THE WARRIORS: Men &Women Who are Changing the Face of Agriculture
By Stephanie Metzinger W ar, by definition, is a sustained effort to deal with or end a particularly unpleasant or undesirable situation. With war, inaction is not an option. This is especially true in agriculture, where inaction puts the nation’s food supply in jeopardy. There is a myriad of passionate agri- warriors across the United States who are fighting for the right to feed our nation. Though these farmers and ranchers are growing the healthy food that provides sustenance and nutrition for millions of people, their noble efforts are still met with adversity. In addition to battling factors out of their control such as the growing scarcity of natural resources, they must also deal with regulatory pressures that only seem to intensify. Take, for example, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s decision last year to ban the use of insecticide chlorpyrifos, making it even more difficult to protect the state’s food supply from invasive species. Or the dramatic increases in the Adverse Effect Wage Rate by the U.S. Department of Labor, which detrimentally affects the ability of American farmers to access and afford a legal, stable supply of labor. Farmers, especially in the West, face the most stringent regulatory environment in the world, and more often than not, it’s an uphill battle. However, they understand the consequences of inaction, and leaders throughout the industry are rising to the occasion to fiercely fight for, as well as discover, solutions that will pave the way for a better tomorrow. These warriors are taking monumental steps that will forever transform the industry—whether it be through advocacy, innovation or community outreach. Who are these leaders lobbying for more freedom on the farm? Who are the
innovators thinking outside the box for solutions? Who are the pioneers turning to technology for an answer? Here are five men and women who are changing the face of agriculture. Robert Sakata: Mobilizing the Fight for Colorado Farming Robert Sakata is a founding member, and current president, of the Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (CFVGA)—an organization dedicated to advancing and protecting Colorado’s fresh fruit and vegetable farmers. As the owner of Sakata Farms, he has experienced, first hand, how policies and regulations created by lawmakers and administrators unfamiliar with agriculture can have adverse effects.
“A lot of times, you have to be at the table to make sure you are not losing ground,” said Sakata. “There are so few of us left in agriculture and when there is an opportunity, we need to make sure that our voice is heard.” Prior to CFVGA, there was no unified front that supported fresh produce growers throughout Colorado. When a multistate Listeria outbreak in 2011 was linked to cantaloupes in Colorado, melon growers lacked the resources needed to properly deal with the incident. It was then that Sakata, Adrian Card of the Colorado State University Extension, and a host of local growers expedited the establishment of CFVGA. Today, CFVGA, which is a partner of Western Growers, serves as the go-to resource for Colorado
(l to r) Roberta Sakata of Sakata Farms with CO Senator Cory Gardner and Reid Fishering of Mountain Quality Farms during the 2019WG Annual D.C. Board Fly-In.
JULY | AUGUST 2020
Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com
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