November 24, 2023

Cultivating a Diverse Landscape

If there’s one thing Tim Dempsey, Managing Partner of TLC Custom Farming Company, would want people outside of agriculture to know, it’s that the industry offers a breadth of opportunities which extend far beyond the satisfaction of being an integral part of humanity’s basic needs. It also creates an avenue for many people to participate in addressing important issues they may not even have recognized as needing solutions.

“There are very few people entering careers in agriculture, and when you tell them the range of opportunities that are available inside of ag, it shocks people,” Dempsey said. “I often tell people, ‘Pick any career you want, and you can find it inside of ag.’”

Agriculture is its own microcosm, explained Dempsey. “From finance to accounting to technology to distribution and the actual farming itself, everything is here, but no one is aware of the opportunities,” he said. “As it stands now, when you hire someone, you usually have to teach them from the ground up. We need to find people, make them aware that we’re here, and direct those qualified people to help us on the farm.”

That need for creating awareness extends all the way to technology as it continues to remain a significant catalyst for numerous advancements in agriculture. From robotics to irrigation technology to precision agriculture, these innovations have helped pave the way for a healthier crop and productive harvest. And while technology has been a huge initiative for TLC, Dempsey says it all starts with integration of information.

“Information integration is easy to say but incredibly hard to do because there’s a lot of information to collect, and you need to collect is as efficiently as possible,” he said. “In this business, getting information in real time will help you in making the best management decisions so you can better react to customer demands and changes in weather and jobs.”

Dempsey explained that the more information his team gathers, the better it will help in identifying suitable technologies for future investments. “The technology is there, and we know it works,” he said. “We’re learning about the longevity of some of these machines and their value and recognize that as technology matures, it’s going to get cheaper and more options will appear. As the labor market gets more restricted, you have to automate things. Automation is a big deal for us across the board and ensures we can give our people the best tools to be as efficient as possible.”

TLC Custom Farming Company, headquartered in Yuma, Ariz., is a full-service farming business that grows, harvests and ships high-quality leafy greens directly to its customers. The company is responsible for growing conventional and organic varieties of spinach, arugula, red and green leaf lettuce, chard and kale, among others. TLC’s farming operations follow a seasonal pattern, with winter farming in Yuma, summer cultivation in the Salinas Valley, and a dedicated focus on growing organic produce in Scottsdale, Ariz. “We’re kept very busy on a yearlong basis,” he said.

As a prominent player in the leafy greens market, TLC has a team of full-time staff members committed solely to maintaining the highest industry standards in food safety. “Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the industry has come light years away from where we used to be in food safety, and the science has advanced tremendously.”

Dempsey recognizes Western Growers for its consistent support not only in food safety, but also in every aspect of agriculture: “The organization makes sure we understand everything we didn’t even know that we need to know. It makes my life easier, and we can continue focusing on doing what we love, which is to provide the best product we can consistently.”