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12 INDUSTRY FIRSTS Five Innovative Ag Practices that are Changing the World 16 TRANSPORTATION Adapting to the Changing Market 18 Enhancing Access to Healthy Food 22 From Down Under to the U.S., TracMap Delivers Precision Spray Application 24 Turning Today’s STEM Students into Tomorrow’s Ag Extraordinaires 26 WGCIT SPONSOR Innovation Still Drives Vessey & Co. 28 Agricultural Legal Issues Abound; Labor is Again at the Forefront 32 Western Growers Law Firm Directory 38 Law Firm Committed to Creating “Employers of Choice”
WESTERN GROWER & SHIPPER Published Since 1929
Volume XC Number 5
To enhance the competitiveness and profitability of Western Growers members
Thomas A. Nassif President Western Growers firstname.lastname@example.org Editor Tim Linden Champ Publishing 925.258.0892 email@example.com Contributors Cory Lunde 949.885.2264 firstname.lastname@example.org Chardae Heim 949.885.2279 email@example.com Production Diane Mendez 949.885.2372 firstname.lastname@example.org Circulation Marketing 949.885.2248 email@example.com Advertising Sales Dana Davis Champ Publishing 302.750.4662 firstname.lastname@example.org Stephanie Metzinger 949.885.2256 email@example.com
DEPARTMENTS 4 President’s Notes 6 Director Profile 8 Member Profile 20 Legislator Profile 27 CA Government Affairs 37 Western Growers Assurance Trust
40 Insurance Corner 42
Western Growers Financial Services
44 Agriculture & the Law 45
Western Growers Connections
Science & Technology
Western Grower & Shipper ISSN 0043-3799, Copyright © 2019 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. Single copies ofYearbook issue $4. 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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TOM NASSIF | PRESIDENT AND CEO, WESTERN GROWERS PRESIDENT’S NOTES
Determination, Innovation and Unity In 1908, President Teddy Roosevelt formed the Commission on Country Life to provide recommendations on ways to preserve rural life, which he considered to be the backbone of our nation. At the time, the American economy was in transition, and children were leaving farms for the cities in record numbers. More than 100 years later, agriculture is still grappling with the consequences of this demographic shift.
For context, at the turn of the 20th century, 40 percent of Americans lived on farms and 60 percent lived in rural areas. Today, just 1 percent of the U.S. population lives on farms, with only 20 percent living in rural areas. As a result, the average American has grown increasingly disconnected from the source of their food supply, which has real world implications on the freedom farmers have to operate. My 17 years of service to the produce industry as president and CEO of Western Growers has been marked by a steady erosion of support for farmers, particularly in California, which I believe to be the consequence of a disengaged, uninformed and largely urban populace. This prevailing physical and intellectual detachment from the farm has opened agriculture up to increasingly restrictive public policies. There can be little debate, California farmers face the most hostile, burdensome and expensive legislative and regulatory environment in the country. Liberal legislators and activist regulators have launched an all-out attack on our livelihood, and we are losing ground. In fact, over the past 20 years, the number of farms in the state has declined by 20 percent. Fortunately, this trend is not quite as dramatic in other Western states, with Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico experiencing double-digit growth in the number of farms over the same time period. As a case study, in Arizona we have a generally positive business climate with politicians on both sides of the aisle working together to foster a regulatory system that insists on balance, practicality and predictability. As we see California businesses investing elsewhere, let’s hope the state’s political leaders look to Arizona for inspiration. The positive news is, despite fewer farms and acres in California, produce farmers in the state continue to grow more food with less resources and inputs. In real dollars, California’s produce industry has grown by 66 percent during the past two decades, and now accounts for 60 percent of all fruits, vegetables and tree nuts grown in the United States. This success is not limited to California. Five of the top six produce-producing states are in the West. How do we account for this continued achievement, even when the cards seem to be stacked against our favor? Two
words: dogged determination. Let that phrase sink in for a moment. I believe farmers possess an uncommon vigor, a certain tenacity that allows them to persevere in spite of trying circumstances, and this innate spirit will help ensure the future prosperity of the Western produce industry. Innovation will also help secure the ongoing competitiveness and profitability of the industry. Like the Green Revolution of the 1950s and 1960s, marked by the adoption of new technologies and methods of cultivation, we are on the verge of an AgTech Revolution that will fundamentally change how produce is grown, harvested, packaged and shipped to the consumer. Agriculture has always embraced innovation in the service of higher productivity, yields and profits. Now, with efforts like the Western Growers Center for Innovation and Technology, the Western produce industry is unifying around technology in response to our common threats, which are largely caused by bad public policy. I say all of this with a caveat: Regardless of how determined or innovative we are, our industry will only flourish into the next generation if we learn to work together more effectively. The challenges facing agriculture are too global, too complex for any one company or association to address on its own. Threats like labor shortages, dwindling natural resources, the flood of foreign competition, even vendor agreements that shift regulatory costs and food safety liabilities to the growers, face us all and jeopardize our collective ability to hand our businesses down to our children. In closing, I am reminded of the Aesop fable in which an old man on the verge of death gathers his sons together and asks each of them to break a bundle of sticks. None are able. He then unties the bundle and gives each son a single stick, which they are easily able to break. This story teaches us that unity gives strength, which is the only way our industry will remain viable into the coming generations. Editor’s Note: This article was originally printed in The Packer on August 2, 2019, as part of the publication’s 125-year anniversary special.
