NO V E M B E R | D E C E M B E R 2 0 2 1

Behind the Greens: Prime Time Looks to Tech for Solutions

Pictured: Mark Nickerson Prime Time International


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W E S T E R N G R O W E R & S H I P P E R

6 The Farmworkers Behind the Greens 10 Meet Your Future Volunteer Leaders – Grant Talley 12 WG Celebrates 95th Anniversary: Adaptation Key to Longevity 14 Arizona Working on Water Solutions 16 A Podcast for the Agtech Masses: Voices of the Valley 20 Vic Smith to be Honored at OGS 22 Focus on Philanthropy: Building Marian Regional Medical Center’s Crisis Stabilization Unit

DEPARTMENTS 4 President’s Notes 18 California Government Affairs 26 Member Welcome & Anniversaries 28 What’s Trending 30 Science 32 Agriculture & the Law 38 Western Growers Assurance Trust 40 Trade Practices 42 Innovation 46 Update from the WGCIT 48 Connections 49 Contact Us 50 Inside Western Growers

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

To enhance the competitiveness and profitability of Western Growers members

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

Editor Tim Linden Champ Publishing 925.258.0892 | tlinden@wga.com Contributors Cory Lunde 949.885.2264 | clunde@wga.com Stephanie Metzinger 949.885.2256 | smetzinger@wga.com Ann Donahue 949.302.7600 | adonahue@wga.com Production Diane Mendez 949.885.2372 | dmendez@wga.com Circulation Marketing 949.885.2248 | marketing@wga.com Advertising Sales Dana Davis Tyger Marketing 302.750.4662 | danadavis@epix.net

43 AgMonitor: Data is Great, but Answers Are What Really Matter 45 WGCIT SPONSOR: Prime Time Interested in Varietal Research



Western Grower & Shipper ISSN 0043-3799, Copyright © 2021 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.



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About the “California Exodus” By Dave Puglia, President and CEO, Western Growers Raise your hand if you know someone who has moved out of California in the last several years. I see a lot of hands out there.

It should be readily apparent to all that in a state with a growing population (albeit less robustly) requiring more public services, leaders ought to be worried about— and act to reverse—an annual flight of those among us who pay the taxes necessary to fund increasing public service demands. Yet that isn’t what we’re seeing and hearing. Sure, in Sacramento there has been renewed talk about doing something to reduce the high housing costs that motivate so many to leave but building houses in California is incredibly expensive and there is no real push to address the environmental and other regulatory cost drivers that discourage new home construction. If anything, California’s political and social elites are insistent that the state is as attractive as ever to those seeking opportunity. It is simply unbelievable to them to hear, as they do from so many advocates of the state’s agriculture industry, that while farmland can’t be moved to another state or country, the capital that drives farm production and expansion can move away, and is moving away, due to a multitude of factors, including several that are purely a function of the state’s regulatory climate. The question again: Is California experiencing an exodus? Maybe it’s a matter of semantics, but for most of us there is no question that the number of people in our professional and social circles who have left or are committed to leaving soon has increased in recent years. At what point do the consequences become so apparent and grave that there is no longer any point arguing over data sets and semantics, and instead get about the hard work of resetting the state’s regulatory philosophy? • • • Now a word about someone who will not be among those to quit on California. In fact, even as California’s policies made farming so much more challenging, Carol Chandler chose to step forward as an advocate for sound agriculture policy and for recognition of this industry’s incredible contributions to her home state. Carol’s legacy of activism and engagement, not only in agriculture policy but also in higher education and more, serves as inspiration to countless others. Carol Chandler, recipient of the 2021 Western Growers Award of Honor, truly represents the best of California.

