Like Father; Like Daughter
Pamela Ivicevich is new to farming by California pear industry standards, but like most California pear farmers, her story is filled with friends and family who instilled in her a passion for pear farming. Her father, Nick Ivicevich, bought his first pear orchard in 1960, six years before Pamela was born.
Nick was a first generation American from Croatia, born in San Francisco, and learned to speak English when he was 8 years old. He grew up in Mountain View, CA, which back then was fruit farming country. Nick had no experience in farming, but his best friend was from a pear-farming family. As fruit orchards gave way to the expanding “Silicon Valley” and farming moved to other parts of the state, Nick decided to follow his lifelong friend, Ivan Lubich, to Lake County. It was here in a small area known as Scotts Valley that Nick Ivicevich purchased a 56-acre pear orchard and “reinvented” himself as a pear farmer. Here he also met and married his wife Marlene, whom everyone calls “Cookie.” Initially, she helped on the farm, even driving tractor in the early days of their marriage. This was the beginning of the Ivicevich family farm.
Sadly, Nick passed away nearly two years ago, leaving his land and his passion for farming to his daughter. Pamela had been working with her dad taking on new roles such as implementing the farm’s food safety program. But suddenly, she found herself in charge of all aspects of the farming operation.
“My dad was such a good man. He was smart and everyone loved him,” says Pamela. “I could never fill his shoes, but I did step into them.”
As a woman and single mother, Pamela is a bit of anomaly when it comes to the traditional image of a farmer. But this is not something she thinks about. There’s just too much work to be done.
“I miss my dad dearly and I wish he was here to share this experience with me,” she says. “To be honest, farming can be exhausting and stressful. But I have some great long-time friends and neighbors who knew and loved my dad. I’ve come to rely on them when I need information, advice or just someone to talk things over with. I feel a real warmth from these people and it’s very nice.”
There is much to stress over as a pear farmer, notes Pamela, who admits to feeling anxious about the coming pear harvest. Preparing equipment in time for harvest,
determining when and how soon picking will begin and worrying about having enough labor to harvest the crop are just a few of things on her mind. She knows all too well that, when it comes to farming, things can go terribly wrong no matter how much you prepare. In 2006, her father was famously featured in a New York Times story as Lake County pear farmers watched tons of pears fall off their trees and rot on the ground due to a lack of workers to pick them.
Having good friends and neighbors to share in both the happy and sad times is typical of the close-knit California pear community. So, Pamela is certainly not alone. Her mother is close by to help with the books — and the worrying. Also by her side is her own daughter, 8-year-old Alexandra (adorably featured in the photo at top).
“Alexandra spends a lot of time on the farm with me,” says Pamela. “It’s so funny to hear her to talk knowledgeably about things like pear blight or other topics that we pear farmers deal with on daily basis.”
And so it is that the next generation begins inheriting a passion for pear farming. This time, it comes from her mother.