When Balvinder “Bill” Purewal wakes up every morning, the new Fresno State Ag One Foundation president looks out over a beautiful sunrise on the 40-acre ranch near Selma that has tied his family together for three generations.
But his vision spreads beyond the family farm. The 1998 Fresno State agricultural business graduate works around the clock with clients across North America and other continents as owner of PureFresh Sales the past 14 years.
The produce marketing company offers services for a variety of fruit commodities ranging from stone fruit like peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots to cherries, figs, kiwis, persimmons and other specialty produce.
“I love the sales part, and sharing how important what we produce here in the Valley is to others,” Purewal said. “About 90% of what we market is from the Central Valley, but there are other parts of the world like Mexico and Chile that produce similar products, so you’re always keeping an eye on international markets. It’s an exciting, fast-paced job, and no two days are the same.”
That international network of commodities and clients means Purewal is up by 4:30 a.m. to check early market reports and out to the fields by 6 a.m. to keep an eye on irrigation, farm and packing house operations. The Purewal ranch has served as a hub for the Purewal family since it was started in 1974 by his grandfather Shiv Singh (Purewal).
Singh was raised in a multigenerational family in India that was involved in subsistence farming growing crops such as cotton, corn, sugar cane, vegetable and wheat. He immigrated to Yuba City, California from the village of Shankar in the state of Punjab, India in 1952. He worked in agriculture there until he moved to Cantua Creek in the late 1950s where he worked as an irrigation manager for Sumner Peck Ranches until he retired in the mid-1980s.
His experiences, personal ties and successful transition helped attract other Indian immigrants to work for him. And Singh was able to petition for members of his family to join him. His wife and two of his sons, immigrated to the United States on July 12, 1958.
Singh bought his first 40-acre Thompson grape and plum ranch in 1974. Today, the farm focuses on stone fruit, cherries and persimmons.
Bill Purewal’s father, Gurdial, graduated from Fresno State in 1969 with a degree in accounting. He was an accountant for the state of California and Fresno County and also used his financial background to help the family farm. His younger brother, Ranjit Singh, also graduated from Fresno State in 1969 and earned a secondary teaching credential in 1970. Their oldest brother, Sarwan Purewal, was heavily involved in the daily farming operation while employed by the U.S. Postal Service.
Shiv Singh’s grandchildren and extended family were later involved in the farm operation. Bill Purewal remembers picking up raisin trays at age six or seven, and later driving tractors, pruning and weeding. His son, Amren, and daughter, Jaiden, are learning the process of farming between school, sports and extracurricular activities.
“Having your roots in farming in the Central Valley is special,” said Purewal. “It teaches you to have a strong work ethic and gives you pride of watching something grow every day from bloom to harvest. Driving around the area constantly reminds you of the importance of the Valley and all the commodities we grow.”
Purewal found a similar passion in Fresno State agricultural faculty Dr. John Hagan, Dr. Dwight Minami and Dr. Lynn Williams who influenced him as a student.
“My ag business degree opened up a lot of doors and emphasized the importance of profitability and marketing concepts,” Purewal said. “The faculty always emphasized what California farming meant to them, the impact of jobs that it created and the value of farming in our economy.”
Over the next 11 months, Purewal will return the favor as president of Ag One by helping to plan fundraising and outreach events to raise money for students and programs in the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology. He replaces Ken Ramos who ended his one-year term as president in June.
Since 1979, Ag One has endowed more than $19.5 million in funds for scholarships. About 4,400 students have received more than $6.2 million in support, and another $700,000 is projected to help students in 2019-20.
“The biggest beneficiaries are the students who get to connect with the industry and learn about exciting and important careers and receive scholarships,” said Purewal. “I have two children who are looking at college right now, and I know how important those considerations are. This organization is vital to showing how we’re all invested together in the success of the community, the agricultural industry and our future.”
Other Ag One Foundation board officers include:
- Annie Stuhr, vice president (Mendota, Central Valley Community Bank)
- Jim Razor, treasurer (Corcoran, J.G. Boswell)
- Stanley Kjar, Jr., secretary (Fresno, Pearson Realty)
New members on the 23-person board of directors include:
- Lisa Cutts (Fresno, Bolen Fransen Sawyers, LLP)
- Larry Isheim (Kerman, Cal West Rain)
- David Sieperda (Fresno, Trinitas Farm Management)