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WESTERN GROWER & SHIPPER Published Since 1929 Volume XCIII | Number 6

To enhance the competitiveness and profitability of Western Growers members

Dave Puglia President & CEO Western Growers davep@wga.com

10 Regional Advocacy Groups Fill the Gap 14 Thinking Outside the Box 16 Putting the ‘Heal’ in Health Care FEATURES

Editor Tim Linden Champ Publishing 925.258.0892 | tlinden@wga.com Contributors Cory Lunde 949.885.2264 | clunde@wga.com Ann Donahue 949.302.7600 | adonahue@wga.com



WG’s Transportation Program Makes Notable Adjustments 36 Grimmway’s Jeff Huckaby

IntelliCulture Offers Digitized Equipment Management Platform

Circulation Marketing 949.885.2248 | marketing@wga.com


Advertising Sales Dana Davis 302.750.4662 | dana@tygermarketing.com

to be Named Grower of the Year at the Organic Grower Summit

Driscoll’s Innovation Driven by its Mission 46 WGCIT’s Food Safety Cohort Takes Direct Approach 48 The WGCIT Food Safety Cohort

38 Thank You to Our Sponsors of the


96 th WG Annual Meeting


Western Grower & Shipper ISSN 0043-3799, Copyright © 2022 by the Western Grower & Shipper is published bi-monthly by Western Grower & Shipper Publishing Company, a division of Western Growers Service Corp., 15525 Sand Canyon Avenue, Irvine California 92618. Business and Editorial Offices: 15525 Sand Canyon Avenue, Irvine California 92618. Accounting and Circulation Offices: Western Grower & Shipper, 15525 Sand Canyon Avenue, Irvine California 92618. Call (949) 863-1000 to subscribe. Subscription is $18 per year. Foreign subscription is $36 per year. Single copies of recent issues, $1.50. Single copies of issues more than three months old, $2. Periodicals postage is paid in Irvine, California and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Western Grower & Shipper, PO Box 2130, Newport Beach, California 92658.


34 Western Growers Assurance Trust 40 Innovation 49 Update from the WGCIT 52 Connections 53 Contact Us 54 Inside Western Growers

4 President’s Notes 6 California Member Profile 20 U.S. Senator Profile 24 Science 26 Advocacy | California 28 WG Member Welcome & Anniversaries 30 Agriculture & the Law



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The Selfless Leaders: WG’s Board of Directors By Dave Puglia, President and CEO, Western Growers

As we close out the year and come together at the Western Growers Annual Meeting to celebrate all that our industry provides, endures and surmounts, I find myself reflecting a bit more than usual about the foundational strength of this association: Its board of directors.

Naturally, anyone in my position should think a lot about the men and women to whom he reports. But this year as we thank an unusually large number of WG directors concluding their board service, I am especially grateful to them, and to all who set aside their personal and individual business interests to volunteer their time, experience, wisdom and engagement to shepherd this association and advance the interests of the entire industry. It ain’t easy. The sheer number of policy and industry challenges, threats and even some opportunities, has never been greater in my 17 years with WG. Into the maelstrom steps the WG board of directors, four times per year and sometimes more. I am sure many of our directors ask themselves whether the frustrations that come with repeatedly confronting ignorant and even hostile political and regulatory officials and agencies is worth enduring. Julius Caesar said, “It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience.” Apart from updating the emperor’s gender-specific terminology, I would point to the men and women who have served, and currently serve, on the WG Board of Directors as proof of Caesar’s miscalculation. They prove, in ways large and small, their willingness to endure pain, although not so much with patience as persistence. Western Growers is unusual in that very few trade associations empower the members themselves to democratically select the association’s directors. Thirty-eight of WG’s 45 directors are nominated and

voted onto the board by the association’s members in 13 geographic districts. By contrast, most trade association boards (agricultural and otherwise) fill vacancies by empowering the board itself to select new directors. This keeps our association solidly grounded to the membership we serve, and it is in that spirit that we extend our heartfelt welcome to new directors joining this distinguished board. To further deepen and strengthen the connections between our directors and their constituents, and thereby enhance the responsiveness of the association to our members’ needs, we are accelerating an initiative that I had hoped to launch in my first year as President and CEO. But with all of six weeks under my belt, COVID got in the way. With that behind us, WG board members will be organizing and hosting in-person meetings for WG members in each district to more frequently provide input to their elected directors as well as to me and other WG executive staff. In years past, our district meetings became, in my humble opinion, too centered on WG staff and not enough on the directors elected by WG members themselves. By the time you read this, we will have completed the first such WG Director-led district meeting in Coachella with more on the way. I hope you will be on the lookout for an announcement and can carve out some time to participate. The men and women who step forward as Western Growers directors are selfless leaders indeed, and we can all find a bit of time to help them and thank them in these difficult times for our industry.

