BRAWLEY — The Imperial Valley is noted for its vast fields of onions, alfalfa, lettuce, and sugar beets. An agricultural community at its core, farmers play a big role in our region, from providing jobs to spreading influence in our towns. One such farmer has expanded his influence internationally – but quietly and without fanfare.
Roy Motter is a Brawley native and grower specializing in lettuce, onions, and sugar beets. He also sits as the chairman of two prominent boards: The California Wheat Commission and the United States Wheat Associates.
An unassuming man by nature, Motter has earned distinction with his extensive knowledge in international trade issues, crop quality, the varying production of wheat across the United States, and the history of both the California Wheat Commission and US Wheat Associates – all of which prove his worthiness for such distinguished positions.
For the California Wheat Commission, Motter’s role as chairman serves to provide direction to the staff of the commission, and act as the main contact with the board of directors. He tracks everything that the commission staff is involved with and is a source of constant direction.
Motter’s dual role as chairman of both the California Commission and US Wheat Associates has brought much visibility to California and its wheat growers here. Janice Cooper, executive director of California Wheat, said Motter is the first chairman of US Wheat to come from California, and that his role as chairman has brought interest to California wheat from markets around the world.
Cooper praised Motter in his service as the California chairman, stating that he is “such a delight to work with,” and “a real people person.” Cooper believes Motter is the right man for the job.
“He brings a personal touch to the role of chairman,” she said. “He can talk to anybody and is friendly and funny. He is passionate about what he does.”
Brawley farmer Mark Osterkamp, who previously served as chairman of the California Wheat Commission, recommended Motter to join the board. Serving on that board led to Motter’s frequent attendance at US Wheat Associates meetings, and he subsequently decided to run for that board after seeing a need. Now having a position of leadership on a national level, Motter said he feels a strong sense of responsibility and is enjoying his role.
As chairman of both organizations, Motter meets three times yearly for each, for winter, fall, and summer sessions. He opens and closes meetings, and travels the world on behalf of US Wheat for buyer’s conferences including Capetown, South Africa, Costa Rica, Bali, Hawaii, Miami, and beyond. On most occasions, he brings his wife (Jaki), along, who enjoys the travel as well.
“The girls (wives) all get together,” Motter said, revealing that they enjoy excursions such as hot air balloon rides, while the husbands work during these conferences. Motter speaks at the meetings, often opening up the conferences by welcoming the attendees, and he also meets with millers from around the globe.
On a national level, his duties include chairing meetings and taking on tough issues facing the wheat community. He helps other board members understand what their options are as he moves issues to a resolution through a vote.
Current challenges facing the wheat associations are decreasing acres and funding. Cooper explained that figuring out options is something a good chairman helps do – and it is exactly what Motter is doing.
Motter said he believes the most interesting part of these positions has been “the opportunities to meet people,” and “getting to know people from all across the country.”
His sphere of influence, as well as his friendships, have expanded beyond borders. He has created lasting friendships with people from Italy, Portugal, Germany, and all across America. Motter described a fishing excursion with a “big miller” from Nicaragua – and although the fishing was lousy, he realized that his experiences are not everyday opportunities for most people.
Through these growing friendships and his national position, Motter’s eyes have been opened to different approaches to farming, as farmers in the Midwest have vastly different tactics than California farmers, who operate using dryland irrigation. One farmer in the state of Washington runs his farming operation employing only himself and his wife, while Motter employs at least 100 people at harvest time. Others talk about their wheat yield in bushels, while California speaks in terms of tons.
A graduate of San Diego State University (’72) with a degree in accounting, Motter is proof that it is impossible to know the direction one’s life will go, but with hard work, a good attitude, and one step at a time – each step forward can culminate into a wide, bright, and influential life.