As we close out the year and come together at the Western Growers Annual Meeting to celebrate all that our industry provides, endures and surmounts, I find myself reflecting a bit more than usual about the foundational strength of this association: Its board of directors.
Naturally, anyone in my position should think a lot about the men and women to whom he reports. But this year as we thank an unusually large number of WG directors concluding their board service, I am especially grateful to them, and to all who set aside their personal and individual business interests to volunteer their time, experience, wisdom and engagement to shepherd this association and advance the interests of the entire industry.
It ain’t easy.
The sheer number of policy and industry challenges, threats and even some opportunities, has never been greater in my 17 years with WG. Into the maelstrom steps the WG board of directors, four times per year and sometimes more. I am sure many of our directors ask themselves whether the frustrations that come with repeatedly confronting ignorant and even hostile political and regulatory officials and agencies is worth enduring.
Julius Caesar said, “It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience.” Apart from updating the emperor’s gender-specific terminology, I would point to the men and women who have served, and currently serve, on the WG Board of Directors as proof of Caesar’s miscalculation. They prove, in ways large and small, their willingness to endure pain, although not so much with patience as persistence.
Western Growers is unusual in that very few trade associations empower the members themselves to democratically select the association’s directors. Thirty-eight of WG’s 45 directors are nominated and voted onto the board by the association’s members in 13 geographic districts. By contrast, most trade association boards (agricultural and otherwise) fill vacancies by empowering the board itself to select new directors.
This keeps our association solidly grounded to the membership we serve, and it is in that spirit that we extend our heartfelt welcome to new directors joining this distinguished board.
To further deepen and strengthen the connections between our directors and their constituents, and thereby enhance the responsiveness of the association to our members’ needs, we are accelerating an initiative that I had hoped to launch in my first year as President and CEO. But with all of six weeks under my belt, COVID got in the way. With that behind us, WG board members will be organizing and hosting in-person meetings for WG members in each district to more frequently provide input to their elected directors as well as to me and other WG executive staff. In years past, our district meetings became, in my humble opinion, too centered on WG staff and not enough on the directors elected by WG members themselves. By the time you read this, we will have completed the first such WG Director-led district meeting in Coachella with more on the way. I hope you will be on the lookout for an announcement and can carve out some time to participate.
The men and women who step forward as Western Growers directors are selfless leaders indeed, and we can all find a bit of time to help them and thank them in these difficult times for our industry.