November 12, 2015

90th Annual Meeting Is Now in the Books

The 90th Annual Meeting is now in the books! In case you weren’t able to catch everything that happened here’s a recap of the highlights:

The Meeting’s most notable activity was the change in board leadership with Larry Cox, owner of Lawrence Cox Ranches in Brawley, California, becoming the new WG Board Chairman. Chairman Cox replaces outgoing chairman Vic Smith, President and CEO of JVSmith Companies in Yuma, Arizona. Western Growers would like to thank Vic for his dedicated and productive service while leading the board and the association over the last year.

We would also like to congratulate Craig Reade on his ascension into the board leadership chain. Reade, partner at Bonipak Produce, Santa Maria, California, was made Vice Chairman, following in the footsteps of Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Inc. vice president, Sammy Duda, who was elevated to Senior Vice Chairman. Garland Reiter, CEO of Reiter Affiliated Companies, Santa Barbara, California, and Carol Chandler, partner at Chandler Farms, Selma, California, both maintain their positions as Board Secretary and Treasurer, respectively.

The highly-attended event boasted near record crowds, especially at the educational workshops which focused on AgTech Innovation, GMOs and water.

Two presenters were selected as our “Shark Tank” winners at the conclusion of the Innovation Arena Workshop. GeoVisual Analytics was selected as the “Panel Favorite.” Jeffrey Orrey and Carl Kalin presented on behalf of GeoVisual, which uses big data analytics to improve and predict crop health and yield for producers and commodity markets. Attendees also had a chance to select the “Audience Favorite,” and ended up awarding that honor to Robert Morris of TerrAvion, which provides growers with multiple types of aerial images of their farms to help make real-time management decisions. Winners received a complimentary one–year membership in Western Growers and will be profiled in an upcoming issue of the WG&S magazine. 

GMO labeling discussions were abuzz in the hallways during and following the “GMO: What’s on Your Label” workshop. Dr. Alison Van Eenannaam, a cooperative Extension Specialist at UC Davis, Michael Dimock, president of Roots of Change and Phil Lempert, also known as the Supermarket Guru, engaged the audience in an informative and lively dialogue about the potential effects of implementing GMO and non-GMO labels in the fresh produce industry.

The Water Rights’ workshop featured a roundtable of five expert panelists who provided their opinions on how politics, drought and policy and legal actions may affect the future of water rights in the West. Western Growers’ Board member Steve Patricio of Westside Produce in Firebaugh, moderated the workshop. 

This year’s PAC Lunch featured Fox Business TV personality Stuart Varney, who electrified the crowd with his particular brand of wit and humor. Varney’s provocative observations gleaned from a lifetime spent on air covering economics and business spanned such topics as politics, business, economics and even…fertility rates.

Not to be outdone by Varney, the Major Lunch speaker, Dave Evans, the former Chief Futurist of Cisco and co-founder of the start-up, Stringify, wowed crowds speaking during his speech entitled, “Thought for Food.” Evans spoke about the Internet of Things (IoT) and how nearly every item you can imagine — from shoes to toothbrushes– will in the not too distant future be connected to the internet. Evans even gave attendees a glimpse of how farming and agriculture might be expected to change leaving the crowd stunned about what’s to come.

During the Award of Honor dinner, Bob Gray was honored for a lifetime of achievements in the agriculture industry. Steve Patricio introduced Gray, who graciously and eloquently accepted the award, relating his life and accomplishments to the Robert Frost poem, “The Road Less Traveled.” The ceremony was preceded by an auction which raised money for the Western Growers’ Foundation.   

Western Growers would like to once again thank all of our Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze and Suppliers’ Event sponsors who made this event possible. We’ll see you again in 2016 from November 6-9 at the Grand Hyatt Resort & Spa on the island of Kauai in Hawaii!