Over the last year or so, there has been an interesting bit of back-and-forth over whether California is in the middle of an “exodus,” more specifically a quickening flight of people who work in our businesses and pay taxes. The debate starts with a sharp disagreement on that question, which sort of precludes the next and more critical series of questions as to the factors that motivate people to quit California. There are some indisputable facts, however, that ought to cause the elected leadership of the Golden State to reflect with objectivity on the role of public policy choices made over many years and the choices that can be made now. The 2020 census showed California with a 6.1 percent increase in population during the decade prior, which continues a longer-term trend of slowing population growth here. But a more focused look on migration between California and the other 49 states sheds light on the debate as to whether there is, in fact, an exodus from California underway. The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), a non- partisan think tank, reported that during the last decade, California lost about four times as many people with less than a bachelor’s degree as it gained in people with at least a bachelor’s degree. Similarly, PPIC researchers noted that the state lost nearly five times as many low- and middle-income adults as it gained in higher income adults. This suggests a concerning flight of the state’s available workforce for many critical jobs. But wait, there’s more! The state’s non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), an arm of the state Legislature, reviewed Internal Revenue Service data and found additionally concerning trends in the last decade. The first is that the state is experiencing a long-term, and recently elevated, flight of taxpayers to other states. From 2017 to 2019, the net outflow of tax filers from California ranged between 150,000 and 175,000 each year. In a seeming contrast to PPIC, the LAO researchers concluded that the flight of taxpayers from California is “most pronounced among older and more affluent residents.” They also found that the segment of taxpayers most likely to have kids at home (age 35-44) had the “highest net outflows” of taxpayers.



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The Farmworkers Behind the Greens

By Stephanie Metzinger C arefully hauling ladders from tree to tree, ninja-like workers skillfully scale up and down the tallest of palm trees to cut down bagged bundles with a machete-sized curved knife. These laddermen, called Palmeros, are the magic behind the harvest of the illustrious honey-flavored Medjool and Deglet Noor dates. “A lot of people think of agriculture as an unskilled, low-wage job. That’s not the case here,” said Albert Keck, President of Hadley Date Gardens, in a recent social media video on date harvesting. “Being a Palmero requires a lot of strength and skill and also awareness of safety. On top of that, they have to do a quality job to bring in a quality crop. It takes a unique individual who is very strong with a strong work ethic, and I consider that all very skilled.” He continued: “These workers are all very skilled and they earn very good wages.” Palmeros are representative of the type of knowledge, precision and skill farmworkers possess across all crop types. For example, in Orange Cove, farmworkers use clippers as a second pair of hands to quickly harvest easy-peel mandarins. They move from tree to tree, oftentimes harvesting so quickly that you will only see a glimmer of the orange-colored fruit fall through the leaves. In Salinas, crews of workers move together as one traversing the

fields, swiftly cutting heads of romaine faster than one can count. By providing entry-level and skilled jobs for immigrants seeking to take the first step on the “American Economic Ladder,” the agriculture industry plays a positive role in the lives of migrant families and immigrant communities. Immigrants travel from Mexico and other countries looking for higher-paying opportunities that will allow them to utilize their skills while building a secure future for their families; agriculture provides that pathway for success. In addition to jobs, agricultural employers also offer a range of employee benefits to their farmworkers, including health coverage, paid time off (PTO) and company-paid retirement plans. The gateway to success for these loyal, dedicated farmworker food heroes does not just stop at fringe benefits and job possibilities. Farmers are dedicated to advancing the professional and personal development of their workers and prioritize growth opportunities among their workforce. Stories of career progression for field workers are commonplace among Western Growers membership. Below are just a few examples of real advancements made by real farmworkers. (Editor’s Note: Some quotes were translated from Spanish to English. )

Anibal Escobar | Talley Farms Working in the field allowed Anibal Escobar to pay for his education and graduate from college. Now he serves as Director of Compliance and Ground Operation Manager for Talley Farms, overseeing the farm’s food safety and employee safety programs. “I immigrated to the United States in 1997 when I was 14 years old. I started working in agriculture because all of my family worked in agriculture,” Escobar said. “Working in the fields gave me the opportunity to finish my school because I paid for my education by working in the fields. I worked for the Napa crew for five years while I was in college. I am very grateful to Talley Farms who gave me the opportunity to start my career here. Now I oversee food safety, employee safety and other aspects for the company.”



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Benita Ruiz | Mulholland Citrus A 25-year Mulholland Citrus veteran, Benita Ruiz was promoted to Crew Lead/Nursery Manager 10 years ago. “We decided to promote from within because Benita was really the perfect person. She had all the expertise and leadership skills we were looking for,” said Heather Mulholland, Chief Operating Officer at Mulholland Citrus. Since being placed in charge of her crew, Ruiz has gained the respect of her team and has excelled beyond expectations.

