Many words have already been written about John Inman. He has been called an “encyclopedia of agriculture,” “Mr. Equipment,” and the list goes on. His love of agriculture, and more specifically, California agriculture, was no doubt a catalyst that motivated him to not only try to solve growers’ equipment issues, but to promote the industry in any way he could. As a contributing editor for American Vegetable Grower, he was so much more than a “contributor.” He was a go-to source of information and he was a dear friend. John passed away unexpectedly in June. He was 69.
Many people know about his long career with the University of California Cooperative Extension as a farm advisor in agricultural engineering, and his work with Hartnell College and Ag Against Hunger, but that is only part of the story. His ag consulting work took him to far off places such as Romania in 1971, where he selected equipment for the production of several vegetable crops. In 1975, a similar project brought him to Moldavia. Also in the ’70s, he created equipment packages for vegetable production projects in Iran, Egypt, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.
In addition, he was frequently asked to attend the International Agricultural Machinery Manufacturers Exhibition, known as EIMA, in Bologna, Italy, and the SIMA farm machinery show in Paris.
He was on several local high school ag program advisory committees and was involved in numerous community activities including being the tour director of the Salinas Chamber of Commerce Ag Business Day.
There is not enough room in this issue to cite all of John’s contributions over the years. What he will be remembered for the most, though, is his positive impact on the industry.
It is an understatement to say that John was well-known in the California ag circle and in other parts of the country, as well. From his work, he developed many friendships throughout the years. What follows are some tributes from some of those friends.
John Inman was a teacher and mentor to me for more than 30 years. He was like an encyclopedia to anyone who wanted to learn about agriculture. He was always so generous with his time and his knowledge. Agriculture was his passion, and it was readily apparent to anyone who had the good fortune to know and work with him. Our industry has lost an incredible resource and an even better person. I will miss him greatly.
Jim Bogart, President, Grower-Shipper Association of Central California
He had a unique ability to connect with people and a real pulse for what was going on in agriculture, as well as in the community. He was a repository of information about not only mechanical equipment and farming, but people, as well. It was John who let me know about the opening for county director here at the University. He brought the paperwork by my office where I was working at the time. I remember the day as clear as yesterday. He came in and handed me this manila folder and said ‘I have something you might be interested in.’ I looked at the paperwork and it seemed like a dream job. It has been my career for the last 20 years. I truly owe the life I lead today to John.
Sonya Hammond, County Director, University of California Cooperative Extension, Monterey County
The relationship of Solex and John Inman goes back to the early 1970s. John and my Dad, Boyd Fountain, have worked on many projects through the years. Through this contact we have all become dear friends of John. A person of John’s character and knowledge will be truly missed. One of the comforts is John and Dad are probably having lunch together while improving the design of a piece of equipment on the back of a napkin!
David Fountain, Solex Corp., Dixon, CA
John was always looking for equipment he could bring in to help the industry. He was always available when we had questions about equipment, and he was a big help for me and the other growers in the area. He was a great friend and a great person to know if you were involved in the ag industry. His motivation and positive energy will be greatly missed.
Israel Morales, American Farms, Salinas, CA
He was a man of integrity and boundless enthusiasm for whatever the task he took in hand. No one, whose privilege it was to know him, is likely to forget the candor and courage of his speech. He never dodged a responsibility, never refused to ask a difficult question if it needed to be done. What he preached, he practiced. What he believed, he believed with heart and soul. John was a frequent speaker at our Italian Farm Machinery Convention and visited on a regular basis international trade shows and industry events like the EIMA show in Bologna, Italy.
Alessandro Mussa, Italian Trade Commission
John was a true pioneer in the field of agriculture. I first met John about 10 years ago when I decided to better familiarize myself with our local ag industries and their different processes. He was running the yearly Salute to Agriculture Field Tours and was such a great ambassador of agriculture that many of the attendees would return every year just to get to ride with John on the bus and have a wonderful tour of the local products that were being grown in our own back yard. I also served on the board of Ag Against Hunger with John for several years. His passion for agriculture extended to helping to feed the hungry locally.
Alicia Anne Cask, Chiquita/Fresh Express, Ag Against Hunger
John Inman had extensive experience in his area of equipment and agricultural engineering. Even beyond that, I think John was successful because he was a good people person. He related well with everyone. He was close to the industry and was able to talk their language, merging science and research with the everyday needs of the grower.
On a personal note, when I joined the University of California (UC) Cooperative Extension in Monterey County, he took an interest in getting me started. He was well established in his Extension career and mentored me regarding the workings of the university and the agriculture in the Salinas Valley.
