August 8, 2023

WGCIT Sponsor: City of Salinas

When it comes to creating a path to the future in agriculture, the City of Salinas takes its moniker of The Salad Bowl of the World seriously. In the most recent unfolding iteration of the city’s team of players, the goal is to keep growers a priority by developing and acting on plans to support and advance the farming industry.

Lisa Brinton, Director for the City of Salinas Community Development Department, describes the interconnected needs of the industry as a web. An insight into the process of identifying where to devote resources and energy lies in seeing the web from an aerial perspective: “What are the missing links, and how do we provide space for those missing links?” Brinton said. “At this point, we’re looking at the higher level and the industry as a whole without focusing on one component. They all need to come together.”

To support its objectives, the City of Salinas was recently awarded a Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation (SALC) grant. The SALC program is a state grant program developed to address climate change by conserving California farmlands and encouraging compact transit-oriented communities. This grant from the state will be used by Salinas to do a deeper dive into the ag economy.

The overview perspective is one that Western Growers shares with the City of Salinas, and one of those strands of the web that links Western Growers and Salinas is the pursuit of new tools for growers. The Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology (WGCIT) has the advantage of being located in a city where objectives often align. Not only is the City of Salinas a sponsor of the Center, but it is also a supporter of the WGCIT events that look to move the needle on agtech innovation. Two of those events are the Salinas Biological Summit that occurred in June 2023 and the FIRA USA event scheduled for September 2023. With the support of the city, both with sponsorship and space, these events are more than one-off gatherings; they’re events that will continue throughout the coming years to keep the pressure on advancing agtech and biological solutions in agriculture.

The City of Salinas has demonstrated that it is much more than a “salad bowl”; it’s a designated agricultural stage. “I think the city’s role is to support future business through land use, through policy, through regulation, through opportunities,” said Brinton. “What is our role? Can we be a facilitator of infrastructure funding or through the formation of an enhanced infrastructure financing district? We’re not the farmers, we’re not the growers, but we help set the stage. And that’s why I think it’s important that we maintain open dialogue and really work together to understand what the industry needs are.”

The City of Salinas has already done much to support agriculture and to allow for the path to the future to be constructed within its city limits, but there is still more to do and more space for opportunity. There’s currently 258 acres designated as the Salinas Ag Industrial Center that remains undeveloped for lack of infrastructure. Right now, it’s an open space waiting to be utilized to explore agtech opportunities in a controlled and measurable environment.

The relationship between the City of Salinas and the growers and packers within the city limits and beyond is a testament to the value of collaboration within the agricultural industry. “The role of the city is keeping that open dialogue,” Brinton concluded. “It’s really so important. I don’t think having that two-way communication to understand how we can work collaboratively to further the industry and the community happens enough.”