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Ocean Mist Farms Member since 1947 Ocean Mist Farms Focused on the Future By Tim Linden It is telling that Castroville’s Ocean Mist Farms, which is the leading producer of artichokes in the United States, does not rank that crop on the top of its list in terms of volume.

Chris Drew, who was named president and CEO of the company in October 2021, is laser focused on strategic planning and aligning the company’s production with consumption trends. He is not content to have Ocean Mist rest on its laurels nor be wedded to its past successes. Artichokes are, of course, still an important fresh produce item for the company but consumers are trending toward value- added vegetables and those that are easy to prepare and to eat. Ocean Mist’s product line is reflective of that, and Drew is certain it will continue to evolve to keep up with consumer trends. Drew began his ag career with Headstart Nursery, while going to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo as a crop science major. Following graduation, he stayed with the company, moving to the Coachella Valley working in the nursery’s desert operation. It was there that he became familiar with Ocean Mist Farms, which has its winter production program

there. It was in the early 2000s when Drew joined Sea Mist Farms, a production affiliate of Ocean Mist Farms. There he learned about farming by doing it. He was educated in every aspect of crop production, with a focus on the importance of producing that crop at a very efficient cost. Drew stayed in production for about a dozen years before becoming Vice President of Operations in 2016. Today, he admits that he loves the operations side of the business where the emphasis is on finding better and more cost-efficient ways to accomplish all the tasks associated with producing a crop. As he completed his first year as CEO, he noted that it is a much different role with strategic planning being his main focus. “I am looking five, 10, 15 years into the future to make the business better,” he said. “I am an operations-based guy, but I love the challenges associated with this job.” He notes at the top of the list of the challenges are



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all those outside factors—water, labor, regulations—“that keep you up at night.” Drew doesn’t believe those issues are going away, but he does believe that mechanization can offer tools that alter the cost structure to allow California to continue to be the major player in fruit and vegetable production. “California will always play a role,” he said. “Maybe we will produce a little less, but we will still be an important producer.” He does offer that controlled environment agriculture that allows for production closer to population centers definitely deserves his attention. The cost of shipping product across the country continues to rise, which makes greenhouse farming closer to the end user a viable option. “Sure, we’re looking at it,” said the 46-year-old CEO, noting the key to long term survival is to be nimble and adapt to change very quickly. “We’ve seen consumption of fresh vegetables decline a bit in recent years. We have to look at consumer trends.” Consumers want their vegetables delivered in new ways that are easier and take less time to prepare. Many consumers are no longer looking for a head of lettuce or three romaine hearts packed in a sleeve. More and more consumers want their vegetables delivered in a value-added option and Drew said the industry must meet that demand. He

believes the snacking trend is also here to stay and new products must be developed to fill that need. While California is still where Ocean Mist sources most of its production, the company does grow in Mexico. And Drew said the state’s water situation has also caused the grower-shipper to switch its shoulder season lettuce production from Huron in the San Joaquin Valley to the Oxnard district in Ventura County. For most of its 75 year history, Ocean Mist Farms and its leaders have been closely involved with Western Growers. Drew indicated that during this year of transitioning to CEO he wasn’t able to get involved with the organization as much as he would like to in the future. But Ocean Mist is a strong supporter of the association, as well as the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology. Drew is convinced that the agtech movement will offer solutions to some of the most vexing issues. “We are at a turning point in our industry, and we do need to be more collaborative to solve some of our problems.” He said the Pacific Ocean, which is not too far from the Ocean Mist Farms corporate office, is a great reservoir that should be tapped to help water our crops. He noted that Monterey County has a program in which treated water is used to irrigate crops and he believes desalinization of ocean water also offers potential.