“I had to gain the respect of a lot of people because they were not used to a woman giving them orders. At the beginning it was difficult, but over the years I have been gaining the respect of my co-workers. Now we have created a great team. I feel very happy and grateful to be working here at this job and that I have been given the opportunity to perform this work ,” Ruiz said.

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Alfredo Lopez | Bowles Farming Company, Inc. Since starting at Bowles Farming Company as a tractor driver in 2001, Alfredo Lopez’s career growth has mirrored the company’s growth. As the company expanded to more crops and explored new technologies, Lopez advanced from mechanic to foreman—dabbling in everything from welding to testing new equipment and technology. He is now the Equipment Operation Supervisor.

“I came to this company in March 2001, and I began working on the tractor. During that time, this company only grew cotton and alfalfa, so there were not many job opportunities. But the company was growing and there were some people here who gave me more opportunities like Cannon (Michael) and the family. They have a lot of respect for their workers,” Lopez said. “When they released new technology, there were more opportunities for people, and that ’s when they offered me the chance to help with their tractors. As each day passes, I want to learn more and do the best possible job. All the people around here feel very protected and grateful that the company is growing,”

Angel Gutierrez | Church Brothers Farms Angel Gutierrez started off driving trucks in the field for Church Brothers Farms, and, throughout the years, has been offered numerous growth opportunities within the company. More than 10 years later, he now runs the entire trucking and maintenance program for the farm.

“Church Brothers has shown me that they care about me by listening to my ideas. They listen to me, and they acknowledge everything we do. This family-owned company has shown me that I am part of their family by letting me grow with them,” Gutierrez said.



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Grant Talley Production Manager, Talley Farms

Grant started spending summers working at his family farm at 12 years old. After high school, he attended Regent University in Virginia where he received his Bachelor of Science in business. After spending some time in Los Angeles, Grant moved home to join the family business. Grant is currently overseeing the growing and irrigation at Talley Farms. He is a board member of the San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau. Journey with Grant through the images below as he shares a little bit more about his life.

“ This is our family at the last Western Growers Annual Meeting in Hawaii. Everyone makes this trip a priority. It’s one of the reasons why my mom loves my dad being a part of Western Growers. ” “ This is a group of us this summer at Mt. Whitney portal, where we officially finished our 226-mile backpacking trip. ”

“ My buddies and me in Scottsdale for a long weekend full of golf and going to bed early. ” “ My dad, brothers and I all enjoy fly-fishing so we try to go at least once a year. My No. 1 rule is that I only fish on rivers that have fish. I’m not a fan of throwing a line at water for five hours. ”

“ Skiing is an annual family tradition. Here’s my brother, dad, grandma and me at Northstar. We have to keep our eye out for Ol’ Granny. She’s trouble on the slopes! ” pretending like I’m harvesting for a promo that never happened. So now I get to use it! ” “ One of the main things that we grow is cilantro. This is me

*Grant is one of nine individuals selected to be in Class 6 of the Future Volunteer Leaders, a program that guides the next generation of leaders within Western Growers member companies interested in becoming more informed and effective advocates for the fresh produce industry.



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Western Growers Celebrates 95th Anniversary: Adaptation Key to Longevity

I t has long been told that Western Growers began its life as the Western Growers Protective Association on March 9, 1926, to represent the interests of shippers of western produce before the Interstate Commerce Commission.

help these grower-shippers focus on their core business of farming, ranging from union negotiations to dispute resolution to insurance services to legal representation. It has collectively established cutting-edge research on crop production, consumer marketing and high-tech farming. Western Growers history mirrors the changes growers have had to make over the years and is a testament to the resiliency of the western produce industry. The association’s significant milestones are too numerous to list—and in fact, the list covers a wall at WG headquarters in Irvine, Calif. On these two pages, we list a number of those highlights emblematic of the adaptability of Western Growers and its members.

