November/December 2021

Raise your hand if you know someone who has moved out of California in the last several years.

I see a lot of hands out there.

Over the last year or so, there has been an interesting bit of back-and-forth over whether California is in the middle of an “exodus,” more specifically a quickening flight of people who work in our businesses and pay taxes.

By Stephanie Metzinger

Carefully hauling ladders from tree to tree, ninja-like workers skillfully scale up and down the tallest of palm trees to cut down bagged bundles with a machete-sized curved knife. These laddermen, called Palmeros, are the magic behind the harvest of the illustrious honey-flavored Medjool and Deglet Noor dates.

Grant Talley
Production Manager, Talley Farms

Grant started spending summers working at his family farm at 12 years old. After high school, he attended Regent University in Virginia where he received his Bachelor of Science in business. After spending some time in Los Angeles, Grant moved home to join the family business.

Grant is currently overseeing the growing and irrigation at Talley Farms. He is a board member of the San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau.

Journey with Grant through the images below as he shares a little bit more about his life.

By Stephanie Metzinger

“The story here from a startup perspective is that it’s not about ag or robotics. It’s about getting our MVP (most valuable product) out to customers as early as possible so you can really define where that product needs to go,” said Bear Flag Robotics CEO and Co-Founder Igino Cafiero in a recent episode of the newly-revamped Voices of the Valley podcast.

Voices of the Valley, which is hosted by Western Growers Center for Innovation and Technology (WGCIT), returns for its fifth season with a whole new look and direction.

The fall season is the perfect time to take a moment to pause and reflect about the state of the agricultural industry over the past two years.

In 2020, our industry faced head-on what seemed at the time to be almost insurmountable challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic. Farmers stoically braced themselves to grapple with lost revenues from the closure of restaurants and schools. They purchased millions of dollars of personal protective equipment to ensure the safety of their workforce. Through it all, farmers remained optimistic; planned for the future and made decisions on how best to manage the changing landscape into 2021.

By Ann Donahue

Right now, a person having a mental health crisis in California’s Santa Maria Valley will have a difficult journey. In the midst of personal upheaval—be it suicidal ideation, post-partum depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or extreme anxiety—the first stop will be a trip to the emergency room. If the individual requires additional care from that point, they will likely be forced to travel as far as Ventura or Los Angeles to receive critical and potentially life-saving in-patient treatment. That’s a trip of more than 200 miles away from their support system at the precise time they need to be held close by those who love them.

Ann Donahue

Newspapers once reigned as king as the primary source of information for consumers, but with the introduction of social media in the late-‘90s, the communications landscape has rapidly transformed. According to a study by Backlinko, social networking platforms nearly tripled their total user base in the last decade—from 970 million in 2010 to 4.48 billion users in July 2021.

Life changed in many ways during the COVID-19 pandemic, and employers find themselves continuing to make adjustments for the post-pandemic workplace. As we move forward, many organizations are taking an opportunity to re-evaluate and reshape their health benefits and prioritize mental health for their employees. Investing in a mentally healthy workforce is good for business, and employers can make mental health a priority and make support accessible to everyone who needs it.

By Matthew Allen, Vice President, State Government Affairs
By Tracey Chow, Federal Government Affairs Specialist

The Story

Problems at the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland are stacking up, and the transportation and logistics bottleneck continues to get worse.

Context please.

The Southern California ports account for 40 percent of all shipping containers entering the United States. As of late October 2021, it was reported that a record-breaking 100 ships were waiting to dock and unload. In pre-pandemic times, the average number of vessels idling would be less than 20.

What’s happening?

Since late 2020, U.S. agricultural exporters have faced extreme challenges getting products out to overseas markets, including record-breaking congestion and delays at ports, inaccurate or late notice of arrival/departure and cargo loading times, excessive financial penalties and other fees, and skyrocketing freight rate costs.

By Ann Donahue

Numbers on a spreadsheet are just that—numbers. Devoid of its bigger context, collecting data can seem like a mind-numbing process without end, aggregating points of information that never develop into a plan of action. This is where artificial intelligence can help integrate domain expertise to mine the data for you—and get you the answer that you are looking for or at least a simple report to make a decision.

Ann Donahue

By Tim Linden

Mike Way, managing partner of Coachella, Calif.-based Prime Time International Inc., is very appreciative of the interactions he has had with the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology.

“This is our fifth year as a sponsor,” he said. “First of all, we got involved because we see the need for innovation to solve some of agriculture’s critical issues. And on the top of that list is we have less people doing the work. We have to figure out how to do more with less.”

Tim Linden

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.

Tim Linden

For 95 years, Western Growers (WG) has voraciously advocated on behalf the fresh produce industry and created a suite of resources to support specialty crop farmers. This includes offering health benefits for the agricultural industry, creating tailored risk management solutions, guiding farmers through the tangled web of H-2A, being a trusted resource during foodborne outbreaks and so much more. Beneath all these resources, however, lies the engine that fuels these support services: WG employees.

Join Western Growers

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.