. The family does all the work up until the harvest and then we hire some outside help to do all the knocking and pick-up work. We do all the spraying and maintaining the grounds on our own.
There are challenges with having a full-time job and also running the farm. It’s about staying on top of things. Last year, when we irrigated, we started at 2 in the morning and finished at 6 a.m., so I do some work at night. I also plan my weekends so that I have some time off. The biggest challenge now that my kids are growing up is it’s me doing more of the work.
There is a nice breeze through the orchard, and it’s a great place to go to gather your thoughts. I hate to say the word earthy, but it just takes you back to that. It’s also amazing to see the transformation of the almonds through the year. My favorite season is the fall when the leaves are starting to drop and the harvest is done.”