The ICC was created in 1887 by the U.S. Congress to regulate railroad carriers and the rates they charge. But there were constant disagreements over rates, weights, icing charges and a host of other issues involving shipping product from source to market. Shippers determined that they had to unite for equal representation. Many ad hoc groups were formed before WGPA was established to offer a powerful and united voice. While this specific transportation issue was the catalyst for the formation of the association, WGPA steadily moved into new arenas, establishing a non-stop list of programs and services to benefit its membership. These services and programs have been added and dropped over the years, reflecting the needs of a dynamic industry and a changing universe. Over the years, Western Growers has been a consistent voice for western producers in the legislative halls of Washington D.C. as well as in the state governments in which its members farm. It has added services to



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1928: Advertising campaign is launched to educate Eastern buyers of the value of “iceberg” lettuce grown in the West. 1930s: WG members head to D.C. to lobby on behalf of the establishment of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act. WG representatives have been going to D.C. for many years, with their CEO spending weeks there at a time during World War II to represent agriculture. 1942: Name is changed to Western Growers Association 1945: WG launches a Research Department to undertake a study on pre- packaging for grower-shippers. The department got involved in many areas including the relative merits of fresh vs. frozen produce. 1946: WG establishes a lab in Pasadena staffed by a biochemist, two plant pathologists and a physiologist. The program also supported a consumer relations campaign. 1957: Western Growers Assurance Trust is launched to provide health and accident insurance to Teamsters. The insurance programs offered would multiply over the years and cover many different aspects of a grower-shipper’s operation. 1966: PACA Dispute Resolution Department is established. 1967: Western Growers Pension Trust is established to provide retirement income to union workers. 1970s: WG was instrumental in launching research programs for many commodities, including tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, melons and strawberries. It managed four of those programs for many years. 1972: Western Growers Legal Assistance Department is established with 17 lawyers across the state providing legal services, especially in the labor dispute arena, to members. 1972: Western Growers Political Action Committee gets involved in advocating for individual candidates for the first time. 1973: Western Growers sponsors its first fresh produce trade show in a foreign country (Japan). WG would participate in and sponsor many export efforts over the next 25 years. 1980: Government Affairs office is opened in Sacramento. Phoenix office is opened five years later and a dedicated Washington D.C. office is opened in 2007. 1995: Western Growers develops and releases first-ever best agricultural practices guide. 2001: WG launches a Science & Technology Department. 2002: WG launches School Garden program. 2006: The Western Growers Transportation Program is launched to address rising rates and truck shortages. 2015: Colorado is added as third state under the WG umbrella. New Mexico would be added several years later. 2015: The Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology is established to help bring high-tech solutions to the agricultural space. 2016: Western Growers Family of Companies consolidates more than 300 employees in four buildings to one headquarters location in Irvine.

WESTERN GROWERS OFFICERS – 2021 RYAN TALLEY, Chairman ALBERT KECK, Senior Vice Chair STUART WOOLF, Vice Chair CAROL CHANDLER, Treasurer VICTOR SMITH, Executive Secretary DAVE PUGLIA, President & CEO DIRECTORS – 2021 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 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 FRANZ W. DE KLOTZ Peter Rabbit Farms, Coachella, 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, Irvine, 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 Muzzi Family Farms, LLC, Moss Landing, California MARK NICKERSON Prime Time International, Coachella, California THOMAS M. NUNES The Nunes Company, Inc., Salinas, California STEPHEN F. PATRICIO Westside Produce, Firebaugh, 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 VICTOR SMITH JV Smith Companies, Yuma, Arizona RYAN TALLEY Talley Farms, Arroyo Grande, California BRUCE C. TAYLOR Taylor Farms California, Salinas, California STUART WOOLF Woolf Farming & Processing, Fresno, California ROB YRACEBURU Wonderful Orchards, Shafter, California



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Arizona Legislator Working on Long-Range Water Solutions