WESTERN GROWERS OFFICERS – 2022 ALBERT KECK, Chair STUART WOOLF, Vice Chair NEILL CALLIS, Treasurer DON CAMERON, Executive Secretary DAVE PUGLIA, President & CEO DIRECTORS – 2022 GEORGE J. ADAM Innovative Produce, Santa Maria, California ALEXANDRA ALLEN Main Street Produce, Santa Maria, California KEVIN S. ANDREW Illume Agriculture, Bakersfield, California ROBERT K. BARKLEY Barkley Ag Enterprises LLP, Yuma, Arizona STEPHEN J. BARNARD Mission Produce, Inc., Oxnard, California BARDIN E. BENGARD Bengard Ranch, Salinas, California LOREN BOOTH Booth Ranches, Orange Cove, California GEORGE BOSKOVICH III Boskovich Farms, Oxnard, California RODNEY BRAGA Braga Ranch, Soledad, California NEILL CALLIS Turlock Fruit Company, Turlock, California DON CAMERON Terranova Ranch, Inc., Helm, California EDWIN A. CAMP D. M. Camp & Sons, Bakersfield, California CAROL CHANDLER Chandler Farms LP, Selma, California LAWRENCE W. COX Lawrence Cox Ranches, Brawley, California STEPHEN F. DANNA Danna Farms, Inc., Yuba City, California JOHN C. D’ARRIGO D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of California, Salinas, California THOMAS DEARDORFF II Deardorff Family Farms, Oxnard, California SAMUEL D. DUDA Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Inc., Salinas, California CATHERINE A. FANUCCHI Tri-Fanucchi Farms Inc., Bakersfield, California DAVID L. GILL Rio Farms, King City, California BRANDON A. GRIMM Grimmway Farms, Arvin, California JOHN JACKSON Beachside Produce, LLC, Nipomo, California A. G. KAWAMURA Orange County Produce, LLC, Fullerton, California ALBERT KECK Hadley Date Gardens, Thermal, California J.P. LABRUCHERIE LaBrucherie Produce, El Centro, California FRANK MACONACHY Ramsay Highlander, Inc., Gonzales, California JOHN S. MANFRE Frank Capurro and Son, Moss Landing, California STEPHEN MARTORI III Martori Farms, Scottsdale, Arizona HAROLD MCCLARTY HMC Farms, Kingsburg, California TOM MULHOLLAND Mulholland Citrus, Orange Cove, California ALEXANDER T. MULLER Pasquinelli Produce Co., Yuma, Arizona DOMINIC J. MUZZI, JR. Muzzi Family Farms, LLC, Moss Landing, California THOMAS M. NUNES The Nunes Company, Inc., Salinas, California STEPHEN F. PATRICIO Westside Produce, Firebaugh, California JOHN POWELL JR. Peter Rabbit Farms, Coachella, California RON RATTO Ratto Bros. Inc., Modesto, California CRAIG A. READE Bonipak Produce, Inc., Santa Maria, California ERIC T. REITER Reiter Affiliated Companies, Oxnard, California JOSEPH A. RODRIGUEZ The Growers Company, Inc., Somerton, Arizona WILL ROUSSEAU Rousseau Farming Company, Tolleson, Arizona RYAN TALLEY Talley Farms, Arroyo Grande, California BRUCE C. TAYLOR Taylor Farms California, Salinas, California MIKE WAY Prime Time International, Coachella, California STUART WOOLF Woolf Farming & Processing, Fresno, California ROB YRACEBURU Wonderful Orchards, Shafter, California

NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2022 Chris Drew, President & CEO Ocean Mist Farms


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Regional Advocacy Groups Fill the Gap By Cory Lunde U CLA basketball coaching legend John Wooden once said: “It is amazing how much can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit.” Though this oft-quoted adage has reached cliché-level status, these words carry tremendous truths for the fresh produce industry and speak to the important roles played by organizations of all shapes, sizes and missions in the collective effort to support the grower community.

We all know the story. Western Growers began nearly 100 years ago as a regional association of Imperial Valley growers fighting rate hikes by the Southern Pacific Railroad. In the years since, our organization has developed into a powerful state and national advocate for Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico growers. Even so, our roots remain firmly planted in the local farming communities we were formed to represent. However, the social, economic and political landscape has grown decidedly more complex and challenging in recent years. Similarly, the fresh produce industry has grown in both size and sophistication, which has pushed the boundaries of our member operations beyond our four home states to dozens of growing regions and hundreds of communities across the U.S. and throughout the world. Consequently, it has become increasingly impossible for any single organization to be all things to all its members, Western Growers included. For this reason, the efforts of regional advocacy groups are critical to providing the frontline, nuanced attention that local issues often require. Many times, these battles are parochial; the impacts are limited to the immediate