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He has a reputation for unmatched integrity, tireless commitment, and remarkable leadership. Now after more than two decades, there is no one that has done more for the Western Growers community than President and CEO Tom Nassif. From piloting new programs that set the trade association apart, to advocating for change and advancing legislation at the state and federal level, Mr. Nassif has made a tremendous impact for the ag industry. To thank him for his ongoing leadership and to celebrate his career as he prepares to retire, Mr. Nassif has been selected to receive the 2019 Award of Honor—the highest recognition for individual achievement to the ag community. The award will be presented at this year’s Annual Meeting, held November 10-13 at the Wailea Beach Resort in Maui. We invite you to share in this memorable moment.
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CALIFORNIA DIRECTOR PROFILE
Brandon Grimm General Manager, Cal Organic Division Grimmway Farms Bakersfield, CA
Director Since 2019 | Member Since 1986
A Rich Family Legacy to Uphold
C ompany Background: Brothers Rod and Bob Grimm grew up in Orange County and were growers and marketers of sweet corn and other crops for about 15 years before moving the operation up to Bakersfield and becoming a leader in the carrot category. The Brothers Grimm built quite a legacy as the carrot kings of the world before each passed at an early age, Rod at 51 in 1998 and Bob at 54 in 2006. It was shortly thereafter that Bob’s oldest son, Brandon, joined the company on a full-time basis. Born in Agriculture: When Brandon was born in late 1981, the Grimms were still based in Orange County, farming in several locations including San Juan Capistrano. Corn was their top crop but they had started exploring the carrot business. In 1983, the company moved its operations to Bakersfield and began its ascent up the carrot totem pole. Consequently, Brandon grew up in the southern San Joaquin Valley doing odd jobs on the farm and in the packing shed beginning when he was about eight or nine. He continued with the company on a part-time basis as he went through school, which included securing a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Concordia University back in Orange County. “I always expected that I would join the family business,” he says. “It is something I always wanted to do.” Working his way up the ladder: Upon joining the company full time in that fateful 2006 year, Brandon started as an apprentice in the organic baby carrot program and worked his way up to operations manager. He also oversaw the frozen division. Several years later he joined the company’s robust organic division and was named general manager of that company sector three years ago. As it is a family business, Brandon said several of his jobs over the years overlapped and he anticipates
more responsibilities as he moves forward and gains experience about the different aspects that make up Grimmway Enterprises, which is the umbrella name for the organization. The Baby Carrot Revolution: It was the development of the baby carrot that vaulted Grimmway Farms to the top of the category and also pushed carrots into a major sales driver within the produce category. “In the early ‘90s, before the advent of baby carrots, per capita consumption of fresh carrots was around three pounds,” said Brandon. “Baby carrots moved consumption up to about nine pounds by about 2000. Since then, there has been a lot of activity in foodservice and we are now up to about 11-12 pounds per person.”
