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September 14, 2018

Annual Meeting Returns to Palm Springs Poised to Celebrate the Best in Ag

By Leah Freeman

After six years, Western Growers will be returning to Palm Springs for the 93rd Annual Meeting. This is an opportunity for members to take part in educational and exciting events over the course of several days.

Taking place October 28th through 31st at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa, this event will offer a collaborative environment for everyone in ag as they partake in new and returning activities. #AgCollab is the theme this year, which will bring attendees, members, ag leaders and other influential figures together under one roof to further the growth and development of the ag industry.



A significant part of the Annual Meeting is the emphasis on learning and education. There’s no limit to the wealth of information that someone can take away from the workshops offered.



Advances in genomics have the ability to transform the ag world as we know it and significantly affect how we live, work and run our businesses. Juan Enriquez will lead this workshop with a panel of members and other industry experts. Enriquez is a leading authority on the uses and benefits of genomic research. He is also an active investor in early-stage life science companies and the co-founder of Synthetic Genomics. He will discuss topics such as how newer gene-editing technologies differ from traditional GMOs, and what that difference means to the growers and crops affected.



AgSharks™ returns this year for another exciting competition. Western Growers’ AgSharks™ is the groundbreaking, collaborative forum that helps advance agricultural technologies within the fresh produce industry. In 2017, start-up companies Hazel Technologies and AgVoice received a $2.25 million total investment offer from S2G Ventures (Seed 2 Growth). A new slate of agtech startups will compete for venture capital investment opportunities. They will present new ideas in ag technology to a panel of AgSharks, consisting of member-judges and venture capitalists. Expect another year of surprise and excitement as the AgSharks evaluate startups and technology for real-time investment opportunities.


Changing Minds to Influence Results with Arbinger

Arbinger is a leading method in strengthening company culture, which takes into account an individual’s impact on others and focuses on the needs of an organization as a whole. The program places an emphasis on changing a mindset rather than individual behavior. The Arbinger principles have successfully guided Western Growers for many years now, and it is uplifting to see members also integrating these practices in their own companies. In this workshop, four Western Growers members will participate in a panel discussion and share stories on how Arbinger has positively impacted them and shaped their leadership influence to create a better work environment. Western Growers’ Senior Vice President of Human Resources Karen Timmins, and Arbinger Institute’s Senior Consultant and Master Facilitator Mike Merchant will lead participants on a journey of understanding the impact that Arbinger can have on a business.



Chairman’s Lunch and Keynote

Western Growers Chairman of the Board Craig Reade will present the Chairman’s Address as he reflects back on his time leading the board over the past year. The luncheon will recognize the impact he has made as a leader in the Western Growers community. This will be followed by a keynote speech from Robert O’Neill. O’Neill is one of the most decorated combat veterans of our time and the author of the memoir The Operator: Firing the Shots That Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior. He brings his unique experience and SEAL team training and translates that into insight on leadership, decision-making and operating in uncertain environments.


Board Meeting

The Annual Meeting will see a changing of the leadership as Craig Reade of Bonipak Produce passes the chairman’s gavel to Ron Ratto of Ratto Bros. The event will occur during the Board of Directors Meeting, as we embark upon the next chapter within Western Growers volunteer leadership group.


Award of Honor Dinner

The Award of Honor Dinner & Gala is a night of #AgCollab where all members of the WG ag community join together to recognize, celebrate and honor Stephen Patricio, Western Growers 2018 Award of Honor recipient. The Award of Honor is Western Growers’ highest recognition of industry achievement and is given to individuals who have contributed extensively to the industry. Patricio is being recognized for his immeasurable leadership and contribution to the ag industry, making significant advancements in food safety and the protection of public health. He led the creation of the very first mandatory food safety compliance program for the California cantaloupe industry, as well as helped raise a large sum of money to fund research for preventing foodborne illness. After the award ceremony, Western Growers will welcome America’s Got Talent season 11 finalist Jon Dorenbos, who will share his skills as a magician, incredible life story, great sense of humor and positive outlook to help inspire others to overcome their own obstacles and embrace change.


PAC Luncheon

The Western Growers Political Action Committee (WGPAC) provides campaign support to elected officials and candidates who defend the fresh produce industry. The PAC Luncheon is a great opportunity to raise money and use the proceeds to help WGPAC continue to advocate for crucial industry issues across the country. During the luncheon, Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst, Judge Andrew Napolitano, will provide a keynote speech, sharing his insights on the current political environment. He is the youngest life-tenured Superior Court judge in the history of the State of New Jersey and currently provides legal analysis to both Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network. Famous for his candid remarks, signature wit and personal anecdotes, Judge Napolitano is a critic of government intervention on personal lives and commercial transactions, and a passionate defender of the Constitution.



Most importantly, the Annual Meeting is a joyful time to celebrate together. From new additions to old traditions, this year’s festivities will definitely make for an unforgettable week.


Golf Tournament

The Golf Tournament has typically been held on the last full day of the Annual Meeting, but this year’s event will be at the front end of the meeting. This offers everyone a chance to reconnect with old friends and get to know new attendees right off the bat. It will include a contest for the longest drive, longest putt and shot closest to the pin.


Top Chef

The Top Chef workshop will be returning for another year, but this time involving sushi. The hands-on workshop—taught by the resident sushi chefs at JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa—will cover everything you need to know to become a master sushi maker, including rice preparation, sushi rolling techniques, knife artistry and how to select the right seafood for your meal. Let the good times roll, and join the fun at this hands-on workshop.


Party with the Partners Reception

This networking extravaganza is also returning, but with a new name—Party with the Partners. It was previously known as the Supplier’s Party. Plus, there is a new spirited theme—the Grow ‘n Glow Fest. Neon lights and glow décor will bring a true celebratory vibe while you network, eat and dance the night away. Get your festival attire ready because this music-themed event will get you grooving to the tunes of the featured band, The Mighty Untouchables. It will also feature games, food stations and festive cocktails.

For more information or to register, visit the 2018 Western Growers Annual Meeting website ( or contact Cheryl Wood at (949) 885-4798.