2015 Ambassador, North America Winner

Gar Tootelian, Inc. - Fresno, CA

Editor's note: Gar Tootelian, Inc. was of four retailers named 2015 Environmental Respect Award winner for the North America Region. The California retailer was also one of four companies honored as a 2015 Ambassador of Respect during a ceremony in July 2015 in Wilmington, DE, home of ERA sponsor DuPont Crop Protection. Here is an inside look at Gar Tootelian.

When you hear people talk about the leaders at Gar Tootelian, Inc., the words “catalyst” and “driver” come up a lot. Located just south of Fresno, CA, the Reedley retailer, one of the oldest in the San Joaquin Valley, is 100% female-owned. Karen Musson and sister Linda Salwasser, the daughters of Gar and Esther Tootelian, are joined by Karen’s husband, Greg Musson, who is the company’s president.

The company is incredibly active in what residents simply call “The Valley,” both in community projects and environmental awareness. It manages to intertwine the two, educating people on its growers’ environmental practices, economic contributions and supplying nearly 50% of the nation’s fruits and vegetables. All the while, the company supports education and community: Clovis Medical Center, FFA, 4-H, Fresno Chaffee Zoo, Grizzlies Community Fund, Valley PBS and others. Indeed, Gar Tootelian takes care of those who are not so fortunate, says Kym Dildine, director of development, Community Food Bank.

“Getting people who will never be hungry to help fight hunger takes a catalyst,” she says.

All Karen Musson did was go on the radio and encourage people to join what turned out to be the Food Bank’s largest one-day drive ever. Andy Souza, CEO of Community Food Bank, was astounded to find 23 $100 bills stuffed in the collection cans.

“We wanted to raise $50,000, and we raised $75,000,” says Souza, casually noting that the retailer matched the total. “They provide the catalyst to move forward.”

As for the environment, Gar’s efforts of late have been concentrated on the issue that has been top-of-mind for every Valley grower, notes Scott C. Chase, retail account manager, DuPont Crop Protection.

“California is in the midst of an historic drought and, as usual, Gar Tootelian is leading the way in utilizing technology to preserve our most valuable resource (water). It is doing this by offering services to make its growers’ irrigation systems more efficient,” he says. “These efficiencies not only preserve water but also reduce groundwater pumping, energy/electricity consumption, and lost fertilizer and soil amendments.”

Such conservation and sustainability is what Gar’s all about. For example, it built a new one-acre $3.5-million fertilizer tank farm with three blenders on cement 1-foot thick with two mats of rebar built to withstand earthquakes and contain a spill 10 times the size of the largest tank.

Also, a ponding basin captures up to 12 inches of rainwater on the 10-acre, entirely paved facility, in a region that gets just 9 inches in an average year.

DuPont’s Chase said all those efforts have certainly not gone unnoticed. “DuPont and Gar Tootelian have had a long and successful partnership over the last five-plus decades, and I believe it is because of our shared core values. These core values champion personal integrity and respect for people and the environment above all else,” he says. “Environmental respect is more than having clean shop floors and tight valves. Environmental respect is about promoting the knowledge and technology that benefit the sustainability of an entire region for generations to come. Gar Tootelian is the pinnacle of this type of environmental respect in California.”