November/December 2018

Screens are no longer optional. Whether you are at work or about to go to bed, you are most likely looking at one. As we are increasingly glued to our phones, screen fatigue is becoming more common. Society is looking for a break, and podcasts offer a refreshing alternative.

Stephanie Metzinger

A decade ago, we saw a significant shift in land ownership, where investors were buying up farmland across the country at a rapid speed. This was especially the case with institutional investors, such as college endowments, hedge funds and pension funds. Why?

Matt Lewis

With a combined total of 80-plus years providing employee health benefits and services to employer groups, Western Growers Assurance Trust together with Pinnacle Claims Management continue to find additional ways to help employers save money on their health care costs each year. Below are some of the services that we have added or expanded upon in recent years:

Western Growers Assurance Trust (WGAT)

David Zanze

Perhaps the single largest missed opportunity for the fresh produce sector is the failure to coalesce and share data. I am not talking about “transparency” of data—such that customers can learn the “provenance” of produce or other attributes. Nor am I talking about the distributed ledger or “blockchain” shared among supply chain partners. I am referring to the key data sets held on-farm that could be leveraged to benefit the entire industry if aggregated and reflected back in a useful way.

Hank Giclas

By Christine Samsel and Sherli Frank


The “de minimis” doctrine comes from the Latin maxim de minimis non curat lex, which means “the law does not concern itself with trifles.” The maxim suggests that technicalities must yield to practical common sense and justice so as to avoid expensive litigation.

H-2A certifications in California and Arizona are poised to reach a record high this year as growers access the U.S. Department of Labor program in an effort to address the acute labor shortage that plagues production agriculture.

Tim Linden

Uncertainty in several areas including world trade, tariffs and labor do pose some issues for the agricultural sector that does impact its attractiveness to lenders, according to a couple of financial experts interviewed by Western Grower & Shipper recently.

“There is a lot going on that is impactful to agriculture,” said Dean Cardoza, executive vice president of Bank of America, listing both tariffs and the global trade situation as concerns.

The philosophy that drives menu decisions for Sun Basket, one of the top three meal kit firms in a crowded field, appears to be a perfect fit for produce suppliers.

Produce industry veteran Don Barnett, who is the company’s chief operating officer, recently told Western Grower &Shipper that from the very beginning Sun Basket’s point of differentiation has been its focus on creating healthy meals for its customers. He said the competition focuses on convenience while Sun Basket has centered on creating meals that are “healthy and delicious.”

Tim Linden

McDonald’s iconic burgers are getting more “real.” The fast food giant recently announced that it plans to strip artificial ingredients from two-thirds of its menu. This announcement comes on the heels of a commitment earlier this year to market more balanced kids meals by offering new fruit and vegetables options in its Happy Meals and Mighty Kids Meals.

Stephanie Metzinger

Think Siri, but for agriculture.

When Bruce Rasa first conceptualized the idea of a speech-to-text data service powered by artificial intelligence, he knew that he wanted to design it with and for food and ag professionals. Growing up, Bruce always had both hands full while working on his family’s 4,000-acre farm in Missouri. His family grew corn, soybean, wheat, hay and apples, and taking notes while knee deep in the field never got easier.

So says Tom Nassif when speaking of the development of the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology.

The technology incubator, aimed at bringing farmers and entrepreneurs together to develop solutions for challenges facing production agriculture, is housed on the first floor of the Taylor Farms complex in downtown Salinas. That alone is worthy of recognition but even more importantly it was Bruce Taylor’s vision that led to the idea in the first place.

Tim Linden

BACKGROUND: It was in 1927 when twin brothers Viggo and Soren Stenderup emigrated from Denmark to the United States and found their way to the farming town of Arvin in the southern San Joaquin Valley. They got their chance to literally establish new roots after the Great Depression. “They were able to buy a farm from the Bank of Italy, which became Bank of America, in 1930 following what happened in 1929,” said Kent Stenderup, speaking of his grandfather and uncle and the financial crisis that put many farms in the hands of bankers.

Tim Linden

The upcoming midterm elections are significant. While President Trump is not on the November ballot, citizens across the country will be casting their votes for congressional representatives who will either aid or impede the administration’s agenda. In large part, the success of President Trump’s next two years will depend on the political makeup of the House and Senate in the 116th United States Congress.

Tom Nassif

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