Meet Arizona Agriculture’s Gary Pasquinelli
Adhering to a personal “God, Family, Country, and Industry” moto, Gary Pasquinelli is a 2nd-generation farmer in the Yuma area, and a successful leader, innovator, and advocate for the vegetable industry. He received Arizona Farm Bureau’s Farmer of the Year award during the organization’s 100th Annual Meeting in November.
Recently retired, Pasquinelli built Pasquinelli Produce Company that farms 8,500 acres of winter vegetable and watermelons, and rotational crops, all in Yuma County. While Pasquinelli has not been actively involved with the leadership of the Farm Bureau, he has always worked with and supported the efforts of the organization, along with his company maintaining membership in Arizona Farm Bureau. He and his wife of 51 years, Barbara, have raised 4 daughters, and have been blessed with 10 grandsons.
A Lifetime of Milestones
Pasquinelli earned a Bachelor of Arts Cum Laude degree from the University of Notre Dame and spent a brief time studying law at The University of California, Berkeley. He is also a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Agricultural Leadership Program, Project CENTRL, Class II.
He also has a military record. After graduating from the U.S. Marine Corps Platoon Leader Corps Program in Quantico, Virginia, he served four years in the (Arizona) Army National Guard.
Recognizing the importance of serving as a volunteer leader in the representative industry, Pasquinelli is a past president of the Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association; and a past director, representing Yuma and Mohave counties for 47 years. He was the 2000 chair of Western Growers Association, a California-Arizona agricultural trade association whose members grow, pack, and ship 90% of the fresh winter vegetables and 60% of the fresh fruit and nuts in Arizona and California, constituting more than one-half of the nation’s fresh produce. He’d served for 45 years on the Western Growers Board of Directors, stepping down in 2019, but garnering the longest tenure in the 90-plus-year history of the association.
Pasquinelli’s past governmental service includes a 2-year appointment to the Arizona Early Childhood and Development Board by then-Governor Janet Napolitano, two 4-year terms as a member of the State of Arizona’s Agricultural Employment Relations Board, a member of the Governor’s Selection Committee for the Director of the Arizona Department of Agriculture and membership on the Governor’s Clean Colorado River Commission.
Pasquinelli’s “agricultural industry hat” is not the only hat he wears. His faith-based hat is his favorite. In 1991, he is ordained a Permanent Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church for the Diocese of Tucson. He retired in 2019 but still assists at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Yuma.
Taking an active interest in his community, Pasquinelli has been a Hospice of Yuma volunteer who founded the Hospice Community Advisory Board and is currently a lifetime member of Caballeros de Yuma, an ambassador group for the community. Pasquinelli served for years as chairman of Yuma’s Downtown Community Christmas, an annual charitable event, now staged by Crossroads Mission, that served meals to 3,000 needy families and provided them with food boxes and gifts for their children, until 2009.
Additionally, Pasquinelli served on the Board of Trustees of the Yuma Catholic High School for eight years, having been a founding trustee and inaugural chairman in 2000.
Honored as Yuma County’s Citizen of the Year in 2003, In 2010 the Yuma Community Foundation awarded Pasquinelli the Heart of Yuma award as the Philanthropist of the Year. In that same year, he also received the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year award.
In 2013, the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences presented Pasquinelli with the Eugene G. Sander Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2014 he received the Western Growers Association’s highest award, The Award of Honor. And now in 2021, he’s recognized as Arizona Farm Bureau’s Farmer of the Year.
Yuma has always known they have a treasure in Pasquinelli. Yuma County Farm Bureau honored Pasquinelli at their Annual Meeting for his bold leadership in the industry, untiring efforts to help build and establish Yuma as the winter lettuce capital over the decades, fine moral character and service to God while serving in the clerical leadership of the Catholic Church and much more. Yuma County Farm Bureau and others continue to highlight how Pasquinelli leads by example in his treatment of those that are in his employ.
Over the years, Pasquinelli has helped to make several changes in the industry. Alongside others, the industry was able to break the labor strike of the 1970s, support and help to develop new farming and technology methods and innovate farm marketing strategies. Pasquinelli also helped expand the educational and cooperative efforts of our land-grant university, the University of Arizona. Plus, Pasquinelli served on the Arizona Governor’s Selection Committee for the Director of the Department of Agriculture.
When someone notes his volunteerism throughout the years, Pasquinelli always references “servant leader, leading by example. I got so much more out of it than I ever gave,” he said.