Brett, Brandon, and Bryan in the carrot field
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raise their children to be farmworkers, but it is becoming equally apparent that the younger generation is not looking to agriculture for even skilled positions. “I see key people retiring and not a lot of people standing in line for those jobs,” he said. He believes continued automation is one answer especially at the farm labor end of the spectrum. As far as professionals are concerned, he admits the drawback is that the ag industry isn’t perceived as “glamorous” as other professions. “At the end of the day, it is a function of supply and demand. To get the needed talent, we will have to get more creative.” A Family Company : Grimmway Farms remains in the hands of the descendants of Rod and Bob with several family members working full-time and others on the company’s board of directors. Besides Brandon, brother Brett, 29, is also working for the Organic Division as a sales associate. His sister, Kellie Merriman is a registered nurse and on the board. He has two other brothers—Chase, 26, and David, 23, who are currently in college but could be joining the family team at some point down the road. In addition, three cousins from Rod’s wing, Bryan, Catie and Melissa, are also involved in the company by serving on the board. A Family Man : Brandon met his wife, Katie, earlier this decade and they were married in 2013. They have been busy ever since, now sporting a family with three kids four years old or younger. Thomas is four, Clara is two and the newest addition, Alice, was born earlier this year. Katie still finds time to work part-time as an occupational therapist at a local hospital, and when Brandon isn’t engaged with the kids, he can be found cycling or horseback riding in Kern County’s rural environment. Western Growers Connection : Brandon’s father, Bob Grimm, served on the Western Growers board for many years, including a stint as chairman of the board in 1998. “I have some very fond memories attending Annual Meetings with my dad when I was just a kid,” he said. Brandon has continued his father’s tradition of being actively involved in the organization as he was a member of the Western Growers Future Volunteer Leaders Class III program. And when his dad’s old seat on the board became vacant following Grimmway’s Kevin Pascoe’s decision to step down, he said it was a natural fit to run for the position last year
WESTERN GROWERS OFFICERS – 2019
RON RATTO, Chairman RYAN TALLEY, Senior Vice Chair ALBERT KECK, Vice Chair CAROL CHANDLER, Treasurer VICTOR SMITH, Executive Secretary THOMAS A. NASSIF, President DIRECTORS – 2019 GEORGE J. ADAM Innovative Produce, Santa Maria, California ALEXANDRA ALLEN Main Street Produce, Santa Maria, CA KEVIN S. ANDREW Vanguard International, 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 GEORGE BOSKOVICH III Boskovich Farms, Oxnard, California NEILL CALLIS Turlock Fruit Company,Turlock, California DON CAMERON Terranova Ranch, Helm, California EDWIN A. CAMP D. M. Camp & Sons, Bakersfield, California CAROL CHANDLER Chandler Farms LP, Selma, California LAWRENCEW. COX Coastline Family Farms, Salinas, 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 FRANZW. DE KLOTZ Richard Bagdasarian Inc., Mecca, 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 FRED P. LOBUE, JR. LoBue Bros., Inc., Lindsay, 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 TOMMULHOLLAND Mulholland Citrus, Orange Cove, California ALEXANDERT. MULLER Pasquinelli Produce Co.,Yuma, Arizona DOMINIC J. MUZZI Muzzi Family Farms, LLC, Moss Landing, California MARK NICKERSON PrimeTime 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 ERICT. REITER Reiter Affiliated Companies, Oxnard, CA JOSEPH A. RODRIGUEZ The Growers Company, Inc., Somerton, Arizona WILL ROUSSEAU Rousseau Farming Company,Tolleson, Arizona VICTOR SMITH JV Smith Companies,Yuma, Arizona KELLY STRICKLAND Five Crowns, Inc., Brawley, California RYANTALLEY Talley Farms, Arroyo Grande, California BRUCE C.TAYLOR Taylor Farms California, Salinas, California STUARTWOOLF Woolf Farming & Processing, Fresno, California ROBYRACEBURU Wonderful Orchards, Shafter, California
That phenomenal growth of 300 percent during the 1990s was built on the back of the value-added baby carrot pack during a time when nothing in the produce department was hotter than value-added. Still a Carrot Company : Brandon is proud to reaffirm that Grimmway Farms is still, first and foremost, a carrot company. It has had tremendous growth in many others areas, including organic specialty crops, but carrots are always the driver. In fact, Brandon said Grimmway’s purchase of Cal-Organic Farms in 2001 was fueled by its need to have viable rotation crops in its carrot program. Carrots cannot be grown on the same ground year after year and need to be part of a rotation. Soil- building organic vegetables are often a perfect complement. In fact, the Grimms have turned almost all of the family’s land into organic production The Future Looks Bright : California’s regulatory environment, labor availability, water shortages and increasing costs driven by minimum wage hikes are daunting challenges that have forced Grimmway Farms to look elsewhere to help augment its operations in the Golden State. The company has expanded into both the Northwest and Southeast to help it diversify. But just as at its core, the firm is a carrot company, it’s also a California company. An Aging Workforce : While the four hurdles in the previous paragraph are cause for pause, Brandon said it is the aging workforce in agriculture that he believes is another large challenge facing the industry that can’t be overlooked. It is well-documented that farm laborers don’t
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COLORADO MEMBER PROFILE
Glenn Hirakata Hirakata Farms Rocky Ford, CO
Member Since 2013
Hirakata Farms: A Century Long Legacy
