To say that apricots are in Gene Bays’ blood is quite an understatement.
For over 65 years, Gene has been caring for apricot orchards on his family’s ranch in Stanislaus County in Northern California.
Gene’s commitment to agriculture spans a lifetime, starting in Ventura County, California, where he grew walnuts with his father. Today, Bays grows several specialty crops including premium apricots, almonds, nectarines, and tomatoes in the Westley area and is keeping the family’s tradition alive as he works side by side with his son, Ken Bays, managing the family’s farming operation.
“Gene Bays is one of the industry’s most dedicated leaders who has contributed so much to this small specialty crop called California Apricots,” said Bill Ferriera, president of the Apricot Producers of California and a member of the Ag Council Board of Directors. “Gene has set the bar of excellence for all of us to follow. He’s a gem; a kind and wise patriarch and I am so grateful to have known him all these years.”
Gene currently serves as Chairman on two agriculture boards—The Apricot Producers of California (APC) and The Del Puerto Irrigation District. For over 30 years Bays has guided the industry through many challenges, including the closing of Tri-Valley Growers, processor price negotiations and the marketing of canned apricots to a new crop of consumers—elementary school kids and school foodservice directors. Gene is also the recipient of the 2005 Ag Council Co-op Leader Award.
Gene lives in Westley, California with his wife Eleanor of 63 years. They spend most of their time with their three children—Jeanne, Cathie and Ken and their 13 grandchildren—Brendan, Micah, Shane, Lucas, Simon, Gregson, Peter, Stephen, Elizabeth, Daniel, Marie, Christine, and Theresa.