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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