By Tim Linden H irakata Farms has a legacy in Colorado that dates back more than a century, spans five generations and has survived countless changes in its lifetime. Today, the firm continues to surmount the challenges of being commercially viable in an area that isn’t really that friendly to agricultural production. “We have a lot to deal with in Colorado,” said Glenn Hirakata, who runs the family business along with his cousin Michael Hirakata. “We have to worry about drought and hail. We often have to contend with an early freeze in the fall and a late freeze in the spring. I can’t think of a lot of advantages. Sometimes I wish my great grandpa would have settled somewhere else,” he joked, half seriously But in fact, Tatsunosuke Hirakata settled in Rocky Ford. Co, in 1915 after coming to the United States from Japan a bit earlier to work on the western railroads. Soon after establishing himself in Colorado, the elder Hirakata sent for his son, Keiji, who was still in Japan. The two began farming in the Rocky Ford district, no doubt involved in the production of the namesake Rocky Ford cantaloupe. That cantaloupe traces its lineage to the 1880s. Glenn says it is the warm days and cool nights in the region that give the Rocky Ford cantaloupe its great flavor and a well-deserved 130 year reputation as a superior melon. Glen does allow that the significant temperature swing from night to day is an inherent advantage to producing melons in Rocky Ford. While the Hirakata family traces its roots and farming acumen back to the early years of the 20 th Century, Glenn said the current family farming operation itself began around the early 1950s. He said while the first
two Colorado generations of the Hirakata family were farmers, they did not have the financial resources to amass land holdings. Instead, those early years are a bit sketchy but the Hirakata farmers worked for others or rented land putting together a patchwork of farming operations to make a living. During those times, field corn, sugar beets and alfalfa were the main crops in the area, along with cantaloupes.
Glenn and his son, Kyle
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Glenn’s father, Gene, was the first Hirakata born in Rocky Ford when he came into this world in 1927. He eventually had two sisters and a brother. He and his brother, Jerre, formed Hirakata Brothers Farms, which eventually morphed into the present day Hirakata Farms. Again, Glenn said the details and the dates are a bit sketchy. His father farmed with the elder generations through World War II and into the 1950s. With the family’s long history in Rocky Ford and being away from the coasts, the Hirakata clan was not interned during the war and went about its regular routine. In fact, Gene was in the military after the war and fought in the Korean War in the early 1950s. As the ‘50s moved into the ‘60s and ‘70s, Hirakata Brothers Farm steamed along, producing crops and continuing the farming life for the Hirakata family, now moving into its fourth generation. For the most part, the operation was a truck farm, with the melons and other items harvested and taken to the Denver produce market, which is about 150 miles north. Glenn was born in 1963 and his cousin and future partner, Michael, came along seven years later. Glenn went to community college for a couple of years and then transferred to Colorado State University at Fort Collins and earned a degree in agriculture in the mid-1980s. He then came back to work on the family farm full-time in 1986. Michael took a similar route several years later: going to college for a few years and then coming back to join the family operation. In the 1990s, Glenn and Michael began farming their own individual farms in an effort by their dads to help them gain experience and learn by trying. The farms of the family members were run separately yet the output was marketed jointly. “This went on for a couple of years with help from our dads with equipment and tools,” said Glenn. “But eventually we put it all back together (as one operation).” He said it was severe drought conditions that caused the four members of the operation to farm together because some of its land had water while other acres did not. In those days, Glenn said the farm consisted of about 600 acres, half of what it is today. “By California standards, we are still a small farm but we’re pretty big in Colorado,” he noted. Today, Michael—the son of Jerre—heads the sales department, while Glenn manages the operation of the shed. Together they share in the operation of the farm. Glenn’s wife, Carmen, is
involved in the administration of the company, largely working to help facilitate the firm’s H-2A program. Glenn said it remains a family farm that continues to carry on the tradition of their ancestors. In fact, two members of the fifth generation have joined the company: Michael’s son Clay and Trey Tateyama, son of one of Glenn’s sisters. There are other family members that may join in subsequent years, including Glenn’s children Kyle and Kellie, who are currently in college. But Glenn said he does not push any family member into the farming business. While he has enjoyed his career, he said, “it is hard way to make a living. If you are not fully committed, you should do something else.” For Hirakata Farms, even the weather was easier to overcome than the cantaloupe contamination issue that upended the Colorado melon deal eight years ago. “That was very difficult,” he says. “In 2011, we basically had to start all over. We had to put in a new packing shed and build it from the ground up. Financially, it was difficult.” Hirakata Farms, in fact, was the first cantaloupe grower- shipper to rebuild its shed benefitting from the hard lessons learned the year before by another grower-shipper (in Colorado but not in Rocky Ford) who was at the center of listeria outbreak. “The following year, we were the only packing shed operating.” The company reworked the process to include a single use washing system. Ultimately, the multiple use of water at the shed implicated in the contamination was blamed for the outbreak. Glenn said building the shed was a leap of faith. “We had a lot of sleepless nights that year wondering if anyone would buy our cantaloupes once the season started.” But Glenn said there was a good deal of publicity about the