tractor prepping for young hemp plants
Prepping for young hemp plants by mulching and making planter beds in Wasco. This process is similar to preparing for tomatoes. (Volkoff Ag)

By Audrey Hill, Feature Contributor, Valley Ag Voice

Audrey Hill
Audrey Hill

Volkoff Ag is an agriculture services company based in Shafter, CA. They provide services that require heavy machinery and equipment like spraying, topping, pruning, hedging, and harvesting to a variety of crops such as tree nuts, citrus, olives, hemp and grapes. The company was founded by Steve and Leah Volkoff soon after their marriage in 2010, and both are still working together to bring these services to farmers in and around the Central Valley.

almond topper and hedger
Volkoff Ag topper and hedger machine, nicknamed “The Death Machine” performing a mechanical form of pruning called topping to young almond trees in Delano (Volkoff Ag)

Leah Volkoff grew up in Buttonwillow with a strong understanding of agriculture, as her father farmed almonds, pistachios, and alfalfa. Steve Volkoff however, had very little agricultural experience early on. Steve grew up in Los Angeles and started his carrier in construction in southern California. After leaving construction to haul hay under his father-in-law when the financial crisis of 2008 hit, other farmers took notice of his work ethic, integrity, and passion, so opportunity flourished. The Volkoffs dove headfirst into the agriculture industry and learned as much as they could along the way, eventually landing them the opportunity to spray and harvest thousands of acres of pistachios. Steve stated this experience “was the wherewithal; it was the beginning of what we are now.”

The Volkoff Family stop for a photo while camping in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park (Volkoff Family)

The Volkoffs bought a small cherry farm close to Leah’s home. They worked hard driving trucks and hauling hay, but eventually were burnt out and looking for more work to start a family. As the tree nut industry in Kern County took off, Leah Volkoff took notice of a growing need. Tree nuts require more heavy equipment, and with Steve Volkoff’s experience with such while in construction, a need could be filled. Equipment was bought, hands were shaken, and business started.

Somewhere along the timeline Steve noticed a need for education about agriculture and started using the companies’ social media platforms as avenues for education. Taking videos from the operator seat on the machines, posting harvest days and much more caught the eye of millions of viewers and 8,000 subscribers on YouTube. After asking around and realizing how few people know about their food and water, Steve says it was evident to him that he wanted to “teach people where their food comes from.”

Since then, Volkoff Ag has been providing agricultural services to farmers along with farming their own cherries, almonds and row crops like carrots and soon hemp. They also recently started manufacturing trailers and truck beds in the spare time they can find. 

“I’ve learned that you have to find things and stay busy as agriculture is so challenging and ever-changing,” says Steve. COVID-19 and low almond prices are slowing business, however the Volkoffs stay positive and stay busy. Their two daughters, Phoebe and Delilah are excited to be able to swim on their schools’ team again, and their son Abraham is learning to swim beside them. Leah is currently training for an Ironman, and Steve comments that “somehow through all the hectic craziness my gem of a wife is still finding time to run, cycle and swim.” When they can find the time away from the farms, the Volkoff’s love the beach and camping. Leah and Steve also love diving, and when an opportunity presents itself, traveling too. Steve Volkoff states that his purpose is “to be able to give back the blessings I have been bestowed,” and he works tirelessly at it. The family continues to live by the morals and work ethic that afforded them their land and give back to others the fruits of their labor tenfold.