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Stories from the valley

First Jobs and Feed Stores

Contributed by Dan Macon

Think back to your first job. Chances are, you’ll remember it clearly – no matter how old you are, and regardless of whether it was a positive experience. My first job (aside from chores) was running clerk tickets from the auction block to the cashier in my family’s auction business (long before the days of eBay or even computers!). I still remember that first paycheck, too – I think I made $25 for a day’s work! I was rich! Since it was nearly a quarter mile from the auction block to the office – and since I had to make that walk every time 12 items were sold, I was also tired!

Here in Auburn, many of the kids I know (through my own children and through activities like youth sports, 4-H and Future Farmers of America) get their first jobs at Echo Valley Ranch, our local feed store. Every small town (hopefully) has a place like Echo Valley Ranch – a place where kids learn the value of hard work and the importance of being part of the community. A place where they have to answer to someone other than mom or dad.

Echo Valley Ranch feed store truck

The store is more than a business – it’s a community institution. Go to any farm- or community-related event in Placer County (the Gold Country Fair, the Auburn Home and Garden Show, the Festival of Lights Parade, you name it), and you’ll see Echo Valley Ranch folks chipping in as volunteers. Every kid that comes by the store in their 4-H or FFA uniforms before the junior livestock auction gets a financial contribution. Every time someone in the agricultural community needs help, Echo Valley is there.

Just as important, at least to my thinking, is the way Echo Valley teaches kids what it means to work. Several years ago, I coached Jake in flag football when he was in middle school. He was (and is) a great kid – but he was always very quiet and shy. In the week after our county fair in September, I saw Jake (who’s now a sophomore at Placer High School) at Echo Valley – he told me he’d started his job that very day. In the months since he started the job, I’ve seen him there several times. He’s always been a polite kid, but now he’s much more confident and outgoing. He obviously loves his job!

Inside the feed store

I mentioned this transformation to Connie Watson (who manages the store) last week. She’d noticed the same thing – and she confirmed my suspicion that the entire company focuses on helping kids learn how to work. “I told Jake, ‘I’ve been watching you since you were a little kid – when are you going to apply for a job here?’,” she told me. She also told Jake that he’d have to overcome his shyness if he was going to work there. I think he took the message to heart!

Echo Valley has been in Auburn long enough now that they have hired the children of folks who worked at the store as kids. Connie makes it a point to tell these new employees that she hired them, not their parents. “I think it helps them understand that they’re responsible for their own actions once they come to work,” she says. That’s the kind of lifelong lesson more of us need to learn when we’re teenagers! Thanks, Echo Valley!