safety and value of Rocky Ford cantaloupes, including a valuable endorsement by the governor. Hirakata Farms sells the vast majority of its production within the state of Colorado and 2012 proved to be a successful year. Since then, other packers have come in and out of the deal, but for the last several years, including this one, Hirakata Farms is the only melon packer in Rocky Ford. Glenn said there are some truck farmers who sell their cantaloupes in the surrounding area without having them packed at his shed, but the handful of major growers in the area all use his packing shed. So Hirakata Farms not only had the first modern packing shed, but it apparently is going to be the last as well. He reiterated that the harvest and packing season only last a few months so it is a daunting calculation to invest the resources on a modern, food-safety compliant packing facility. Hirakata Farms joined Western Growers a half a dozen years ago, prior to the association forming an alliance with the Colorado Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association, of which Hirakata is a board member. He said the association with Western Growers has been great for his operation as well as for the Colorado industry at large. “It’s been a great relationship. We use Western Growers in many ways but specifically Jason Resnick (Western Growers general counsel) has been a great help with our H-2A program. We use Western Growers to secure workers, which is a big issue in Colorado.” In general, Glenn said the same external issues that plague West Coast agriculture impact his operation: weather, labor and regulations. He did admit that the regulations he has to deal with are not as onerous as those in California and so he can count that as another advantage as a Colorado fruit and vegetable grower.
Glenn with Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO)
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INDUSTRY FIRSTS Five Innovative Ag Practices that are Changing the World
By Stephanie Metzinger A t a time when the world’s population is soaring—to an estimated 9.7 billion in 2020—and natural resources are quickly depleting, farmers are now faced with crushing weather conditions that are affecting their ability to grow food in a sustainable way. In just the past few years, the United States has seen wildfires blanket regions throughout California; unreal temperatures stymie farm production; warm winters threaten the Sierra Nevada snowpack; and devastating storms and floods decimate cities and towns. Some may call this climate change and global warning, while others may say it is “Farm-ageddon.” However this attack on land and resources is labeled, one thing is certain: there is grave concern on how humanity will continue to feed itself. The United Nations recently released a report that warned how “food security will be increasingly affected by future climate change through yield declines, increased prices, reduced nutrient quality, and supply chain disruptions.” The report, which was developed by more than 100 experts from 52 countries, goes on to detail how we must waste less food and practice better land management in order to maintain food security as the population and negative impacts of climate change increase. In light of the looming food crisis, farmers have already stepped up to the plate to be part of the solution. Today’s farmers are increasingly experimental, and for years, have implemented new practices in their operations that tackle the serious issues that face food systems globally. Whether it is designing innovative packing solutions to reduce food waste or building machines that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, farmers are leading the way in developing agricultural practices and technologies that are changing the world. In fact, many of Western Growers’ 2,400 members have already implemented groundbreaking initiatives on their farms that have allowed them to continue producing a steady supply of food for the state, nation and world. The following five examples are just a small sample of the cutting-edge advancements that have moved the needle for the ag industry. These are not exclusive and, in fact, represent the tip of
an amazing iceberg that could literally become a list of thousands of innovations. 1. Introducing Bagged Salads to Extend Shelf-Life Prior to 1989, consumers did not have the ability to go into the supermarket and buy packaged salads. Instead, any lettuce purchased and not used immediately was thrown out. That’s where an agricultural scientist, Jim Lugg, comes in. In 1963, Lugg was hired as director of research by Bruce Church Inc.—one of the largest U.S. lettuce producers at the time—to look for better ways to preserve crops’ freshness during shipment. Lugg turned to Whirlpool for a solution, which eventually resulted in the birth of TransFresh—a partnership between Bruce Church and Whirlpool—in 1966. The company soon discovered that different gas mixtures of oxygen and CO 2 would extend the shelf life perishables that were being transported in shipping containers and railcars. This
discovery led to the novel idea of cutting and washing lettuce, and then packaging it with the same oxygen-and-CO 2 mixture. Lugg then experimented with the bag’s film, ensuring that it the permeability of the package let enough oxygen in to keep the lettuce fresh and let enough CO 2 out to keep the flavor of the lettuce. Nearly 25 years later, TransFresh introduced the first
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The new variety of broccoli had to have a head that sat up higher, while growing uniformly and maturing at the same time from plant to plant. The Bayer vegetable breeding team was able to breed a new High-Rise broccoli hybrid, where the crop had a larger, firmer head and cleaner stalk that has less stem trim. After five years of being fully submerged in the Broccoli Project, Church Brothers unveiled a new automated broccoli harvester in 2018. The harvester cuts the broccoli, which then goes directly into a bin and transported to the processing facility where the florets are washed and bagged.
