Some children shock their parents by announcing their dream of becoming a rock star. Silicon Valley native Bob Steinacher floored his parents by telling them he would pursue his passion for farming. The profession didn’t run in his blood, but he loved his family’s garden and he wanted a supersized version to call his own.
Bob’s parents were less-than-thrilled when he dropped out of UC Davis to run a high school farm, but they supported the pursuit of his dream. They issued a challenge: Work on a few different farms for a couple of years. If you still want to be a farmer, we’ll help you buy some land.
Challenge accepted. In 1981, Bob bought a bare plot of land in Corning, CA to build his first farm. Today, Maywood Farms is home to five exceptional varieties of figs – Mission, Adriatic, Kadota, Excel, and Brown Turkey. It’s also, literally, home for Bob and his wife Karen.
In the midst of harvesting season, Bob was kind enough to chat with us about his unusual journey and share some of his advice for fellow entrepreneurs.
01 Why did you start Maywood Farms?
It was my dream to become a farmer from a very young age. Looking back on it, I have to admit that I romanticized it to a degree. Farmers are known for putting in long hours, but you can’t truly appreciate everything that goes into the job until you do it. Decades later, I can say that all of our hard work has truly paid off.
Our farm overlaps part of the original Maywood Fruit Colony, so that’s where the name was derived from. It’s also a tribute to my uncle, who was a major investor in our farm. He went to Stanford, and there was a section of Palo Alto called Maywood. It just seemed like a natural fit.
02 What obstacles did you face along the way?
We struggled to turn a profit until our tenth year in business. It was stressful, to say the least, but we were persistent. Fortunately, we had partners to fund us through those lean years and we were able to purchase our shares back to resume total ownership.
Of course, farming itself has been a tremendous challenge as well. We tasked ourselves with growing new crops, and we didn’t have much information to rely upon. Somehow, we’ve pulled it off!
03 What lessons do you have for other entrepreneurs?
First, I’ll address my fellow farmers. Do your research before planting a crop. Make sure there will be a market for it and produce the highest quality possible in order to weather the downturns.
Now, some advice for farmers and entrepreneurs of all types: People will always buy top quality products over cheap products. Create something special and the money will follow.
04 What’s on the horizon for Maywood Farms?
We are transitioning the farm into our kids’ hands. Our son is taking on management, food safety, and sales responsibilities and our daughter will lead the production side. They’re incredible, and we couldn’t be more proud of them.
05 How do you keep work/life balance? What drives/inspires you?
We love to travel, hike, and enjoy the world around us. We’re just a short drive away from breathtaking mountains and beautiful forests. We have a lot of freedom once the trees are put to sleep in the offseason, so that’s when we take longer trips.
I’ve traveled to India, South Africa, and even British Columbia to consult and sow seeds for fig farming all around the globe. I’m passionate about sharing my knowledge with whoever wants to listen, and that continuously drives me.