By Tim Linden W hen water officials for the federal government revealed in mid-August that, for the first time in history, there will be a cutback in water deliveries to Arizona starting January 1, many people saw dark skies ahead. But not everyone. “We had planned for it,” said Arizona State Representative Tim Dunn of Yuma. “That’s why we had the Drought Contingency Plan and it’s why we have been water banking for many years. Arizona planned for this day.” Rep. Dunn said the groundwater replenishment that has been going on for years will help Arizona “bridge the gap” while it explores other options. He did note that the shortage is serious and “there is a 42 percent chance that in two years, we will have Tier 3 cutbacks.” The Tier 1 cutbacks will impact Central Arizona farmers in Pinal County most severely as there will be a reduction of 18 percent of the 2.8 million acre feet of water annually delivered to the Central Arizona Water Project from the Colorado River in 2022. The reduction falls more heavily on that project because of prior agreements. Pinal County farmers are typically involved in field crop production as well as dairy farms and cattle ranches. There are few fresh produce crops grown in that region. If drought conditions continue, it has been estimated that Tier 2 cutbacks could come in 2023 followed by Tier 3 reductions in 2024. State Rep. Dunn told Western Grower & Shipper in early October that regardless of the severity of the cutbacks, Arizona needs to continue to look for alternative water sources, just as it has done for years. In fact, Dunn is championing several out-of-the-box ideas. One such idea is tapping flood water from the Mississippi River and building a canal that will take it to Arizona. Dunn admits that this is a far-fetched idea but he said it could have applicability. While it would cost billions in infrastructure, it could save billions in damage caused by Mississippi River flooding that could be averted. He supports the Arizona Legislature asking Congress to fund a study to gauge the viability of such an effort, factoring in potential benefits. Most importantly, he wants to see the light shined on different ideas that can spark new thinking. “Maybe tapping the Mississippi isn’t feasible, but tapping the Snake River might work,” he said advocating the exploration of various potential water supply solutions.

The Yuma representative admitted that any idea of tapping a river hundreds of miles away is a long-term solution that could take decades to complete. He said a concept that could certainly be achieved quicker would be the building of a desalination plant in northern Mexico near the Sea of Cortez. Fresh water from such a facility could either be used by Mexico, thus reducing its need for the Colorado River water it is entitled to, or that water could be transported north to Arizona and blended with other water sources. Again, Dunn believes this is an idea with merit that needs to be explored. In a discussion of the water situation, the legislator rattled off a number of other options that are on the table to either conserve water or find new sources. He said both approaches must be part of the solution. He believes the federal Bureau of Reclamation’s announcement about the mandated cutbacks for the Grand Canyon State have led to a heightened awareness by the populous, which should lead to greater conservation efforts. Rep. Dunn does worry about the public relations challenge for agriculture. He noted that one of his main goals is to protect the interests of agriculture, which is one of the state’s leading industries. “When people hear that agriculture uses 72 percent of all the water in Arizona, they think that is where the cutbacks should come first,” he said. “But they don’t consider that 90 percent of the nation’s winter lettuce comes from Yuma.” He said ag is a big contributor to the state’s economy and he considers it his job to make sure people don’t lose sight of that. “We need to educate folks.” While Dunn said people should “pray for rain” this winter, he also knows that more concrete action must be taken. He believes Arizona farmers will get through 2022 with the reduction in water because, as he mentioned, the state has been planning for this and does have contingency plans. As time goes by, and if further cutbacks are required, he expects summer crops to be fallowed first with field crops initially on the chopping block. He explained that winter production of vegetable crops in Yuma are not in danger of seeing water reductions any time soon. He added that while there is reason to worry about the water situation, he also expressed confidence that Arizona farmers and the Arizona Legislature will find solutions.



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Growing Women Leaders in Agriculture Western Growers (WG) believes that women

are essential to the future of agriculture and recently launched the WG Women program to provide pathways for women to achieve the highest levels of leadership within the industry. As a WG Women participant, individuals are prepared for positions of leadership within not only the WG member companies, but the broader fresh produce industry as well.

Participants of the program have access to a series of ongoing, regionally-based activities aimed at supporting professional growth, including: • Mentorship • Networking • Leadership Development • Advocacy • Community Outreach • Media and Social Media Training


WG Women is a free leadership development program that is open to all Western Growers members. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year. Visit https:// www.wga.com/services/wg-women to learn more.

A Podcast for the Agtech Masses: Voices of the Valley

By Stephanie Metzinger “ The story here from a startup (most valuable product) out to customers as early as possible so you can really define where that product needs to go,” said Bear Flag Robotics CEO and Co-Founder Igino Cafiero in a recent episode of the newly- revamped Voices of the Valley podcast. Voices of the Valley, which is hosted by Western Growers Center for Innovation and Technology (WGCIT), returns for its fifth season with a whole new look and direction. GreenVenus Vice President of Business Development Candace Wilson now joins WGCIT Director Dennis Donohue as a co-host, and each week they are interviewing leading entrepreneurs, perspective is that it’s not about ag or robotics. It’s about getting our MVP innovative farmers and industry analysts to pull back the curtain on all things agriculture and technology. But these aren’t just blue-sky discussions of a hypothetical techno-future—the duo and their guests will cover current innovations being implemented on the farm, the practical application of these inventions, and how to take this information to improve a farm’s bottom line.