retail packaged salad available nationwide —the Fresh Express Family Classic Garden Salad Blend. Fresh Express was the very first to successfully package and nationally distribute fresh-cut, ready-to-eat bagged salad. This eventually led to a rollout of salad kits and other blends a few years later. Today, Fresh Express produces nearly 40 million pounds of salad each month. 2. Automating Broccoli Harvest to Enhance Farm Production Methods Agriculture continues to face a labor shortage that has lasted longer than a decade. Over the past few years, the number of farmworkers migrating to the United States from Mexico has dropped,
worsening the shortage. This, paired with an ever-increasing blizzard of regulations, have encouraged farmers and ag-related businesses to adopt mechanization and explore new growing practices to make harvesting crops easier. Church Brothers Farms has been at the forefront of automation, understanding that the farm must change the way they grow and harvest in order to continue to feed a growing population. More than half a decade ago, Church Brothers partnered with Bayer (legacy Monsanto) to harvest broccoli mechanically. The farm wanted to develop an automated broccoli harvester, but first they needed a plant that would work with the machine.
Flooding the vineyard at Terranova Ranch
3. Collaborating to Recharge California’s Groundwater Supplies One of the biggest issues facing California is depleted groundwater supplies; this is especially true in the Central Valley where groundwater levels have hit extreme lows. Don Cameron, vice president and general manager of Terranova Ranch in Fresno County, has stepped up to combat this issue head on. “We take the water that normally flows by our ranch—the flood water that usually causes problems downstream and
eventually ends up in the ocean and is lost to agriculture—and we divert it and bring it on to our farmland,” said Cameron. Cameron launched a pilot of the groundwater recharge program in 2011, where he opened his irrigation ditches to take excess water from the Kings River to blanket hundreds of acres of vineyards on his farm. He continued to flood his fields for several month, while the grapes lay dormant, in hopes that this effort would recharge the groundwater basin that his farm and surrounding communities
depended on during times of drought. Working with Sustainable Conservation, an environmental group that works with agriculture to recharge California’s groundwater supplies, Cameron was able to prove that the idea worked! Aided by gravity, the water seeped through the soil and filled up the basin, leaving the grapes were unharmed. Today, Cameron has replicated this innovative idea across his farm to commodities such as pistachios and alfalfa hay.
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Taylor Farms Gonzales launched the ZeroWaste Program in April 2017. Over the lifetime of the program, the facility decreased landfill contribution by 56%, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30,923 MTCO2E
4. Achieving True Zero Waste Through Emission Reduction In June of 2018, Taylor Farms became the industry’s first fresh food company to achieve TRUE (Total Resource Use and Efficiency) Platinum certification for zero waste. “This is the highest level of zero waste certification available, and we are incredibly proud of the accomplishment,”
said Nicole Flewell, Taylor Farms’ director of sustainability. “Through our efforts we were able to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 30,923 metric tons of CO 2 . That’s equivalent to taking 6,510 cars off the road each year.” Spearheaded by Flewell, the Gonzales Green Team and employees worked together to reduce incoming materials, reuse existing materials when possible
and recycle what remained throughout the facility, completing this initiative in 14 months. A key element of this program focused on working upstream to eliminate wax carton from the supply chain. Led by the raw product procurement team, the group worked with Taylor Farms’ growing partners to move to 100 percent reusable bins and totes, eliminating all single use and wax cartons.
