July/August 2021

Business owners and their employees are constantly seeking to learn from successes and mistakes in order to improve their products, processes and service. Adaptation to get better is a never-ending commitment. Those who fail to make that commitment are likely to fall by the wayside as competitors charge ahead.

Government, on the other hand…well, let’s just say, “If only.”

George Boskovich III, Boskovich Farms and Fresh Prep

By Tim Linden

“When I was in high school, I mentioned to my dad that it would only be a couple more years before I would be working full time for Boskovich Farms,” recalls George Boskovich III, the fourth generation of the family tree involved in agriculture. “But he told me, he wouldn’t hire me unless I had a college education.”

Tim Linden

By Tim Linden

When the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology was launched in 2015, the concept had already been proven in several other industries: bring technology innovators together with industry users to create new solutions to age-old problems. But the fruit and vegetable industry did not have its own incubator until WGCIT was hatched.

Garret Powell, Sales & Operations, Peter Rabbit Farms

Previously handling business development for tech giant Oracle, Garret has applied his operational intelligence and strong business acumen to further solidify his family farm as one of the premier produce grower/shippers in the Coachella Valley. Garret serves as a key player in the sales and operations team at Peter Rabbit Farms, and through the years has skillfully delivered a seamless customer experience and facilitated breakthrough innovations to enhance standard operating procedures.

Stephanie Metzinger

Amber Strohauer, Chief Operating Officer, Strohauer Farms

As a 4th-generation farmer, Amber works alongside her father day in and day out to learn how to keep her family legacy going. She joined the family farm in May 2015 and is responsible for oversight of business development, sales and marketing, food safety compliance and logistics. She also manages the packing warehouse and H-2A employees, serving as a key player in delivering everything from fingerling potatoes to shallots.

Stephanie Metzinger

By Laurence Stern, Stern Consulting

Since 1973, I have been in involved in transportation management for the produce industry. Transportation is a commodity and commodity pricing is subject to the laws of supply and demand. During my career, I’ve seen a lot of transportation markets with short equipment supplies, high rates and resulting lost sales. But this market is different.

By Greg Gatzke, President, ZAG Technical Services

Every Western Growers (WG) member plays a critical role in ensuring the continuity of the supply chain that provides fresh produce for all Americans. Each step in the production process is essential and technology-dependent. Criminals threaten this critical supply chain, and both the agriculture and technology industries must band together to solve this problem.

On March 9, 2021, the House of Representatives voted to pass H.R. 842, the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act on a 225-206 vote (pulling in five Republican votes). The bill includes the most sweeping and expansive changes to labor relations legislation since passage of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935. The legislation is unlikely to pass in the Senate, given the lack of Republican support.

The Western Growers Family of Companies is built on the strength of 445 dedicated employees providing expert advocacy and services across multiple business lines. To honor its employees who demonstrate “above and beyond” service, Western Growers recently launched an Employees’ Choice Award Program where employees select and honor fellow team members for their exemplary work and remarkable outward mindset. Meet the latest Employees’ Choice recipients, Trevor Smith and Jason Hayes.

We’re back!!!

Western Growers will hold its 2021 Annual Meeting at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar in San Diego, from November 7-10, as the western produce industry celebrates the return of in-person events with a robust program.

“We are looking forward to greeting everyone in San Diego,” said Western Growers CEO and President Dave Puglia. “The pandemic shut-downs taught us all to adapt in our professional lives, but nothing replaces being together in person. This will be a memorable occasion as we reconnect and refocus.”

Tim Linden

Drones and satellites are the technology. They are not the solution.

“There has to be the interpretation of the data gathered from drones or satellites,” said Jack Williams-Ellis, head of California & Mexico at Hummingbird Technologies. “Then, that data needs to be presented as either analytics or as a service. That’s where Hummingbird Technologies fits in. We go that extra mile to make it a turnkey solution.”

Walking up and down the grocery store aisles, various shades of green start to blend beautifully together as you reach the fresh produce section. In the sea of green, your eyes gravitate toward a flower-shaped vegetable adorned with soft yet crunchy petals that gently protect an earthy-flavored heart: the artichoke.

According to the California Department of Food & Agriculture’s 2019-2020 Agricultural Statistics Review, the Golden State proudly grows 90 percent of the nation’s artichokes. Ocean Mist Farms produces a sizable majority of that jaw-dropping percentage.

Stephanie Metzinger

Five years ago, Western Growers launched its Center for Innovation and Technology (WGCIT), housed in the Taylor Farms building in downtown Salinas. WGCIT brings together the ag industry and firms operating in the technology space to actively work on some of agriculture’s most vexing problems.

Below is an update from some of the startups housed in the WGCIT:

AgMonitor (formerly PowWow)

Tim Linden

Cross-border health care combines innovation and resourcefulness to reduce health care costs for employers while creating more options for their employees. Because Western Growers Assurance Trust (WGAT) recognizes the significance the border region has on the agriculture industry, we designed a comprehensive Mexico Cross-Border Program to provide flexible medical and dental care options for our members.

David Zanze

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Western Growers members care deeply for the food they grow, the land they sustain, the people they employ, and the community in which they live.