Photo by Rachel LaFranchi
Lender, leader, rancher and agricultural visionary – not to mention benefactor and friend.
Terry Lindley’s remarkable legacy fits all those categories following a distinguished career that has spanned four decades in his adopted homeland of Sonoma County. Hard to believe but the agricultural wunderkind is now 61 years old. As of Jan. 31, he retired as the chief marketing officer and senior vice president of American AgCredit, a once hometown farm lending agency that has become the fifth largest Farm Credit Association in the nation. That’s fifth out of 72 highly competitive lending cooperatives that are part of the century-old Farm Credit System.
Lindley’s 40-year tenure at American AgCredit mirrors the company’s phenomenal growth and the sweeping changes in the farming landscape as Sonoma morphed from Cow County to Wine Country. He was part of the team taking American AgCredit from $300 million in assets and a handful of employees in 1977 to a company that, today, has $9 billion in assets with 500 employees in six states.
During his fast-paced career, Lindley became the face of American AgCredit, a respected company that shares its profits by supporting many organizations associated with farming, fairs and farm youth. He was the go-to-guy when non-profits needed sponsorships for scholarships, events and conferences.
Blessed with the cold eye of an accountant and a cowboy’s heart, Lindley emerged as a valued leader in the agriculture, education and business communities. Looking back, he sees his career as one helluva ride for a farm boy from rural Humboldt County.
“I rolled into this company in 1977 and never looked back as American AgCredit continued to grow and prosper and Sonoma County agriculture transitioned to become a world class wine growing region,” said Lindley, who lives in Healdsburg with his wife Misty. They have four children, Lily, 10, Quincy, 13, Abbi, 14 and Jake, 15.
Lindley is not riding quietly into the sunset following his stellar career and the seismic impact he had in elevating Sonoma County agriculture. Santa Rosa Junior College AgTrust will honor him at the 2017 AgStravaganza, a dinner and auction that pays tribute to an outstanding Sonoma County leader while raising funds for SRJC’s Agriculture & Natural Sciences Department and the school’s Shone Farm in Forestville.
The AgStravaganza will be held Nov. 18 in the Warren G. Dutton Pavilion at Shone Farm. Proceeds from the event will go to the American AgCredit Endowment, held by the SRJC Foundation, which funds SRJC agriculture scholarships and provides support to the college’s Agriculture & Natural Sciences Department. The goal is to raise $150,000 for the AgCredit Endowment, founded three years ago when the AgStravaganza honored Ron Carli following his retirement as chief executive officer of American AgCredit.
Lindley said he’s gratified to be recognized at the AgStravaganza but, more importantly, to lend his name to an event that will benefit SRJC agriculture students for generations to come. SRJC is very dear to his heart. He serves as a trustee of the college and was a student there before launching his career at AgCredit.
In 1977 when Lindley started as a loan officer and appraiser, he primarily worked with dairy and livestock ranchers. But that rapidly changed as vineyards and wineries expanded to become the county’s dominant and most valuable farming endeavor. Lindley said it was tremendously rewarding to help his clients become successful by guiding them in analyzing cash flow, debt ratio and inventory control while launching their businesses.
“American AgCredit played an integral role in the success of many wineries we worked with,” said Lindley. “I consider their success part of my success. It’s been so gratifying because I like helping people to become successful.”
Success and its magnificent pursuit drive Lindley, whose work ethic and steely determination have made him financially and personally successful. He began working as a youngster and has never quit.
Lindley’s family ranch was so remote he had to leave home to attend high school. When it was time to enter high school, he moved to Ferndale, which was nearly two hours away from the family ranch on the Humboldt County coast. He lived on a dairy farm, earning his keep by milking cows and doing other chores. He got up at 4 a.m. and worked three hours before heading to school where he was active in sports and FFA. He raised sheep and cattle as his FFA projects and also learned a valuable skill – sheep shearing.
For decades, while working at AgCredit, Lindley’s second job was shearing sheep. He annually sheared 6,000 to 7,000 sheep until he was 50, still picking up the electric clippers for his own flock of registered Suffolk sheep or to help someone out. He estimates he has sheared 140,000 head of sheep over the years.
Fortuitously, Lindley’s agriculture instructor at Ferndale High was Steve Olson, who would later become a professor and chairman of the SRJC agriculture department and, eventually, a dean of the college.
After high school, Lindley moved to Santa Rosa and lived with Olson and his wife, Elaine, while studying ag business at SRJC. Lindley said the Olsons became trusted friends and mentors, providing counsel and guidance as he embarked on his career and focused on community leadership.
Even when he leaves his day job at AgCredit he will be working every day running Lindley Cattle Co., a beef cattle operation he has own and managed simultaneously while holding his executive position. Lindley runs 250 cows on more than 10,000 acres of mostly leased land in Sonoma, Mendocino and Humboldt counties.
“It will be nice to go in a different direction when I retire and not have to be in the office every day at 6 a.m. I look forward to spending more time with my family and cattle while remaining engaged in the community,” said Lindley.
Engaged in the community may be an understatement. Lindley is on everyone’s “A” list when something needs to be done, like building Richard and Saralee’s Barn at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. He serves or has served on dozens of committees and boards including 20 years on the board of trustees of Santa Rosa Junior College. He was recently re-elected for another four year term.
His accomplishments have been recognized with many awards over the years including SRJC’s President’s Medallion, the Sonoma County Fair’s North Bay Rancher of the Year and the Harvest Fair’s Friend of Agriculture. He’s also been named Friend of Sonoma County Farm Bureau and recipient of the 4-H Foundation’s Shining Star Award.
In 1996 he was named the Marketer of the Year for the National Farm Credit System.
Lindley looks forward to channeling his energy and resources to organizations and causes that invigorate agriculture and the young people who are its future.
“It‘s absolutely vital for agriculture to maintain its important place in the economy and way-of-life of Sonoma County,” said Lindley.
What Sonoma County leaders say about Terry Lindley
“No one embodies the Farm Credit System’s mission to serve agriculture more than Terry Lindley. His commitment to producers reaches far beyond his time in the office. It involved untold hours of service in countless committees and community functions. If it involved agriculture, Terry likely has helped in some capacity through the years.”
Byron Enix, president and CEO of American AgCredit
“Terry’s experience at SRJC helped mold him into the person he became –a successful businessman with a heart of gold. He is every president’s dream trustee — quick to volunteer and always honest with his feedback.”
Dr. Frank Chong, president of SRJC.
“Terry’s dedication to the Sonoma County Fair is truly commendable. For decades, he has generously invested time and resources to promote agricultural education programs and fair activities, like Sweet Lil’s Farm and Farmer’s Day. He has positively impacted many generations of youth with his tremendous support of the fair’s junior livestock auctions. Most recently, Terry has been a champion for the Sonoma County Fair Foundation, playing a pivotal role in the fundraising campaign for Saralee and Richard’s Barn.”
Katie Fonsen Young, deputy manager of the Sonoma County Fair
“I have been fortunate to be associated with hundreds of outstanding students during my tenure at SRJC but Terry is a member of a very elite group who have gone on to become dynamic leaders in their profession, their communities and the agricultural industry. I am very proud of what he has accomplished and consider it an honor to call him my friend.”
Steve Olson, retired SRJC agriculture professor and dean
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