Taylor Farms Gonzales joined the Taylor Fresh Foods family of operating companies in 2008; today, the 192,000 sq. ft. facility produces 1.4 to 4 million lbs. of fresh produce each week
14 Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2019
Gills Onions’ Advanced Energy Recovery System converts onion waste into electricity
5. Converting Onion Waste into Electricity Nearly 20 years ago, Gills Onions started to develop the concept of a waste- to-energy system, which would allow the farm to efficiently recycle onion byproduct at its plant in Oxnard rather than
transporting it to a local field. “As our company grew, the volume of waste coming out of the plant was getting larger and larger to the point where our ranch managers in the fields were getting overburdened,” said Steve Gill, owner of Gills Onions. “I went to
UC Davis and started to work with the ag engineering department up there on how to sustainability utilize this waste.” Gill and the UC Davis team developed a project that would grind up the waste from the onions, extract the juice, run it through the anaerobic digester, and take the resulting biomethane (renewable natural gas) to put it into hydrogen fuel cells, which is then converted over to the internal combustion engine to generate electricity. “Environmentally, we’ve reduced about 25,000 tons of CO 2 going into the atmosphere with this process. We generate our own power to reduce power in the plant. We’re at 99.3-percent zero waste at this facility here,” said Gill. Since becoming operational in 2009, the waste-to-energy system (called Advanced Energy Recovery System) has produced 25 gigawatt hours of electricity, or enough to power 3,740 California homes for a full year. Currently, the AERS is able to generate enough biogas to power a 200 kilowatt generator.
Steve Gill, owner-partner of Gills Onions, located in Oxnard, Calif.
SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2019
Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com
TRANSPORTATION Adapting to the Changing Market
By Kim Sherman W estern Growers was founded in 1926 in California's Imperial Valley. One of our primary missions was to fight for fair transportation rates for the agricultural industry. We brought the industry together to support a common goal based on the philosophy that there is strength in numbers. And in 2006, we selected C.H. Robinson, one of the world’s largest third party logistics providers (3PL), to help us with that goal. Transportation challenges are still one of the top problems the modern grower-shipper faces each day. As trucks began to dominate the produce shipping arena, Western Growers members expressed their concerns over ever-increasing freight rates and equipment shortages, which many felt had reached a critical stage, as well as the rising demand for delivered transportation services. In March 2005, the board of directors challenged and tasked the staff of Western Growers to look for a solution to the ongoing need for equipment availability, service levels, and pricing of transportation. The team worked with an industry leading transportation consultant to develop a transportation program based on combining member shipper tonnage to leverage rates, equipment supply, service, and to hire a 3PL to manage the program. In January 2006, the Western Growers Executive Committee approved the selection of C.H. Robinson to manage the program. C.H. Robinson has deep roots in the produce industry, a vast refrigerated contract carrier network, ongoing substantial investment in development of sophisticated transportation management software, and outstanding management expertise with respect to all forms of refrigerated transportation services. Now in 2019, technology is an ever-growing factor in the market. In order to be successful in this digital supply chain era,
smarter pricing and fleet optimization need to be factored into the equation. C.H. Robinson execution of more than 18 million shipments a year and management of nearly $20 billion dollars in freight spend adds to the community of data to improve the supply chains of those shippers. This use of data to identify market shifts far ahead of others helps members and carriers act proactively in the changing market. With C.H. Robinson, the Western Growers Transportation Program is an exclusive benefit for our members and continues to offer outstanding temperature controlled shipping solutions. For more than a decade, the Western Growers Transportation Program has offered our members: • Access to a temperature controlled transportation network of vetted, high quality carriers you can trust • A full suite of logistics services to improve the efficiency of your supply chain • Weekly transportation industry updates from your dedicated account management team • Quarterly market insights from supply chain experts • Tailored pricing options and customized solutions • Customized data scorecarding to meet your business needs • Claims management services It’s a complete transportation package. One tailored to the specific needs of our members, providing high quality service coupled with the latest logistical technology to optimize distribution patterns and lower your delivered cost. All of these resources are accessed without any fee or commitment of freight. To develop or expand your individual logistics program, contact Lauren Singh, the C.H. Robinson account manager at 831-392-7061 and Lauren.Singh@chrobinson.com or visit www.wga.com/logistics.
16 Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2019
A new job board exclusively for science, tech, engineering and math-related careers within the ag industry.