Steve Koike, Plant Pathology Farm Advisor – Monterey County UC Cooperative Extension
John was a man who has earned a huge place mark in the history of Salinas Valley agriculture. His contributions to Hartnell Junior College and its revitalized ag department will never be forgotten. John’s engineering prowess aided in the design of most of the vegetable planters we use today. His shoes will be hard to fill and he will be sorely missed.
Bob Martin, Rio Farms, King City, CA
It seems like John Inman had his fingers in almost every aspect of the fresh produce business — he showed up everywhere. John was one of the first people I met more than 30 years ago upon arrival in the Salinas Valley. He was the most passionate advocate for the ag industry and of education of the public about ag. After retirement, I think he became even more active, continually volunteering, and was always a positive force.
Neil Ledford, Interim Dean, Advanced Technology, Hartnell College, Salinas, CA.
John visited our farm in Fremont, CA, to look at a home-built harvester that I had built freshly out of college. Being new to the industry and John well versed in the ag arena, I looked to him for advice and knowledge, which he was always willing to offer. It is a disadvantage to us all that there are not more like John prevalent in our industry. He was truly one of a kind, had an exceptional eye, and worked out of passion rather than necessity.
Tony Alameda, Top Flavor Farms, Salinas, CA
John is an inspiration to us in agriculture. He was always eager to teach the good word about agricuture and understood very well that the general public needs to know our story. His efforts in programs such as Monterey County Ag Education and AgKnowledge are great examples of his passion for agriculture.
Rick Falconer, vice president/general manager, American Takii, Inc. Salinas, CA
John was listed on the masthead of American Vegetable Grower as a Contributing Editor, but he was really an integral part of the magazine. During my time with American Vegetable Grower I could always count on a call from John a couple of times a month, telling me “I was talking with so and so up in Watsonville yesterday. We need to do a story on this guy,” or “I was telling so and so they really need to advertise in our magazine.”
The best part of any trip to Salinas was meeting John for breakfast at the Black Bear Diner and then hopping in his truck and hearing him say, “Let’s go see what Tanimura & Antle is up to today.”
We’ll miss you buddy.
Richard Jones, Group Editor, Ornamental Horitculture Group, Meister Media Worldwide
I was honored to have worked with John in the early 1990s while I was editor of American Vegetable Grower. At that time John’s column was called “Western Perspective,” but John’s passion for the machinery side of things was so apparent that he and I agreed to change the name to the moniker it still proudly bears today: “Into Gear.” John was a gentle, intelligent man whose expertise in ag machinery truly is globally recognized. It will be difficult to replace him.
Jim Sulecki, Director, eMedia, Meister Media Worldwide
John Inman was one of our industry’s foremost leaders in equipment technology. His passion and energy for our industry was infectious. He took personal pride in educating the industry not only about the latest equipment technology but also about the important role technology has had and will continue to have in making our specialty agriculture industry great. John has been writing for American Vegetable Grower for many years. He was a great asset to have on our American Vegetable Grower staff, not only for his industry connections, of which there were many, but also for his understanding and patience in mentoring those of us that didn’t have the vast agricultural background and knowledge that he was blessed with.
Joe Monahan, Publisher, Fruit and Vegetable Group, Meister Media Worldwide
John Inman absolutely epitomized the kind of humble and down-to-earth persona that characterizes people who devote their lives to agriculture. He was proud and passionate about his work, his clients, and everything Salinas Valley. My fondest memories of John include talking ag over breakfast at a diner that John Steinbeck used to frequent. Visits to Tanimura and Antle. Seeing John’s eyes light up at the sight of some new transplanter or custom harvester while we sloshed through the mud at the Tulare show. The annual dinner our whole staff would have with John and Jody at our favorite Italian restaurant after the show. John was always there when you needed him. Always willing to help. Incredibly knowledgeable but never pretentious. I will miss him greatly.
Rick Melnick, Corporate Editorial Director, Meister Media Worldwide
Whenever I called John seeking information, he shared his knowledge in a warm and gracious manner. The one thing I learned quickly was to never expect a short answer. John mentored me as an ag journalist and as the years passed, he became my very good friend.
Jim Moore, AgLineNews.com
He was an effective and pleasant ambassador for agriculture. He was a tireless educator that was known to all in the Salinas Valley vegetable industry, as well as around the world.
Richard Smith, Univerisity of California-Davis
Click here to read Editor-At-Large Dick Meister’s column about John Inman.