communities involved. In other instances, local issues can be a harbinger of things to come for the broader agricultural community, as was the case with the so-called “hero pay” pandemic era ordinance passed by the City of Coachella in 2021. By requiring agricultural employers to pay workers an additional $4 per hour for 120 days, the ordinance placed local businesses at a competitive disadvantage during a time when many growers were already reeling from supply chain disruptions and food service shutdowns. Janell Percy, Executive Director of Growing Coachella Valley, a regional organization that fosters local support for agriculture, immediately jumped into action and soon brought Western Growers and the California Fresh Fruit Association into the fray. Concerned that similar ordinances could be passed in other jurisdictions, the three organizations sued the City of Coachella. While the lawsuit was ultimately unsuccessful, it likely deterred similar edicts in other parts of the state. Hero pay is one example of the role regional advocacy groups play in supporting local agricultural businesses. This work is sometimes done independently, other times in tandem with larger organizations like Western Growers. The following is a profile

Janell Percy, Executive Director of Growing Coachella Valley

of several select regional advocacy groups serving our members’ communities: MONTEREY COUNTY Organization: Sustainable Agriculture & Energy (SAGE) About: SAGE is an organization of local stakeholders from the Monterey County agriculture and energy industry who come together to advocate policy and inform citizens about the

“We are committed to ensuring balanced public policy relating to resource use and Climate Action in California.” — John McPherson , SAGE Executive Director



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importance of energy and agriculture to the community. Highlights: SAGE has posted several recent wins locally. SAGE’s ballot initiative ordinance was approved in Monterey County and San Luis Obispo County creating a new fiscal analysis and economic impact report for all municipal ballot measures. Additionally, SAGE successfully advocated against the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District’s buyout attempt of California American Water’s assets. SAGE is also facilitating the inclusion of rural voices and industry input into the Monterey County Climate Action Plan. SANTA BARBARA COUNTY Organization: EconAlliance About: EconAlliance is a cross- industry nonprofit organization that builds awareness, advocacy, support and appreciation for Northern Santa Barbara County key industries and communities. It manages cross-industry initiatives like (e.g., infrastructure, workforce development) and champions the key industry sectors like agriculture that fuel regional economic vitality. Highlights: EconAlliance routinely facilitates forums, webinars and other activities to advance industry and policymaker understanding of key challenges and opportunities facing Santa Barbara County businesses, including an annual “Growing Possibilities” Ag Forum. The most recent Ag Forum was dedicated to technology and innovation. EconAlliance is also bringing a cross-industry and economic perspective to the ongoing Santa Barbara County Regional Climate Collaborative.

“As a cross-industry organization with agriculture as one of its key industry initiatives, EconAlliance can bring advocacy support to Northern Santa Barbara County issues that impact more than just the ag sector. Its Ag Forums celebrate agriculture, educate policymakers and inspire the public to support local agriculture.” — Philip Adam , Vice President, EconAlliance Board of Directors

IMPERIAL COUNTY Organization: COLAB Imperial (The Coalition of Labor, Agriculture & Business) About: COLAB Imperial, which calls attention to key labor, agriculture and business issues in Imperial County, was formed as an advocacy group to lead the reform of local government. COLAB Imperial supports the protection of property rights; promotes business and job creation; advocates for a fiscally responsible local government; and lobbies for environmental legislation based on sound science. Highlights: Each spring, COLAB Imperial hosts a breakfast for the community to learn about the status of the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) and the County of Imperial. The President of the IID Board and the Chairman of the County of Imperial Supervisors are invited to give presentations to the COLAB board and membership.

By their very definition, trade associations and other industry alliances are based on the philosophy that there is strength in numbers. This is certainly true when referring to the collective voice of members within an individual organization. But it is equally true in the context of the interconnected web of local, state and national groups dedicated to defending family farmers. In an era where consumers and policymakers are increasingly disconnected from the source of their food supply, we cannot afford to be solitary in our work as advocates. Instead, as Mr. Wooden might have coached his players, while we may all have different roles to play, we are teammates in a common endeavor. And winning is the only acceptable outcome.

