June 26, 2024

Western Growers Hosts Plant and Food Research for Membership Tour

This week, Western Growers welcomed industry colleagues at Plant and Food Research for a comprehensive tour showcasing a handful of innovative agricultural operations. At Plant and Food Research, they are using world-leading science to improve the way we grow, harvest and share food. With over 1,000 people working across Aotearoa New Zealand and the globe to help deliver foods from our most sustainable systems, Plant & Food Research is working to grow a smart green future.

The visit began in Los Angeles and included a stop at Second Harvest in Orange County, to meet with AG Kawamura, a prominent Western Growers member and former board chairman. The Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County envisions an Orange County with food and nutritional security for all. They provide dignified, equitable and consistent access to nutritious food, creating a foundation for community health.

At the Grimm Family Organic Center  Matt Grieshop took the group on a tour of the organic farm and a stop at the California Strawberry Research Center. Many of Cal Polys farm and ag engineering projects are student-led or heavily involve student participation. Recently, they opened an organic soil lab that offers hands-on training, preparing students to enter functional laboratories upon graduation from Cal Poly.

Discussions about soil health and understanding the soil microbiome continued during visits to Talley Farms and Braga Fresh. These farms showcased sustainability initiatives of these two prominent Western Growers members who are leading the industry in leveraging regenerative practices and cutting edge technologies to better understand soil activities.

Another highlight was the Rodale Organic Farm, where guests were introduced to the use of a roller crimper to reduce tillage and incorporate cover crops into cropping systems. Given the high cost of land in California, they are exploring the potential of harvestable cover crops to add economic value. The tour also included a discussion with UCANR on water efficiency, emphasizing how California growers are adopting precision irrigation techniques to conserve water and prepare for future water allocation requirements.

The visits wrapped up with a field tour of California agave production, a new, climate smart crop gaining momentum, offering growers with a drought resistant and low input potential opportunity for new industry development. Additionally, a stop at Blue Diamond Growers processing facility provided an inside look at value added production for one of California’s biggest crops. These visits were a great opportunity to showcase well-established and up and coming crops for California.

Many thanks for the generous hospitality of our farmers and hosts who took shared their knowledge and enthusiasm for California agriculture. Partnerships and continued collaborative efforts in the fresh produce industry provide an invaluable opportunity to reinforce a shared commitment to advancing sustainable agriculture.