By Elizabeth Vaughn, Copy Editor, Valley Ag Voice
There are a few predictable things in life, with one being the immense amount of uncertainty in the world. Thankfully, in our modern world some solutions are available to help ease a percentage of that uncertainty. You buy a car; you get insurance. You buy a house; you get insurance. One day you’ll die; you get “life” insurance. Well, what about growing grapes or pistachios? Of all uncertainties in life, farmers have some of the toughest odds. Until Mother Nature can be controlled (don’t hold your breath) those who base their livelihoods on the soil producing each year will continue to take huge risks. The risks at stake have a communal domino effect that can impact a generation. Fortunately, here in Kern County, there are options to help alleviate some of those worries.
Enter Todd Snider. He wears a few hats as a volunteer on several boards, which all encompass a main goal. Snider has a passion for serving people, and he does this through serving on the Kern County Farm Bureau board, the Bakersfield Homeless Center Board, Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault Board, Adventist Health Hospital Foundation, and AACI, a crop insurance industry association board in Washington D.C. However, Snider daily serves others through his work with owning and running Western Ag Crop Insurance.
Even in this modern day, many don’t know the massive benefit of crop insurance, and hopefully they don’t find out until after they have the coverage. When asking Snider about how crop insurance came to be his profession, he said it was a series of a few events that led him where he is.
He states that after retiring from a career as a professional cyclist he intended to work with his dad at his Allstate Agency, but after a few months, he had a realization. This career, although fulfilling for some, wasn’t where his passion lied. He noticed a lack of customer loyalty in the auto insurance industry and wanted something where he could build lasting relationships and feel like his efforts made a difference in people’s lives.
Snider stated: “After considering several other insurance related options, I connected with a Crop Insurance agency owner and it felt right. It brought back memories of when I was much younger, back to when my Dad was a John Deere salesman. He would take me around the farms in his old Ford LTD, and the growers all were so respectful and down to earth; they had dirt on their boots and gave a firm handshake. So, once the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at it. It meant I would be able to grow a business that served local farmers. The hard part was that I really only knew one at that time!”
Snider continued recounting the beginnings of his career switch: “I stayed with the prior agency for roughly 18 years and worked diligently to manage risk for our customers. I really enjoyed working there and making long lasting relationships with my customers. But at some point, my heart told me I needed to step away and take the risk of starting my own agency. I just had to take the risk; and thought I would rather reflect on taking that chance and failing, instead of always wondering what would have been. Well, it quickly became a full-on Jerry McGuire moment, and I look back on that very moment as one of the best decisions I could have made for staff members, my family, and myself.
“So, in the fall of 2018, Western Ag Crop Insurance Services was born. Most of the customers followed us over, and we are lucky to serve them. The team here is always staying abreast of the changes to the programs and try our best to optimize our growers time and money. Crop insurance is the primary safety net for American Farmers, and we are lucky enough to be one of the premier agencies in the West Coast. We now have three representatives to handle processing and grower interactions, and just last week added a new agent for customers in Northern California (CA).”
As one could imagine, the loss of an entire crop could be disastrous, especially for a family farm. Snider spoke about a chance meeting he had with a sugar beet grower at an off-road truck race. They planned to meet for breakfast shortly after. Although it was a 6-hour drive away, Snider felt like something good would come from the meeting. They discussed the benefits of how the plan could be tailored for his needs, he signed up, and he responded by recommending three more growers saying, “Call these people.” When it comes to business, one of the best compliments is word of mouth recommendations.
Later on, after the second year of the higher coverage levels, the sugar beet farmer was growing displeased with the higher cost. Snider recommended sticking around for another year. So, he stayed aboard and committed to the higher coverage. Then, the storm hit.
“He was left with 360 acres of sugar beets underwater and absolute devastation to his bottom line if our crop insurance failed him. Later he told me, ‘God found a way to bring us help.’ This grower tells me time and time again that we kept his family out of bankruptcy, and that if it were not for crop insurance his family would most likely be out of business.”
Snider continued his story saying, “This is what makes me proud of what we do. If we had not taken the time to work through the options and helped this grower better understand his coverage choices things would be very different for them. Growers are at the mercy of Mother Nature, and if they cannot make it from year to year who is going to replace them? They grow our food and fiber, and these are important national security issues. Our programs are technical, and farmers rely on experts for all other inputs on the farm, they should have an expert for crop insurance as well.”
In reference to the Kern County Farm Bureau, Snider spoke of the great benefits that being a part of the board has been for himself and his clients. Staying well-informed on legislation helps him be a good resource for those who may not have the time to attend meetings. Snider knows the daily demands farmers face and works to be an advocate in many ways. “If I can be in the room and meet with our elected officials, I am able to be a conduit of information for my customers. The ultimate goal is to keep our farmers farming and to educate the general public how that impacts our entire community.”
The reality of the community chain is not lost on Snider. “By protecting the farmers, we have now, we protect our future. We must use every resource available to support the current farmers; bottom line is we need to keep them farming. It’s not easy to start a farm, an if they are risking their future to produce a crop for us to eat, the least we could do is deliver an effective risk management program to help them stay in business.”
Snider just recently acquired some land that he’s farming with a partner. He uses “farming” loosely as he stated he’s “not checking the leaves,” but the first harvest of pistachios will be ready next year, and he’s especially looking forward to sharing that experience with his wife and two young daughters.
Todd credits the success of his agency to his dedicated staff: Erika, Paige, Lexie, Ron, and Travis.