Shelby Trimm, Executive Director, COLAB



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Thinking Outside the Box When COVID started, Steve Brazeel and his team at SunTerra jumped into action to feed the hungry—and they are still firm to that commitment today. By Ann Donahue “W hen I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me: ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” OK, yes, it’s the quote posted by your aunt every time our country faces a

wholesale,” Brazeel said. “Come to find out that we were significantly more reliant on the foodservice market than we ever thought we were. As it turns out, a lot of the processors we sold to, the end user was foodservice. So we got hammered just like other people did.” In the endless TV watching of that era, Brazeel remembers seeing U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue unveil a program that would become a win across the board for growers, distributors and consumers. Little did Brazeel know at that time that it would also be the start of the company’s own charitable endeavor that would change lives. SunTerra’s Project FoodBox was born out of the company’s participation in that program Perdue introduced, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families Food Box program. As part of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program announced in April 2020, the agency purchased and distributed agricultural products to those in need. Through five rounds of funding, $6 billion in fresh produce, dairy, meat products and seafood were bought from American growers and ranchers for distribution, and close to 175 million boxes were distributed across the country. The funding for the Farmers to Families Food Box Program ended in May 2021. But for Brazeel, it was immediately obvious that the need for fresh produce in disadvantaged communities didn’t have an end date. That’s when the Costa Mesa, Calif.-based company established Project FoodBox, which continues the mission of the Farmers to Families program by sourcing, packing and distributing boxes of fresh produce to those in need.

Its success is undeniable. Since it began, SunTerra’s Project FoodBox/Farmers to Families Program has delivered 3.3 million boxes to communities nationwide—that translates to 71 million pounds of food and 85 million meals. One of the keys to Project FoodBox is its efficiency. The produce is harvested directly from local farms to the food boxes, and then the food boxes are taken directly to the non-profit organization or faith- based community partner to distribute directly to their client base that is in need of nutritious food. It was a supply chain tested by the logistic pressures and erratic deadlines of the early days of COVID, Brazeel said. “Under the USDA’s program, once they made the announcement we had one week to come up with a proposal,” Brazeel said. “So during that week we had to reach out to non-profits, come up with a box menu of what we intended to do, come up with a weekly distribution plan and schedule for, you know, April to the end of the year…and my very first thought was ‘I don’t know anybody at a food bank. I don’t know anybody at a non-profit. I don’t even know where to begin.’” Thanks to introductions from Orange County Produce Owner/Partner A.G. Kawamura, Brazeel soon was in contact with the Orange County Food Bank and Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County. “I introduced myself and asked if we could put together a proposal…and he said he would need like 20 truckloads weekly,” Brazeel said. “And I was thinking, ‘This poor guy. He must be thinking pickup truck type loads here.’ So I go, ‘You know, big trucks. Like 18 wheelers.’ And he says: ‘I know what you’re talking about. We can do 20 trucks.’”

challenge. But the sentiment still resonates for a reason—Mr. Rogers knew his stuff. Think back to the not-so-distant past, to Spring 2020 when the extent of the COVID pandemic was just starting to reveal itself. “We were all watching the same newsreels,” said Steve Brazeel, Founder and CEO of SunTerra. “Milk getting poured into a ditch, our meat processing plants being shuttered, fields being disked up and fruits and vegetables rotting in the field.” Founded in 2000, SunTerra is a grower and distributor of fresh fruits and vegetables, with distribution centers in central and southern California. With their extensive delivery network, they have supplied every region west of the Mississippi River. “If you asked me before the pandemic what percentage of our business was sold to foodservice, I would have said 25 percent, and then 75 percent to retail and



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Then, amid Brazeel’s shock, he called Second Harvest. And they told him the same thing. Fifteen to 20 truckloads—yes, big trucks—a week. “I live here in Newport Beach,” Brazeel said. “And there is the conception of Orange County and the reality of the situation is very different. In Orange County, they need 40 truckloads…and I haven’t even called anybody else.” Those initial two phone calls did lead to other introductions to organizations dealing with food insecurity in other regions. Within a week, the USDA approved Brazeel’s proposal to deliver food boxes throughout the Southwest U.S., and within another week his team did it—boxes went out to Palm Springs, Imperial Valley, Yuma, Ariz.—even the Navajo Nation and other tribal lands, where they eventually delivered more than 250,000 boxes. “If you remember at the time there was controversy around some contractors maybe not doing the job as well as others,” Brazeel said. “What really separated us was that we took this seriously…we were so grateful. We were so thankful for the opportunity that we called our team together, and we said: ‘We are going to make these boxes so good, that if any one of us or any one we know open up this SunTerra box, it’s going to be as good as something that they would have chosen at the grocery store.” When the funding for the Farmers to Families Food Box officially ended in May 2021, there was no doubt that Brazeel and his team would find a way to continue the program. Between the relationships forged

during the peak of the pandemic and the efficiencies developed to meet high- pressure, quick-turnaround demand for product, Project Food Box was here to stay as part of the SunTerra Family. “It was like we shoved 10 years’ worth of innovation in a one-year period,” Brazeel said. But, above and beyond that, it was just the right thing to do. Project FoodBox was born and now operates with the assistance of The Emergency Food Assistance Program, which is a federal program that helps supplement the diets of low-income Americans by providing food assistance at no cost. “We really made this part of our business and dedicated resources to continuing to do it for two reasons,” Brazeel said.