Post a job. Find a job. CAREERS IN AG JOB CENTER www.agjobboard.com
Enhancing Access to Healthy Food
By Chardae Heim A ccording to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, California is the world’s largest supplier of food and agriculture. In fact, the state grows 60 percent of the country’s fruits, vegetables and tree nuts. However, despite California’s agricultural abundance, food deserts still exist in underserved communities in the state. A food desert, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is the scarcity of fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthy whole foods in underserved communities—such as low- income neighborhoods, communities of color and low density rural areas—due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets and other healthy food providers. To qualify as a food desert, at least one-third of the population in an area must live more than one mile from a supermarket; in rural areas, this distance must be more than ten miles. While it seems like an easy fix, building a supermarket is only a small portion of the solution. Factors such as lack of transportation, an overwhelming amount of convenience stores and a rise in fast food chains also make this problem far more complex. As the existence of food deserts continue to grow, many
people and organizations have stepped up to take on the task of helping solve this food crisis. Fixing Food Deserts Let’s Move! , a campaign initiated by former First Lady Michelle Obama, was launched in 2010 to fight childhood obesity. “The physical and emotional health of an entire generation and the economic health and security of our nation is at stake,” said Obama in a White House press release announcing the campaign’s launch. “This isn’t the kind of problem that can be solved overnight, but with everyone working together, it can be solved.” In addition to providing healthier food in schools and helping kids become more physically active, this initiative also gave parents information on fostering environments that encouraged healthier choices. The nutrition movement that resulted from the Let’s Move! campaign still resonates with communities throughout the nation. While promoting Let’s Move!, Obama also pioneered the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), which supplies grocers with grants, loans and other monetary incentives to open stores
18 Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2019
in underserved areas. Today, three government entities—the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), USDA and the U.S. Department of Treasury (USDT)—collaborate to provide funding for this initiative. The HHS provides grants to Community Development Corporations in order to finance grocery stores and farmers’ markets. The USDA supports loans, grants, promotions and other public and private investments that create healthy food options in places where food deserts are ubiquitous. The USDT Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund grants financial assistance, specialized training and technical assistance to CDFIs investing in businesses providing healthy food options. Southern California’s largest urban gleaning nonprofit organization, Food Forward, is also combating food deserts. Over the past 10 years, Food Forward has been providing some of Southern California’s hungriest people with surplus fruits and vegetables collected from backyard fruit trees, public orchards, farmers’ markets and the downtown Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market that would otherwise go unused. With up to 40 percent of food in the United States going to waste and about 13 percent of people lacking access to quality produce, Food Forward’s effort has helped feed two million people across Southern California, while also inspiring others to follow suit. Food Forward has recovered and donated over 80 million pounds of fresh produce since its conception. "We live in a region of agricultural abundance—and yet 1 in
9 Californians experiences food insecurity,” said Food Forward’s Founder and Executive Director Rick Nahmias. “This is not just wrong, it is fixable, and at Food Forward we aim to solve this disparity by creating a bridge. We make sure that a portion of the beautiful surplus produce that is either grown in or travels through our region gets to people in need. In doing so, we help to make lives healthier and the planet healthier at the same time.” For decades, Western Growers has played a vital role in educating the youth about fresh produce through the Western Growers Foundation. Each year, the Foundation awards schools in California and Arizona grants to be used for start-up gardens. Through sponsored gardens, selected curriculum and hands-on projects in the gardens, students learn about the science of how seeds become salads, the technology available to enhance plant growth, the engineering behind farm equipment, and the math to calculate how much water is needed for optimal yield. To date, Western Growers Foundation has awarded 1,127 grants across California and Arizona. In addition to Western Growers’ efforts on advocating for a healthy lifestyle, its members continue to grow and feed the world the best quality produce there is to offer. Providing access to healthier foods in underserved communities can benefit the nation as a whole. Healthier eating has the capacity to decrease obesity, lower the risk of diet- related chronic diseases and encourage overall healthier habits. By working together, it is possible to address this issue, making healthy food options available for all.
SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2019
Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com
LEGISLATOR PROFILE Josh Harder: Giving a Megaphone to the Ag Community U.S. Representative Harder represents California’s 10th Congressional District, located in California’s Central Valley covering Stanislaus County and parts of San Joaquin County
By Chardae Heim A s a freshman Democratic congressman, Rep. Josh Harder came into office with a big job to do. Harder’s district is one of seven in California that Democrats successfully flipped during the 2018 elections. His district covers California’s Central Valley, including Stanislaus County and parts of San Joaquin County. While Harder is new to politics, he is no stranger to this agriculturally-rich area. Harder is a fifth-generation Central Valley resident and has been surrounded by agriculture his entire life. His great-great- grandfather joined a wagon train with the intention of finding gold but settled 50 miles short of his destination in Manteca, Calif., instead to become a peach grower. With California’s Mediterranean climate, quality soil and plentiful water, Harder’s great-great-grandfather could not pass on this opportunity to start a life and a new profession. “I really grew up understanding the importance of agriculture through the valley and the contributions that have been made,” said Harder. “Everyone in the country eats our food but doesn’t understand how or where it comes from.” Prior to becoming a politician, he began his career in the private sector as an investor where he worked to create jobs and grow businesses. Through this venture, he took his passion for agriculture, meshed it with his devotion to service and traveled to both Kenya and Uganda to help small farmers gain access to funding. “If there is one value my parents instilled in me, it’s service. I’ve always worked in and around issues of economic development,” Harder stated.
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