Q&A with James C. Alford – Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business

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Owner/president
JC Agriculture, In Season Produce, Premier Seed, 509 Custom Application, Desert River Farms

James Alford

Number of employees you oversee: 40

Brief background of your business

Multiple agricultural-based businesses providing seed and custom chemicals services along with an operational row crop farm and a direct-to-consumer produce stand.

How did you land your current role? How long have you been in it?

I am a third-generation farmer. I grew up on the farm and once I became involved out of high school, I started my own farm where I began to quickly expand and diversify outside of the family’s “potatoes only” business model.

Why should the Tri-Cities care about agriculture?

Farming, food processing and the industries that support it have a massive impact on our local and state economy in terms of revenue, jobs and taxes, but even more so, they are what our area was founded on.

We are an area diversified in technology, innovation, food production, manufacturing, clean energy, but most of all, we are an area with a combination of good soils, large water supply and ideal climate to grow a multitude of crops which will only become more critical as the world population grows and resources become more scarce.

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

Humility.

What is the biggest challenge facing business owners/managers today?

Growing movement of political correctness combined with a lack of common sense, i.e. “safe spaces” and “snow-flakes.”

If you had a magic wand, what would you change about your industry/field?

I would change the economics that would allow for a return to large margins in profit and a lower capital requirement in order to start farming. The next generation of farmers cannot survive in the current climate and that worries me.

What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

Get used to the discomfort of criticism because everyone has an opinion and loves to tell you what you are doing wrong.

Who are your role models or mentors?

I have many mentors and many role models. A short list of mentors would be my grandpa Clayton Alford, my dad Bryan Alford, and local farmer Frank Tiegs. My role models are Tim Ferris, Peter Attia, Ray Dalio and Mr. Money Mustache.

How do you keep your employees motivated?

I keep them motivated by assigning tasks that are complementary to their personality type and having very open dialogue. I am not a micromanager and most of my employees are self-starters who thrive in that environment.

How did you decide to pursue the career that you are working in today?

My entries into ventures such as In Season Produce and Premier Seed were pure happenstance. I have never deliberately decided to jump into something, it more or less lands in my lap.

How do you measure success in your workplace?

When I can sense a positive vibe and a healthy feeling of team work, I know we are on the right track, but securing profits and avoiding losses is what keeps everyone employed.

What do you consider your leadership style to be?

My dad would call me an “over delegator,” but I honestly despise micromanaging.

I prefer to help others grow by giving them all the tools they need to exceed, and being there for them when they end up in a situation that is beyond their skill level. You can explain a task to someone in the best of detail, but until they experience it first hand, they won’t truly understand.

How do you balance work and family life?

Very carefully. I move full speed in one direction, so for me, I am either 100% family or 100% work. I cannot multitask to save my life.

What do you like to do when you are not at work?

Learn. I am curious about all things in the world and get a huge kick out of the novelty in something new. I recently passed my wine sommelier course/exam, I love random facts, and I have a long list of experiences and things that I would like to dive into over my lifetime.

What’s your best time management strategy?

iPhone calendar with time alert notifications for appointments.

Best tip to relieve stress?

Get at least 8 hours of sleep and practice some form of morning meditation to set your state of mind.

What’s your favorite podcast? Favorite website? Favorite book?

My favorite podcast is “The Drive” with Peter Attia.

Favorite website is Barstool Sports and my favorite books are the “Four Hour Week” by Tim Ferris and “Principles” by Ray Dalio.

Do you have a personal mantra, phrase or quote you like to use?

“You can do anything you want, but you can’t do everything” and  “Busy = out of control.”

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