“One, it was just a really fun thing to do. And secondly, our teams found that we were uniquely qualified to do this type of work. I think that the program really had two phases. The first phase was direct pandemic relief. But within months, it became apparent that it was less about that and more about the nutritional crisis and people in these communities not having access to these fresh fruits and vegetables.” Just remember: Look for the helpers. And know that even after those dramatic times of pressing crisis—the best helpers will stick around. To learn more about how to partner with Project FoodBox, please visit projectfoodbox.org/join-the-project/

Steve Brazeel with Mark Lowry, Director of the OC Food Bank



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Putting the ‘Heal’ in Health Care At the Food Bank for Monterey County, working with the agricultural community is the best way to meet the community’s nutrition needs.

By Ann Donahue F or Melissa Kendrick, the CEO and Executive Director of the Food Bank for Monterey County, her mission is two-fold. Like every food bank, the organization strives to end hunger in the community—and in Monterey County, this is a pressing issue, as it is estimated that one in three children and one in four adults are affected by food scarcity. The number of food insecure clients reached by the food bank are now quadruple what they were pre-COVID. That, believe it or not, is the easier problem for the food bank to solve. An established infrastructure exists—a COVID-tested supply chain, at that—to get food from the fields to those who need it most. The more difficult issue is the one that requires educational outreach alongside these logistics. “It’s not just important that we feed people,” Kendrick said. “It’s also important what we feed people.” Kendrick and her team want to transform the health of the community through good

nutrition. And that, she said, is a much more complicated long-term issue than beating hunger. “We have sick care here, not health care, and we have no preventative medicine,” Kendrick said of society’s overarching attitude towards wellbeing. That needs to change, and the best way to do so is a straightforward solution, especially in an area as agriculturally blessed as Monterey County. “Preventative medicine, first and foremost, is food,” she said. It’s time, in other words, to put the ‘heal’ in health care. More national media attention has recently been drawn to this issue as a result of the Sept. 28 White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health. During that event, President Joe Biden unveiled a National Strategy that outlined actions the federal government will take to address these issues. This strategy, coming right before the behind-the-scenes wrangling begins in earnest over the next Farm Bill, represents a pivotal moment for well- intended policies to become action.

“Calling it the Farm Bill is such a misnomer because it really is the Nutrition Bill,” Kendrick said. Making national-level politics applicable at the local level is one of the biggest challenges for those who work in the non-profit sector. It’s no secret that the most tender-hearted in society are drawn towards working at charities—but for Kendrick, good deeds can’t come at the expense of good sense. Before joining the Food Bank for Monterey County, Kendrick worked in the for-profit world in the technology sector. “I’m very pragmatic,” she said. “In high tech, we deployed design thinking. I’m always looking at numbers—the ways that we could reduce costs and spending on anything else that would make us more productive.” In her current role, the math is simple to solve one of the community’s biggest problems: Growers + Food Bank = Good Nutrition. The Food Bank has deep roots in

From left: Several health programs address diseases often associated with poverty. For example, the Pediatric Diabetes program is weekly nutrition education paired with weekly groceries for unique dietary concerns. The Breast Cancer assistance group program delivers healthy groceries for women and their families while they are going through treatment. Right: The fleet of refrigerated vehicles.



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the agricultural industry of the region; current members of the Board of Directors include De Ann Davis, Western Growers’ Senior Vice President, Science; Tama Bistrian, the Chief Accounting Officer at Taylor Fresh Foods; and Board Treasurer Bill Kirmil, a veteran private label food broker. The Western Growers members that have donated to the bank include Taylor Farms, Driscoll’s, Wish Farms, and the Tanimura Family. “We can go from being one of the most unhealthiest communities to one of the healthiest communities and we can do this because we are part of this phenomenal ag community,” Kendrick said. Produce box all locally grown by BIPOC first-generation farmers

The Food Bank for Monterey County serves 160,000 residents each month.

