- Author: Ben Faber
The California Avocado Society held its 104th Annual Meeting recently and acknowledged an individual's contributions to the avocado industry with its Oliver Atkins Award. This award is presented in honor of nurseryman Oliver Atkins who went beyond what was required or expected, benefitting the avocado industry and its growers. His devotion to the industry was noted in his day-to-day activities and to the changes that he brought to the industry. The award was made to Mr. Pablo Rodriguez.
The award was presented by Nurseryman Rob Brokaw and the following notes were made during the address:
Pablo Rodriguez was born in Mexico in 1950, one of eight kids. He attended a private school on scholarship from ages 8-12, finishing his formal education at 8th grade. He came to the US in order to support his parents and siblings at age 20 in 1971 and worked up and down California for two years before landing at an avocado/citrus nursery in Ventura county.
The nurseryman at the time made a point of “keeping an eye on Pablo”, and Pablo soon rose to be the nursery manger, developing an expertise in grafting. He bought a home in Santa Paula, raising a family there. He gained US citizenship in 1996. He and his family also have a company that performs topworking which is now managed by son Robert.
Readying a rootstock for a graft
As the nursery became involved in working with partners overseas, Pablo's expertise was in demand. He has worked with collaborators in Mexico, Peru, and Dominican Republic, Chile, Florida, Hawaii, Spain, South Africa and more.
His skills and expertise are evident in the millions of avocado and citrus trees that have been produced here in California under his watchful eye, but the greater impact of his efforts resonates around the world.
Pablo and Samuel Garibay showing South Africans the Brokaw Way
Today Pablo is in semi-retirement. In his case, that means he works just as much as he ever did. He's constantly operating in the background shoring up processes and ensuring smooth operations. On Sundays, he can be found wandering the orchards – “just making sure the graftwood is good for harvest this week!” He isn't asked to do this; he just does it because it needs to be done.
But the real story about Pablo, apart from his intelligence and his accomplishments, is his profound humility and humanity. Pablo's dealings with others are informed by a deep spirituality and morality. He seeks to raise others, preferring to remain in the shadows.
Pablo is a guy who, when asked if he can do the impossible, will think for a while, then shrug and say, “Well, it has to be done”. And then does it. This happens regularly.
To his family, to California growers and to the global avocado industry, Pablo has given selflessly of himself. We're all enriched by his presence in our community.
A Serious budman