The Gar & Esther Tootelian Charitable Foundation (GET) was established in 2003 to promote agricultural awareness and cultivate community involvement. GET, jointly with GAR have granted more than $4.25 Million in grants and gifts to support agricultural literacy, educational scholarships, and activities promoting the value of California Agriculture.
Notable gifts include: the Clovis Medical Center Emergency Room, the Fresno Chaffee Zoo Valley Farm, Valley PBS Valley’s Gold and Valley’s Gold Education through Agriculture, FARM Academy, FARMS Leadership, Grizzlies Farm Grown Community Fund and Immanuel Schools Building Futures Foundation.
Karen Musson is managing partner of GAR Bennett, LLC (formerly, Gar Tootelian, Inc.) established in 1949 by her parents, Gar and Esther Tootelian. Located in the heart of California’s Central Valley, GAR is a Crop Care Retailer providing water, nutrition, regulatory and crop care advice, products and services to 1500 valley growers from Chowchilla to Bakersfield. CropLife Magazine ranks GAR as 52nd and, also, the largest, single location Crop Care Retailer in the United States. GAR’s leadership in environmental stewardship, sustainability and community outreach has earned the company the Agricultural Retailer Association’s (ARA) National Ag Retailer of the Year Award and DuPont Crop Science and CropLife magazine’s North America Environmental Respect Award (ERA). GAR has also been recognized by: Western Plant Health Association (2019), Tulare County Farm Bureau (2019), Orange Cove Chamber (2018), Reedley Chamber of Commerce (2003 & 2017), and Fresno Chamber of Commerce (2013).
Karen leads GAR’s media, marketing and community outreach activities and is the CEO of the Gar & Esther Tootelian Charitable Foundation (the Foundation) established in 2003 to engage, develop and direct philanthropic gifts promoting agricultural literacy, careers, and awareness. She produces, writes and records GAR’s marketing messages on local talk radio station KMJ 580 promoting agriculture and making consumers aware of agriculture’s vast contribution to the health and freedom of our daily lives. Under Karen’s leadership, the Foundation and GAR have granted more than $2.5 Million in scholarships and gifts in support of agricultural activities, community enrichment and educational programs it considers critical to the sustainability and future of Central Valley agriculture.
Karen is an active member of numerous community and philanthropic organizations. She is a member of the Central Valley Community Bank’s Board of Directors serving the valley with 21 branches from Sacramento to Exeter. She is the recipient of Marjorie Mason’s 2017 Top Ten Professional Women and is a 2011 Ag One Common Threads recipient. She raised $25,000 in the 2010 San Francisco Nike Women’s Half Marathon for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and her 2012 challenge to recognize “Central Valley Farmers and Families” at Clovis Medical Center’s Emergency Room expansion raised over $1.5 million. The “Feeding Families Fund Drive” supporting Central California Community Food Bank has raised a total of $1.5 million since 2013 and, more than $150,000 has been raised to support Habitat for Humanity projects helping local families earn homes.
Whether Future Farmers, food drives or fund raisers, Karen is the driver developing long-term beneficial partnerships with additional stakeholders to grow awareness of Agriculture throughout California and the nation. Karen works tirelessly – talking and presenting to non-profit groups, service clubs, individuals and business leaders about the importance of agriculture to the health, prosperity and security of our citizens and nation. She is an avid supporter of Fresno State’s Jordan College of Agricultural Science and Technology and mentors Immanuel Schools Reedley, Quail Lake Environmental Charter, West Hills College Ag Leadership, Valley Regional Occupational Program and Fresno Unified Career Readiness Education to promote Ag literacy and career opportunities.
One of Karen’s most exciting projects is the establishment in 2013 to create the “Valley Farm” at Fresno’s Chaffee Zoo to showcase valley farming in a friendly, educational and interactive public setting. She assembled partners from the Fresno County Farm Bureau, Fresno State’s Jordan College, Reedley 4-H and Bennett and Bennett Irrigation to help transform the area into a small friendly Valley Farm. The Reedley 4-H Club donated the Farm’s chicken coop and the Jordan College Plant Science Club volunteers their time to oversee the planning, planting and rotation of the seasonal crops in the planting beds around the Farm. In 2018, more than 900,000 visitors to the Zoo were able to experience a small example of agricultural row crops, fruit trees and farm animals. The Farm hosts National Ag Day annually in March assembling more than 36 vendors and demonstrators sharing their agricultural activities and stewardship to valley families and zoo visitors.
In 2014, the Foundation and GAR partnered with Fresno Grizzlies AAA Major League Baseball franchise to create the Farm Grown Community Fund and Ag Zone in the stadium. The iconic red Ag Zone barn with windmill at Gate 2 serves as an FFA and Agricultural demonstration area and GAR’s large bat and ball at Gate 2 welcomes fans and provides a favorite selfie and family photo opportunity. In 2019, the Grizzlies unveiled the “Community GARden” behind the center field fence. It is a sustainable garden created to give students the opportunity to learn about urban agriculture and growing fruits and vegetables. Friday’s Farmer Markets, Farm Grown Scholarships and Wild About Reading showcase Agriculture’s diversity and economic impact to the nearly 500,000 visitors to the park and in 150 school assemblies each year.