The Food Bank for Monterey County is the sole source of food and fresh produce that supports 160 non-profit partners in the region. The organization operates over 240 distribution sites, which stock emergency pantries and meal programs that feed more than 10,000 people— including children, seniors, veterans, and the homeless—each week. According to Kendrick, the key to this was to mimic the operations of the agricultural titans in the Salinas Valley, who know a thing or two about keeping produce fresh for as long as possible throughout the supply chain. The Food Bank’s facility is AIB certified and includes cold-storage

capabilities and a fleet of trucks. But besides being a vital part of the organization’s supply chain, these distribution sites are doing double duty. Not only do the employees at the locations make sure produce gets in the hands of the neediest clients, the workers also have an opportunity to interact and educate about nutrition and the availability of healthy choices. It is the most grassroots kind of preventative care available, and it is urgently needed. Currently 50 percent of residents in Monterey County are diabetic or pre-diabetic, a diagnosis that often occurs in tandem with insufficient access

From left: The Food Bank has a cooler of 45,000 square feet so they can recover all produce and take all donations. They have an extensive produce recovery program, ready and able to assist in the implementation of SB1383 including record keeping. 720 solar panels defray cost of the cooler. Right: An additional 55,000 square feet of dry storage.



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Another first-generation farmer who grows with her two daughters for the Food Bank.

One of the first-generation organic farmers growing for the mobile produce truck.

to healthy food. It’s an avalanche of medical management for many of these patients; those trying to manage their conditions who are food insecure were often already struggling to find healthy options in the first place. According to the Food Bank, Monterey County ranks highest among all 58 counties in California in food insecurity and the incidence of Type 2 diabetes. A study from the University of California, San Francisco provided the numbers and the cold hard facts that motivate Kendrick and her team. In the UCSF study, it detailed that 33 percent of hospitalizations in the county are related to complications from Type 2 diabetes; the number rises to 47 percent in the most marginalized areas of Monterey County. The magnitude of the problem can seem daunting. But having this kind of data allows the Food Bank for Monterey County to tackle the most important step in hunger reduction and nutrition education: meeting people where they are. Besides interactions at the distribution centers, there are two programs run by the food bank that highlight the proactive approach about nutrition that Kendrick believes is so vital. The Food Bank’s Family Market Program runs from April through October and provides fresh produce and daily goods to the organization’s service population. The food that is distributed consists of locally-grown produce including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, celery, leeks, lettuce, Portobello mushrooms, scallions and strawberries. Families are able to self-select food they like and need

Mario (center) runs the mobile produce program covering 3,700 square miles encompassing all of Monterey County. He’s standing with two members of the Monterey Bay Union Professional Soccer team volunteering at one of the school mobile produce markets paired with the healthy free food truck.

from the bountiful available options; there are no pre-packaged bags. Each market serves 200-400 people and each household receives approximately 50-100 lbs. of food. And, much like the Food Bank’s distribution center, it serves a dual purpose. The Family Market provides an ideal venue to receive information on nutrition as well as health and human services programs available to low-income Monterey County residents. In addition, thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Kubota Tractor Corporation, the food bank is now building a community farm. Named the 5-Acre Farm, the goal is to create hands-on experiences for students in the Salinas Valley to see the connection between food, nutrition and

community. Teaching children the value of healthy eating when they are young will, hopefully, create a throughline to good health that will last the rest of their lives. “We think about where the money is going in the United States, where resources are wasted to unnecessary hospitalizations,” Kendrick said. “At the end of the day, we are the largest medicine cabinet for this community.” If you or your company are interested in working with the Food Bank of Monterey County, please contact CEO & Executive Director Melissa Kendrick at mkendrick@ food4hungry.org.



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Q&A: Sen. Alex Padilla By Tim Linden

Sen. Padilla was first elected to the Los Angeles City Council in 1999, serving for seven years. He also served in the California State Senate and as California Secretary of State before being appointed to the U.S. Senate in 2021. He was on the November ballot to both complete the current term and serve a full term.