This rebranding to a more targeted focus of exploring the real-world impact of innovation is evident in the season’s premiere episode: Rise of the City Bee: Building Urban Bee Farms with Detroit Hives’ Timothy Paule and Nicole Lindsey. “When we started, I think we were just really passionate about our mission, and I think that it shows,” Paule said. “Our story is a unique one. I think people want to hear the story of how we’re using bees to revitalize the city of Detroit.” New episodes air every Tuesday. Upcoming guests include Josette Lewis of the Almond Board of California; Charles Anderson of Burro; Dominic Rossini of Netafim; Aidan Mouat of Hazel Technologies; Bruce Rasa of AgVoice; and Tonya Antle of Organic Grower Summit. To be on the cutting edge of the latest and greatest technologies in agriculture, listen and subscribe to Voices of the Valley. The show is available on all major podcast directories—including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher and Radio Public—by searching for Voices of the Valley or visit www.anchor.fm/voicesofthevalley.

Bottom photo: GreenVenus Vice

President of Business Development Candace Wilson and WGCIT Director Dennis Donohue



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Big 2021 Legislative Successes on Labor By Matthew Allen, Vice President, State Government Affairs The fall season is the perfect time to take a moment to pause and reflect about the state of the agricultural industry over the past two years.

In 2020, our industry faced head-on what seemed at the time to be almost insurmountable challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic. Farmers stoically braced themselves to grapple with lost revenues from the closure of restaurants and schools. They purchased millions of dollars of personal protective equipment to ensure the safety of their workforce. Through it all, farmers remained optimistic; planned for the future and made decisions on how best to manage the changing landscape into 2021. Earlier this year, just as the economy was starting to recover from the pandemic, the intensity of our current drought conditions hit us with unprecedented ferocity. The extreme nature of this drought has led to more fallowing of crops as growers make difficult decisions on how best to manage their operations with depleting water resources. In short, agriculture in California has seen more than its fair share of challenges over the past couple of years. That said, it’s high time for some good news. We have it for you. WG helped to lead a broad advocacy campaign of agricultural and business organizations in the fight against AB 616 which was sponsored by the United Farm Workers (UFW). This bill was the latest attempt by the union to pass card check legislation. Card check had previously been attempted and was vetoed by both Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Governor Jerry Brown. AB 616 was authored by Assemblymember Mark Stone. The author and sponsors made the repeated claim that AB 616 amounted to nothing more than the creation of a mail-in voting process for farmworkers. This was fiction. In practice, the bill would have essentially gutted the fundamental protections in the Agricultural Labor Relations Act that provide the opportunity for farmworkers to express their choice with respect to union representation through a secret ballot election process that is free from undue influence and coercion. Union leaders would be able to utilize a ballot card in lieu of the secret election. Unions could go to an employee’s home, fill out the ballot card for them, have the employee sign the card and then pocket the card for up to 12 months. Furthermore, the union wouldn’t have to approach all employees of an agricultural employer. They could pick and choose who they would ask to fill out the card. This would

be extraordinarily problematic since all employees should remain free to vote their conscience in a secret ballot election where neither the employer nor the union can influence or observe their vote. WG was also heavily opposed to a bonding requirement in the bill that would have required employers to file an appeal bond with the ALRB when appealing make-whole, backpay, and other monetary award orders made by the board. This would be a huge barrier to entry to have the “right” to an appeal. AB 616 passed through the Legislature but was ultimately vetoed by Governor Gavin Newsom. The advocacy of WG members, WG staff and the hard work of allied agricultural organizations were all crucial elements in the ultimate outcome of 616. Another hard-fought win this year was stopping AB 857 by Assembly Member Ash Kalra in the California State Senate. AB 857 was substantially similar bill to SB 1102 that Governor Newsom vetoed last year. AB 857, sponsored by the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, would expand the definition of “voluntary” and “mandated” travel time, as decided by the California Supreme Court in Morillion v. Royal Packing (2000). Passage of AB 857 would lead to great confusion about travel time pay and would inevitably lead to higher costs for our industry at precisely the time that we are in the middle of recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and dealing with the drought. AB 857 is now a two-year bill and might be reconsidered next year. WG will be working closely with our allied partners to advocate against any further movement of this bill through the legislative process. In addition to these wins, several other labor-related bills were held in the Assembly this year. Most notably amongst those is a bill by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez that would increase the required number of paid sick leave days from three to five days. WG played an active role in the coalition to sidetrack this legislation in the Assembly. It’s now a two-year bill. All in all, there were several legislative wins this year on labor. Our industry should be especially proud of all the efforts and countless hours that were spent in opposition to both AB 616 and AB 857.