A longtime supporter and Board Chair of Valley PBS, Karen and the Foundation sponsor Fresno County Farm Bureau’s “Valley’s Gold” and “Valley’s Gold Education through Agriculture”. Karen is excited about a new partnership formed in 2019 with Valley PBS and 13 Thirty Entertainment to sponsor the real stories of Ag: “American Grown: My Job Depends on Ag”. The series features 13 episodes and started airing on Valley PBS earlier this month.
Karen’s family is active in GAR: Greg Musson is President and CEO; her sister Linda Salwasser is Vice President; her daughter and niece assist in Marketing and Events; and her son-law Ralph Rendon leads the 3rd generation and serves as the Chief Revenue Officer.
- Harry J. Larson Integrity Award, Western Plant Health Association 2019
- Agricultural Business of 2019, Tulare County Farm Bureau
- Ag Business of the Year, Orange Cove Chamber of Commerce, 2018
- Marjorie Mason Top 10 Professional Women, 2017
- Central California Food Bank, Donor of the Year 2017
- Habitat for Humanity, Agent of Change Award, 2017
- Ag Retailer of the Year sponsored by ARA (Ag Retailers Association), 2016
- North American Environmental Respect Award (ERA) sponsored by Dupont & CropLife, 2015
- Valley PBS, Champion of the Year, 2015
- Fresno Chamber of Commerce Agricultural Business of Year, 2013
- Karen Musson, Ag One Common Threads Award, Fresno County, 2011
- California Family Business of the Year, finalist, 2010 & 2017
- Best Companies to Work for in Central California, finalists, 2009
- Business of the Year, Reedley Chamber of Commerce, 2003
- Central Valley Community Bank, Board of Directors, since 2017
- Central Valley Community Foundation, Board of Directors 2016-2018
- Fresno Unified CTE, Advisory Board, since 2017
- State Center Community College Ag-Task Force, 2015
- Valley Regional Occupation Program, Ag Advisor, since 2015
- Fresno Grizzlies Advisory Board, since 2014
- Rotary Club of Fresno Foundation, Vice- Chair/Director, 2013-2019
- Fresno County Farm Bureau, Director, since 2013
- State Center Community College District Foundation, Executive Board/Member, since 2013
- California Ag Leadership Foundation, Common Threads Board Chair/ Member, since 2013
- Valley PBS Board Chair/ Director, since 2013
- Clovis Community Hospital Development Council, Board 2011-2018
- Better Business Bureau Central California Director, 2011-2018
- Fresno County Lincoln Club, Director/ Treasurer, since 2011
- Gar & Esther Tootelian Charitable Foundation, Executive Director, since 2003
- Fresno County Grand Jury member and committee chair, 1997-98
- Rotary Club of Fresno Member/ Past Director, since1995
- Sunnyside Property Owners Association, Past President/ Parliamentarian, since 1990
IN THE NEWS
Karen Musson to Receive Fresno Chamber’s Highest Honor, Leon S. Peters Award
Karen Musson, managing partner of GAR Bennett, LLC., will be honored as the 2020 recipient of the Leon S. Peters Award on February 12 at the Fresno Chamber of Commerce Valley Business Awards Luncheon at the Fresno Convention Center.
Valley Farm at Fresno Chaffee Zoo. The Gar & Esther Tootelian Charitable Foundation sponsorship with the Fresno Chaffee Zoo began in 2015 with the idea of creating a hands-on family-friendly farm exhibit. The Fresno County Farm Bureau, Jordan College Plant Science Club, Bennett & Bennett Irrigation and Reedley 4-H helped to design and transform the small wonders petting area to a small farm with row crops, fruit trees and a variety of farm animals. The exhibit is a favorite for locals and visitors.
The Gar & Esther Tootelian Foundation is sponsoring a new PBS Series American Grown: My Job Depends on Ag. The series will air Fall 2019 to highlight all sides of Agriculture. From issued based topics on water and regulations to lighter topics on how food is grown, American Grown: MJDOA focuses on the different ways AG touches everyone beyond the fields and farms through people and jobs.
FARMS Advanced is a second year “deeper-dive” program designed by the Center for Land-Based Learning to provide high school students with a broader exploration of careers in agriculture.
Immanuel Schools Elementary complex is a partnership with the Foundation to provide an enriched curriculum to introduce elementary K-6 students to agricultural concepts, science, mathematics and technology.
Grizzlies Farm Grown sponsorship includes the Ag Zone, Farm Grown Friday’s, and Wild About Reading. Wild About Reading school assemblies have presented to over 1 million elementary school kids across the valley promoting reading. The program produces a companion annual activity magazine – Wild About Reading.