Alumni Profile: Jesus Andrade Vargas

March 13, 2024

'09 grad is dedicated to Yuma community, agriculture, and family

Jesus Andrade Vargas

Jesus Andrade Vargas moved to Yuma with his family when he was 10 years old, and although his time as a UA student in Tucson was transformative, he can’t imagine working, living, and raising a family anywhere else.

Vargas is deeply involved in his Yuma community and is a proud advocate for agriculture through his Instagram account, @The_VIP_Farmtour. In addition, he is a member of Project CENTRL Class 32, a rural leadership program sponsored by UA Cooperative Extension

Learn a bit more about Vargas, the UA mentors who helped him “open his wings” and how he uses social media to educate the public about how food makes it to their grocery shelves.

What is your current job and what are your day-to-day duties?

I work for Grimmway Farms, and my position is Farm Manager. Day to day duties include preparing ground for planting, choosing fields for crop rotation, following a planting schedule, managing crop inputs including seed, water, and fertilizer. Managing labor crews, ensuring equipment maintenance, and enforcing all food safety regulations.

What do you enjoy most about it? 

What I enjoy most about my job is making something out of nothing, agriculture is one of the jobs where it does not matter how hard you work, if you do not produce anything, you don't get paid. We prepare the ground, then start receiving boxes of seed, and in 60-100 days depending on the crop, trucks full of vegetables are harvested. Of course, a lot of care, planning, and hard work goes into it to make it happen. 

How did the University of Arizona and the College of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences prepare you for what you are doing now? 

I graduated from the University of Arizona in 2009 with my bachelor’s degree in Crop Production with an emphasis in Agronomy. I am very happy that I am a graduate of the College of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences. The courses offered in the program challenged me to learn, and problem solve, and that is my biggest take away. College life in Tucson also helped me mature and become a responsible adult, something I would not have done that quickly if I had stayed at home in Yuma. 

What advice would you give to current college students who are preparing to graduate? 

Learn how to learn, always question things and strive to find better solutions, and keep improving in all aspects of life. Find an area of work where you can make a living, and also provide something of value to society and be the best at it. 

Did any professors or mentors at college have a significant impact on your life or career? 

The top 3 professors/mentors that made an impact in my life are Dr. Silvertooth, Tanya Hodges, and Frank Santiago. Dr. Silvertooth made me open my wings, and suggested I should do an internship outside of Arizona, and I ended up in Montezuma, Kansas, working for Crop Quest checking fields for a summer. That experience made me love Yuma even more. Tanya Hodges was very supportive during my studies, and she was the first person to take me for a tour of the main campus in Tucson. Frank Santiago was very supportive when I was in Tucson, and he made me feel that I was not alone. I got on a plane for the first time, thanks to Frank, and he helped me in one instance when I needed help the most. 

What are some of the most important lessons you've learned since graduating from college? 

The most important lessons I have learned are to keep learning, especially from people that have the experience. I have learned that I do not need to reinvent the wheel, I only need to make it spin faster. I have learned to stay humble, be of service, and to never give up.  

Why is leadership and involvement important to you, for example participating in Project CENTRL and serving on the Yuma ag producer scholarship board and the Cooperative Extension board? 

Leadership and community involvement are important to me because the Yuma community has been very supportive to me, and I would like to pay that back, so that the younger generations can accomplish their dreams and goals as I am accomplishing mine, thanks to all the help that I have received throughout the years. I have visited junior high and high schools in Yuma, and I see a lot of smart kids, but they are lost, they do not know how or where to get help or support, they have no idea what career they want to pursue. I think by getting involved they will see that they can do what I am doing, and maybe they will do it better. 

How do you balance your professional life with personal interests and commitments?  

The only reason I can commit to different things and be involved in the community is thanks to my wife Marisol Andrade, she supports me 100%, and that gives me the confidence and peace of mind to follow my dreams. I do not know if I can say that my life is balanced, but I can say that it works, and I really try to give my best at whatever I am doing, so when I am with my family, I give them quality time, and make it count. It took me a few years to learn how to do that. 

Talk about your Instagram account @The_VIP_Farmtour; what topics do you post about and why is it important to offer your perspective on social media? 

I started @The_VIP_Farmtour to show a window into agriculture that consumers usually do not see. I focus on the positive and interesting things about agriculture production, and my videos are educational. In the last 100 years, we have gotten so good at food production that 95% of the U.S. population is disconnected from agriculture, people want cheap food that is healthy, but they have no idea the amount of time and labor it takes to have lettuce every day of the year on a grocery shelf. 

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