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Vic Smith to be Honored at OGS

By Tim Linden L ongtime Western Growers Board Member Vic Smith of JV Smith Companies will be honored with the Organic Grower of the Year award at the Organic Grower Summit on Thursday, December 2 in Monterey, Calif. The event, which includes Western Growers as the presenting sponsor, will be held at the Hyatt Regency Dec. 1-2 and will include several educational sessions, keynote addresses, networking social events and a two-day trade show with industry suppliers presenting their latest products to hundreds of organic growers. Smith will receive his well-deserved award during a special general session on Thursday morning. AGCO is the award sponsor and the company’s Director of Marketing Greg Milstead will join the veteran grower on stage to talk about organic farming and Smith’s entry into the organic sector. The longtime grower recently told Western Grower & Shipper that he began his foray into organic crop production a quarter of a century ago at the request of Earthbound Farms. “Earthbound asked us to grow spring mix when they were first getting into that product,” he said. “It must have been 25 or 26 years ago.” The company’s organic acreage started increasing from that year on with Pure Pacific Organics Inc. and Earthbound Farms being two of its most consistent partners on the organic acreage for the past two decades. “It was quite a learning curve, but we were able

to figure it out. As I look back, I realize that growing spring mix was as easy as it got,” he said, indicating that there are a lot more challenges growing other organic crops. Smith said the age-old question, is it more expensive to grow organics has a nuanced answer. “Yes, it is, but how much more depends on the commodity and the location.” He noted that you have to pick your battles wisely. Growing organics in an area or during a period when there is heavy pest pressure is a difficult proposition. He added that timing is also very important, noting that it is very difficult to get a great organic celery crop in the early winter in the desert, for example. That crop must be planted in August, when temperatures are scorching outside. He quipped that any buyers concerned about the quality of celery in December should spend a week with the young plants in the August desert sun and see how well they survive. “Organic celery can thrive in the desert but it’s a January through March crop,” he quipped. Smith revealed that some commodities and locations are tailor- made for the organic effort and do very, very well with no concern about decreased yields. He indicated that the company has become expert at growing organics, and it no longer focuses on the yield vs. return calculations that had to be part of the discussion in the early years. Smith relayed that JV Smith Companies’ growth in the sector



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mirrored the adoption by retailers. In those early years, natural food stores and Whole Foods supplied much of the excitement and sales opportunities. He recalls that when Costco determined it was not going to concede that piece of the pie to those retailers, demand kicked up to another level. It received another boost in Smith’s recollection when the Walmart group decided it wasn’t going to concede those sales to Costco. JV Smith followed suit by increasing its acreage devoted to organics on an annual basis. Initially, the category saw double digit growth. Today, the veteran farmer said there is still sustained growth, but it has moderated because the base has risen significantly. Looking back on the early years, Smith said “I like to think we brought some professional expertise to organic farming in areas such as soil preparation, bed preparation and irrigation techniques. At the same time, we learned a lot about growing a crop. It was amazing what we could achieve using less inputs, and so little nitrogen.” Among the topics that will be explored during OGS are indoor farming, growing and selling organics in the Mexican market, triple net sustainability, agtech in the field, challenges of scaling organic production, organic ag inputs, and marketing prospects and consumer trends for organic produce. Matt Seeley, co-founder and CEO of the Organic Produce Network, which produces OGS, said the organic grower community is enthused about getting together again after having

