Whether he is coaching high school football or busy working for Family Tree Farms Marketing, one thing is certain—22-year-old Brenton Helm thrives on and off the field.
As a new sales representative at the Reedley, CA-based firm, a grower-shipper of a full line of tree fruits, it is hard to believe that Mr. Helm just graduated from California State University-Fresno this past December with his degree in agriculture and business. However, have one conversation with him about the produce industry, and it’s easy to understand why he was hired.
Mr. Helm, a former high school football player now turned coach and agriculture aficionado, has taken his passion from one field to the next, incorporating all he’s learned about drive, determination and hard work along the way.
“Coaching has helped me from a patience factor and understanding how to work and how to teach,” he said. “A lot of coaching is teaching, and it’s not only teaching football, it’s teaching life — how to interact with others, how to lead, how to be a team player, things like that.”
And those are just the things that Mr. Helm is keeping in mind as he faces new challenges that he encounters in his burgeoning career.
“I think the only [true] challenge is perception,” he said. “A lot of times when you see someone younger, the respect has to be built first before you can try to teach someone else, and that’s a big part of marketing and sales, teaching the customer and trying to help them understand your product.”
Aside from that challenge, Mr. Helm noted that he has a lot of work ahead of him if he wants to compete with the industry veterans. “It’s definitely going to be [a challenge] understanding and developing my knowledge of the agriculture industry, because a lot of people in my position have had 20 or 30 years experience,” he said. “I’m going to have to overcome that, and I’m going to have a learning curve that I’ll have to adapt and adjust to quickly.”
Thankfully for Mr. Helm, he has never been the type to shy away from a challenge. Having grown up surrounded by the fertile fields in California’s Central Valley, Mr. Helm attributes much of his outstanding work ethic and determination to his parents and family, as well as his previous jobs.
“My first real job was when I was 16,” he said. “I started working for a company called Kingsburg Cultivator. I basically assembled farm equipment. It was tough work and long hours [but] it was definitely something that helped me develop drive and a want to get things done. I had a good work ethic going into that, which had been instilled in me by my family and my parents, so it was something I was able to build on there.”
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to Mr. Helm and his passion for agriculture. His grandfather was a farmer and is the one who first introduced him to the industry.
“My grandpa was a farmer, so I got to spend time with him learning different things,” he said. “It was just a huge part of the surrounding community, so it was always something I was drawn to.”
While he doesn’t remember much about his grandfather’s farming days, he does recall “going out and changing irrigation at night and driving on the tractor,” he laughed.
Despite his young age, Mr. Helm is already in his third season of work for Family Tree Farms. He spent two years as a sales coordinator for the company before being promoted to a sales representative in January.
“I love being able to help people,” Mr. Helm said. “We work with a product that is very healthy and would be excellent for any person to eat. We’re not trying to harm people with our products or fool them in anyway. We’re trying to provide a great-tasting piece of fruit that’s healthy and gives back to the environment as well.”
As for the future, Mr. Helm has every intention to keep learning and growing, just as any good coach would. “I definitely want to progress in my knowledge,” he said. “I love where I’m at now as far as working with Family Tree Farms. I’m working with great people and for a great company. I would love to continue to develop here and grow with this company because it is on a huge growth curve. I’m excited to see how that turns out and to be a part of it.”