Farmer's daughter dives right in at Dayka & Hackett
- by Terry Sokol | April 19, 2006
Joneen Jackson, a product manager at Dayka & Hackett LLC in Reedley, CA, is leading a double life.
A swim instructor and coach, Ms. Jackson is also a farmer's daughter who has found the perfect means of balancing her two passions in life. "You can't keep me out of the water and you can't keep me away from produce," she said.
The Clovis, CA, resident manages a comprehensive line -- peaches, plums, nectarines, pluots, apriums, table grapes and kiwifruit -- for the importer-grower-shipper. After work and on weekends, she teaches swimming, including competitive swimming and lifeguarding.
Ms. Jackson graduated from Fresno State University with a degree in agricultural business economics in 2001, but pursued her aquatics strengths with a stint as aquatics coordinator for Truckee-Donner Recreation & Parks District in Northern California near Lake Tahoe before deciding she wanted to "come home and get a job in produce. I just started to miss home, my family and my friends."
The move was a natural one and a homecoming in more ways than one. Ms. Jackson's first job in the trade was as a fruit inspector in 1999.
"And of course I'm a farmer's daughter," she said. Her father, C. Joseph Jackson, who died in 1997, grew table and wine grapes, as well as peaches, plums and nectarines on Joseph Jackson Farms Inc.
"I was raised riding on the tractor with him," she said, recalling how she would drive -- very slowly -- as he changed the water in the fields. "I did a lot of running around with my dad to all his different ranches. That's why I was an ag major."
Ms. Jackson started with Dayka & Hackett in February, having previously worked at So Fresh in Fresno as a vegetable buyer. "I had to learn everything about veg because I only knew tree fruit," she said.
Her entry into the produce world has been rewarding, she said.
"Since my dad is not here anymore, I'm getting a lot of help from the community of Kingsburg. I'm constantly learning and have the support of the produce community," she said. "We're all ag-related somehow." Ms. Johnson's mother, Leta, lives in Fresno and works as an interior designer. Her younger sister, Joanna Rech, lives with her husband, Ryan, in Davis, CA.
Ms. Jackson said that she looks forward to traveling in her role at Dayka & Hackett to meet growers and customers. "The most rewarding part of the job is being able to develop the relationships with people whether it's from a long time ago or a new relationship developing," she said. "That is a challenge as well - developing relationships over the phone with people across the county."
Ms. Jackson acknowledged that her outgoing personality proves to be an advantage for her. "Everybody tells me I've never met a stranger," she laughed. "I'm a people person. My dad was the same way, and my mom is the same way."
Another family member, her dad's cousin Alma Peterson, taught Ms. Jackson how to swim, beginning as a baby. "By the time I was 4, I was swimming competitively," she said. Ms. Jackson competed on the Kingsburg Seawolves, a summer league team, and to this day meets people she swam with -- or against -- as a youngster. "I have tons of family and friends around here who were swimmers and a lot of people in the produce industry were swimmers," she said. In fact, both her bosses, Tim Dayka and Ralph Hackett, are avid swimmers to this day.
She began coaching the younger kids on the Seawolves team and offering stroke instruction, and credited her parents with driving her to CPR and lifeguard classes.
She became certified as a lifeguard at age 15 and began teaching for the American Swim Coaches Association- sanctioned organization Swim America, which grooms high- performing swimmers for competition at the upper levels as well as offering the basics for young learners.
"I used to coach year-round swim teams through United States Swimming. That's the pool that those Olympic-level swimmers come from," she said. "It was incredible. I was at these meets where [you knew] these kids would be growing up and some day qualifying for the Olympics."
Swimming has taken Ms. Jackson far in more ways than one. While still in her teens, she swam in Europe for Sport for Understanding, a division of the organization Youth for Understanding. "It was like I was a foreign exchange student - I lived in Italian homes and went to swim practice instead of school. We traveled through Italy and a bit of Switzerland. It was a fantastic experience -- it opened my eyes to the world," she said. "The swim team was comprised of student-athletes across America, and I was the only one from California." She met her best friend on that trip and still keeps in touch with the Italian friends she made then.
One of Ms. Jackson's prouder achievements in aquatics was managing a pool at age 20. "I was the first female pool manager on the west side of Fresno at the Edison High School Pool," she said, noting that she wanted the challenge of working at a facility that could provide less- advantaged kids with a safe place to hang out. "I made that pool come alive," she said. And naturally, she started a swim team there - the Edison Tiger Sharks. "The kids in that neighborhood were so sweet. I really felt like I was making a difference," she said.
She is still making a difference today, planning a swim clinic for the children of her co-workers this summer. "You become part of all the communities you serve," Ms. Jackson said. "Now I get to be a part of the produce community. I get to have the best of both worlds."
When she's not working or swimming, Ms. Jackson enjoys hanging out with her friends and family. "I have a close, tight group, so it's nice," she said.
And she is open to experiences outside the realms of swimming and produce. While in college, she performed with Theater for Young Audiences at elementary and high schools. "I was the only non-theater major in that group," she said. "Being on stage was kind of fun. I took to it like a duck to water."