Give us a thumbnail sketch of your background? My parents arrived in California from different regions of Mexico in the 1960s with little formal education, but a tremendous work ethic and big dreams. They met in Los Angeles, fell in love, decided to get married and applied for green cards. I am forever grateful for their decision to pursue the American Dream. For 40 years, my father worked as a short-order cook. Hard work. Honest work. Union work. And as he’ll proudly tell you, his kitchen never failed an inspection. For those same 40 years, my mom worked tirelessly as a housekeeper. Together, they raised my sister, my brother and me in a modest three-bedroom house in the proud, working- class community of Pacoima in the San Fernando Valley. It was there that my parents taught us about the values of service to others and of getting a good education. On weekends, we were often at park clean-ups and other neighborhood service projects. Today, my sister, my brother and I all work in public service. What event/accomplishment has been the highlight of your political career? Was there a seminal event that led you to a career in public service? When I was in school, I never thought I would run for elected office. After graduating from Los Angeles public schools, I attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where I earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering. As a student, I was working towards a career in the aerospace industry. At the same time a recession was hitting in the early 1990s, Prop 187 in California created an atmosphere of antagonism toward my community. I could not believe how immigrants—people like my parents who proudly worked hard in pursuit of the American Dream— were being demonized and scapegoated for the financial problems of our state government. I realized my community needed a stronger political voice. I became politically active, working on campaigns, serving as a field representative for my federal and state representatives, and ultimately running for office myself. At the age of 26, I was elected to represent the community I grew up in on the Los Angeles City Council. My story is not unique. The hateful rhetoric around Prop 187 encouraged many Latinos to become politically active. Is Congress as dysfunctional as it appears to the average citizen who holds the institution in such low regard today?

This Congress has proven it is still possible to get big things done and address major challenges facing our country, both when Republicans choose to work with Democrats as well as when they refuse. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will deliver long overdue, historic investments in rebuilding America’s infrastructure—including its water infrastructure— while creating millions of good-paying jobs. The law also includes the Power On Act , bipartisan legislation I introduced with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) to invest $5 billion in electric grid resiliency. Once-in-a-generation weather events are now becoming a regular occurrence in California, Texas and across the nation. We need to harden the nation’s electrical grid to prevent shutoffs and better withstand extreme weather events and natural disasters, like wildfires, extreme heat and freezing, and droughts. The FIRE Act —my bill to strengthen the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) wildfire preparedness and response efforts—passed unanimously out of the Senate. Protecting our communities from the destruction of wildfires can and should be a bipartisan priority, so I was proud to see the success of this legislation.

Sen. Padilla during his Little League days



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B. Drought Relief: Since I joined the Senate, I’ve made addressing this historic drought a major priority. I’ve consistently met with agricultural groups, water users, Western Senators, and administration officials, including Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton, who were recently in California meeting with local leaders on this issue. I have worked closely with my Senate colleagues to ensure both the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act build on California’s climate leadership and prioritize support for drought and wildfire resiliency–two of the biggest challenges facing California right now. The Inflation Reduction Act provides $4 billion to address historic drought in the West, including for inland water bodies like the Salton Sea and for bolstering the resiliency of the Colorado River Basin and watersheds up and down California experiencing extreme drought. It also includes $5 billion to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, support more fire-resilient forests, expand forest

While we always look to find common ground when we can, I’m also proud of the many priorities that Democrats moved forward this Congress, even when Republicans refused to join us. We passed significant legislation to lower costs for families, including health care and energy costs, and boost our economy and small businesses as we recover from the COVID- 19 pandemic. We provided long overdue funding to improve drought resilience in Western states and mitigate the risk of catastrophic wildfires. Agriculture has many issues of grave concern; can you please weigh in on the following issues: A. Immigration Reform: Our immigration laws are outdated and in need of reform. They do not meet the needs of our economy, including the agricultural sector. That is why the very first bill I introduced when I came to the Senate was the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act . My bill would provide a path to citizenship for those who have served on the frontlines of the COVID-

19 pandemic. This includes farmworkers who tirelessly work the fields so that we can have food on our tables and who play a vital role in keeping our supply chains functioning. As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety, I continue to reach out across the aisle to my Senate colleagues about where bipartisan progress can be made. We have bipartisan solutions just sitting in front of us waiting to be passed, so that we uphold our nation’s values and strengthen our economy. Sadly, Republicans in Congress aren't interested in real solutions—they refuse to take the votes necessary to move the needle forward on immigration reform. They would rather engage in fear mongering about the border than work in good faith. It’s a pattern repeated by Republicans because it is politically convenient for them. Meanwhile, we have workforce shortages and gaps across this country that go beyond the agricultural industry and are affecting millions of Americans.

Sen. Padilla at Del Bosque Farms in 2021



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