Throughout Sonoma County and beyond, Tim Tesconi is a common name in agricultural households. Many know Tesconi through the last 10 years he spent serving as community relations coordinator and then executive director of Sonoma County Farm Bureau, and many more know him through his 33 year career writing about North Bay agriculture for The Press Democrat.
Tesconi, 67, retired after 43 years of service to the agriculture industry in the fall of 2015. This year, he will be inducted into Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s Hall of Fame. The award recognizes prominent members of the community for their commitment to preserving and protecting agricultural land throughout the county. Past recipients include the late Saralee McClelland Kunde, Art Ibleto – The Pasta King – and many more.
Tesconi will be honored at Farm Bureau’s Love of the Land event on July 15th alongside the Mauritson Family, Farm Bureau’s Farm Family of the Year, and Hughes Dairy/Westview Jerseys which is being awarded the Luther Burbank Conservation Award.
A self-described “ag nerd”, Tesconi has been involved with agriculture his entire life. His real interest in agriculture was sparked by Wes Jamison, Tesconi’s ag teacher at Santa Rosa High School. Tesconi said Jamison had a knack for finding kids and guiding them like an old sheep dog to get involved and become leaders in the ag industry.
While in FFA, Tesconi raised Suffolk sheep and Angus cattle. His family lived on Walker Avenue off Todd Road in Santa Rosa where they had 40-50 acres until the 70’s when urbanization took over Santa Rosa.
With his passion for agriculture in tow, Tesconi attended Chico State after graduating from high school and planned to become an agriculture instructor. However, after a year of student teaching, he realized it wasn’t the career he wanted. Tesconi’s roommate was a journalism major who quickly influenced his career path. He pursued his Master’s Degree in journalism at the University of Minnesota and his only regret was not attending for all four years of college.
On a summer break from school in Minnesota, Tesconi heard The Press Democrat was looking for a farm editor. Art Volkerts hired him for the summer. As summer came and went Tesconi just kept going and no one said anything. Thirty-three years later, he was still there.
“Even if I’d won the lotto I wouldn’t have quit,” said Tesconi.
Tesconi enjoyed chronicling agriculture throughout the county. He attributes his success to good sources and great ag leaders around the North Bay. But even more so, for Tesconi, the people he was writing about were important. He loved profiling ag individuals, referring to them as “salt of the earth people.”
Earle Baum, a blind Sonoma County farmer who milked cows off Occidental Road, is the story that stands out to Tesconi throughout his 43 year career. Tesconi recalled being mesmerized by how Baum milked his cattle through touch, and how he was always a happy and optimistic person. The story won Tesconi a national award.
Tesconi enjoyed covering ag in Mendocino, Lake and Marin counties in addition to Sonoma. He covered the fairs and auctions all 33 years he worked at the Press Democrat. He loved finding new people and learning about what they were doing, acknowledging that Farm Advisor system was strong in the 70’s and proved to be a good resource.
A turning point in his career was in 1987 when the value of grapes surpassed dairy for the first time. Tesconi feels the wine grapes saved Sonoma County agriculture and have helped to elevate many other ag products. As he has said many times over the years, “thank God for the grapes.”
Tesconi lives on a five-acre parcel of land on Westside Road with his wife Catherine Barnett, executive editor of The Press Democrat. The couple purchased the property 33 years ago and were married the following year.
Tesconi had looked at many pieces of property throughout Sonoma County, having already seen most of the ag land. He was shocked when he saw the piece in a real estate magazine, and realized he had never been on the particular part of Westside Road the house was located. As soon as he saw it, he knew it was where he wanted to live.
Tesconi’s property was part of the Litton Ranch established in the 1860’s. The ranch was originally 180 acres passed down through several generations, but was later separated into smaller parcels. The original ranch was diversified, growing hops and prunes as well as raised cattle.
“I love the historic nature of the property with roots going back to the 1800’s,” said Tesconi. “When I saw it, I couldn’t believe it. The property needed some TLC, but it had potential.”
Tesconi and his wife have two children. Sam, 27, works in the Sonoma County wine industry, and Will, 24, works for a non-profit based in Denver doing work in Africa. Tesconi is the oldest of his five siblings: Teena, Ted, Terri, Tawny and Traci.
Now that he’s retired, most of his time has been spent fixing up the property. He’s been working to remove all the scotch broom, an invasive yellow flowering weed, and is proud of the old barn he’s been restoring in front of the property. He is enjoying having the time to fix up the property he didn’t have when he was working full time.
“All I really do is ag,” said Tesconi, “I don’t golf, I don’t hunt anymore, but I’m very interested in anything agriculture.”
Even after his retirement, Tesconi is still heavily involved in the agriculture industry. He sits on multiple boards including the 4-H Foundation of Sonoma County, Sonoma County Farm Trails and the Santa Rosa Junior College Ag Trust. He is involved with planning the AgStravaganza which will honor the Balletto Family in the fall and is working with the Healdsburg Museum on cleaning up the historical Oak Mound Cemetery.
Additionally, Tesconi finds himself at many more meetings throughout the county. He has had to say no to requests to join boards, but as he accomplishes more on his property, he plans to join more and stay involved with protecting the future of Sonoma County agriculture.
As Gaye LeBaron, one of Tesconi’s close friends, said last year in a retirement farewell speech, “there’s really no need to worry about his future. A man like Tim, with a wife who still admires him after all these years, two accomplished young men for sons and a piece of good Sonoma County land where he can till the garden and fix the fences. How much better can it be?”