John Gardiner (Class 51)


John Gardiner (51) is president of Gardiner Family Companies, a third-generation, vertically integrated operation that includes farming, farm management, almond processing, pollination, honey and beef production in Bakersfield. Gardiner graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2009 with a degree in fruit science. He completed the corporate level strategy program at Harvard Business School and The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers at Texas A&M. He completed his Ag Leadership fellowship in February 2023.


Increased self-awareness is a hallmark of the Ag Leadership Program. What have you learned about yourself and your interactions with those around you?
Through the program, I better understand myself, my personality and the personality styles of others. This understanding has helped me exponentially. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and other tools equipped me with skills to not change my style but to enhance it. Despite my intent, my introversion can sometimes be perceived by others as being disengaged or not interested. Now I’m motivated to communicate with others so that they understand my perspective, but also so that they feel comfortable sharing theirs.

How did the program help you develop your leadership skills and abilities?
The program showed me that my comfort zone was actually causing more problems than I realized. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable has now opened my world to endless opportunities.

What impact did the personal coaching make on your leadership capacity?
My biggest takeaway from coaching was realizing the importance of purpose. I realized how important it is to have a purpose in all that I do individually, and also with my family, at work and in the community. When you have a purpose and something to shoot for it helps you to develop vital behaviors that help navigate you to your goal and overall purpose.

How has your understanding of your specific role as a leader changed?
I used to think a leader was someone who was very outgoing, loud and told others what to do – often with a top-down approach. With Ag Leadership, I learned that leadership allows for style variations. Sometimes you do need to be vocal and energized, other times you need to be more strategic, and other times nurturing. This awareness, and the ability to transition between styles, has helped my effectiveness in all aspects of my life: work, ag industry, family and community.

How has your view of the world around you changed and impacted your development as a leader?
My world prior to this program was very narrow and comfortable. This program changed me. Now my world is full of pursuing things that I know are going to be hard and embracing that journey. I find that I love meeting new people and seeing new places.

How will you continue to develop as a lifelong learner?
The program was a life-changing journey. I will continue to focus on active listening and conflict resolution because now I have the important leadership tools to fall back on when I find myself struggling in these areas. My lifelong learning focus will be to push toward that uncomfortableness that leads to greater awareness.

Why would you recommend Ag Leadership to others in agriculture?
Ag Leadership is a transformative 17-month experience. If you are ready to look at every aspect of your life, and take ownership of your shortcomings, this program will develop you into a more mature, self-aware, globally conscious individual who will not only have more capacity to lead, but have the skill set and willingness to serve.