to take a year off in 2020 because of the restrictions necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic. “We are truly excited that we are able to partner with Western Growers to bring the industry the Organic Grower Summit,” he said. “Western Growers is noted for its emphasis on high tech and we are looking forward to two days of discussing the latest and greatest innovations that can help organic growers achieve success.” Seeley said there is a great lineup of sessions ranging from food safety to new innovations, but surely a highlight of the event will be the presentation of the Grower of the Year award to Smith. “Vic Smith is one of the most innovative and progressive growers in our industry. He is a grower’s grower!” The OPN CEO pointed out that there will be several Western Growers leaders and innovators taking part in the show. He drew particular attention to a session on the challenges of scaling in the organic sector. “We have a dynamic panel with Rod Braga of Braga Fresh Family Farms serving as the moderator. The panel will include organic pioneers from Homegrown Organic Farms (Scott Mabs), Lakeside Organic Gardens (Dick Peixoto) and Del Rey Avocado (Jessica Hunter). All four of these companies have been very successful building robust organic programs. For any grower in the organic space or exploring entry, this is a must-see presentation.” Further information about the show can be found at the show’s website: organicgrowersummit.com

Update your written COVID-19 prevention plan

Continue daily symptom checks for your employees

Train your workers on spread, symptoms, and company policies

Inform your workers of workplace exposures

Make COVID-19 safety part of your seasonal preparation.

Visit aghealth.ucdavis.edu/covid19/wg to protect your employees and your business.



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FOCUS ON PHILANTHROPY: Building Marian Regional Medical Center’s Crisis Stabilization Unit Thanks to the fundraising prowess of several Western Growers members, the Santa Maria hospital improved its capacity to assist those in acute mental health crisis.

By Ann Donahue R ight now, a person having a mental health upheaval—be it suicidal ideation, post-partum depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or extreme anxiety—the first stop will be a trip to the emergency room. If the individual requires additional care from that point, they will likely be forced to travel as far as Ventura or Los Angeles to receive critical and potentially life-saving in-patient treatment. That’s a trip of more than 200 miles away from their support system at the precise time they need to be held close by those who love them. crisis in California’s Santa Maria Valley will have a difficult journey. In the midst of personal This isn’t just a hypothetical situation. The doctors, nurses and staff at Marian Regional Medical Center can provide real-world examples: the nurse who after several emergency room visits had her post-partum depression descend into post-partum psychosis and she started entertaining thoughts of harming her baby; the recent widow kept in the emergency room for 18 hours after suicidal thoughts before being transferred to Ventura via ambulance; the young schizophrenic woman held in the ER for 58 hours before an in-patient bed was located for her in Pasadena. Soon after she was discharged from the Pasadena facility, her auditory hallucinations recurred. “We’re doing everything we can—I don’t want to give you the impression that we’re ignoring them,” said Dr. David Ketelaar, an emergency physician at Marian who is past President of the Center’s medical staff and leads the behavioral health effort at the hospital. “But the right setting for them is private, where you’re addressing the mental health concerns, not in a chaotic emergency department where trauma is happening around them.”

pictured left: George Adam, owner of Innovative Produce and WG board member, on a construction tour of the facility



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For emergency room doctors and nurses, it’s obviously a heartbreaking, frustrating decision to move a patient hours away when what they need most at the time is consistent, comprehensive local care, with access to their family and ongoing neighborhood mental health resources. As things stand now in Santa Maria, there is no standalone unit that can provide stabilization to those in mental health crisis. A minimum of 50 inpatient beds are recommended to serve every 100,000 people; Santa Barbara County has only 4 for every 100,000. But all of that is about to change. Thanks to the fundraising and advocacy efforts of several Western Growers members, Dignity Health’s Marian Regional Medical Center is about to open a 24-hour Crisis Stabilization Unit to support those with mental health needs that can be managed by 18-24 hours of intensive evaluation, therapy and support. “What happened over the years was that the number of persons in crisis and not getting beds in a timely fashion just kept gradually growing,” Ketelaar said. “We needed a different solution to get more

in-patient beds and capacity. My ER colleagues across California and across the country are dealing with the same thing.” And so a solution was developed: establish a short-term crisis care unit that treats the immediate mental health issue and lays the groundwork for long-term community-

based health. The hospital anticipated that once a center was built at Marian, instead of sending patients out of the county, 50-75 percent will be safely discharged home after one day of treatment by specially-trained psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses and support staff in the Crisis Stabilization Unit.

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