Kellogg Garden Products

Kathy Kellogg Johnson

Company Secretary, Kellogg Garden Products

Environmental issues are not only a passion for Kathy Kellogg Johnson, but also a Kellogg family tradition.

Her father, H. Clay “Hi” Kellogg Jr., had a keen eye for discovering a productive use for what others would cast away as trash. It was a legacy Hi carried on from his own father and Kathy’s grandfather -- H. Clay Kellogg Sr., the founder of Kellogg Garden Products.

Years before recycling became commonplace, Hi sought to use left over organic materials such as rice hulls and biosolids in the company’s products.  During a trip to a lumber mill in Arizona, Hi noticed that they were discarding and burning leftover bark. Seeing beauty in what was considered “waste” by the lumber industry, Hi bought their leftovers and went on to pioneer the decorative bark market in 1950s.

“My father was the one who thought out of the box,” recalls his daughter Kathy Kellogg Johnson, company secretary of Kellogg Garden Products.  “He not only loved to make things grow but he was constantly looking for ways in which he could use organic materials. They used to burn rice hulls in the Sacramento Valley, but he found a way to compost them and turn them into the fertile and productive soil conditioner that we call Amend®. We have a history of recycling today because of him.”

A majority of family businesses in the U.S. fail by the third generation, succumbing to infighting or mismanagement. Kathy says the foresight and planning of her grandfather and father have been crucial to her family’s continued success.

“They were smart enough to leave the corporation in the hands of only one of his offspring, and equal amounts of assets to the others,” Kathy says. “My brother Hap (company CEO) is a man full of grace and fairness. He solicits my advice and listens respectfully when I have a different way of seeing a situation.  My mother also has a high level of trust in our judgment in running the company and has provided input and supported our decisions.”

Her father also instilled a confidence in Kathy, which she is passing on to her own three children – Connor, Kendyl and Kyra.

“He assured me that I capable and smart and could be whatever I wanted to be. This also what I have stressed to my own children.” she says. “My father also told me to never feel obligated to run the company, and I never have.”

Kathy has taken up the environmental mantle and has continued it into the family’s third generation with her extensive knowledge about the various environmental issues that have an impact on the gardening and waste industry.

Through her influence and guidance, Kellogg Garden Products continues to stress an environmentally friendly approach to gardening as reflected in all its manufacturing processes, products and consumer education. Kellogg has enhanced its environmental efforts with an extensive recycling program in which discarded items such as rice hulls, wood remains, sawdust, and bark are used in Kellogg’s products rather than ending up in landfills.

“In the late 1980’s I started attending environmental conventions, and I realized the tide finally began turning against landfills,” recalls Kathy.  “I began to see the role Kellogg had played for decades in saving space for landfills by using organics materials in our products to restore the soils. It made sense to me, but this notion was absent from a lot of the recycling forums that focused mostly on bottles and cans.”

As result of her participation in the environmental community, she began receiving invitations to address audiences around the world on a variety of composting and environmental subjects. Her trips have included visits to Israel, Italy, Hawaii, Washington, D.C., Florida, Arizona, Utah, Missouri, Washington and throughout California.

“The scientific forums at these international events were dominated by sages from the universities on soils, composting, and by lawmakers,” Kathy says. “I usually occupied the only private industry spot on the agenda to discuss organic recycling. It was surprising to those from communities in Europe, Egypt, Israel that this kind of history even existed much less than it came from upstart California.”

Her experiences also led to her teaching the composting and marketing segments of a certificate course on solid waste at UCLA. Kathy earned a bachelor’s degree in International Business and minored in French and Spanish at USC.

Kathy also serves on the Kellogg board of directors and play a key role as a member of the board’s strategic committee that plans the company’s future direction. In addition, Kathy has served as chairperson of the Environmental Committees for California Association of Nurserymen and California Landscape Contractors Association and is currently on the Board of Directors for the Association of Compost Producers (ACP).

Her father also passed on his love and knowledge of gardening to Kathy.  A section of the Kellogg Garden Products Web site called “Kathy’s Garden” is devoted to her gardening tips and advice.

“People are hungry for information on gardening. It truly is a lost art,” she says. “I am constantly learning every time I am in the garden.”

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