Matt Seeley, Walt Duflock, and More Recap Organic Grower Summit 2022
MONTEREY, CA - Over the course of my fresh produce career, I’ve seen the industry shift away from the restrictions of fierce competition and gravitate toward an environment of collaboration and support. Rather than working against each other, we are linking arms and building toward something greater than our individual wants and needs. Trade shows create a common ground for operators across the supply chain to accomplish these goals, and I had the chance to witness it firsthand at the Organic Grower Summit (OGS) this week.
“OGS this year provided us with the opportunity to bring the organic growing community together to discuss some of the hot button topics that are impacting us right now, and more so, for the future,” Matt Seeley, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Organic Produce Network, relayed. “The show allows us to look at some of the upcoming regulatory rules and how they are going to impact producers and distributors of organic produce, as well as cover topics such as soil health and industry performance. The feedback we have gotten so far has been super positive, and we’re just really looking forward to doing it again next year.”
The event was host to nearly 70 different exhibitors, ranging from service providers to solutions innovators with a myriad of insights to offer. The show kicked off on Wednesday, November 30, with a morning jam-packed with five different educational sessions covering research, regulations, and more. The exhibitor floor opened up at 12:30 and led into the opening reception in the evening, where friends new and old came together to celebrate the event.
“We’ve really gone deep on agtech this year, because we think that the solutions to the challenges that so many organic growers are facing—whether it’s labor shortage, water shortage, food safety challenges—in many cases, it’s agtech innovation that will solve it,” Walt Duflock, Vice President of Innovation at Western Growers, explained to me. “Without innovation, the organic industry will not be able to solve all of the problems they are facing, and this show is a way for them to get the conversation started.”
Day two went off without a hitch as attendees gathered in the Hyatt Regency’s Monterey Ballroom for four more riveting educational sessions. I had the chance to sit in on the Regenerative Organic Marketing and Certification—What Lies Ahead? session, during which Ann Marie Hourigan of Whole Foods, Elizabeth Whitlow of the Regenerative Organic Alliance, and Scott Park of Park Farming Organics shared their different perspectives on the growth of regenerative agriculture and our marketing toward the consumer and trade.
We reconvened after the sessions to celebrate the Grower of the Year award, which was presented to Jeff Huckaby, President and Chief Executive Officer of Grimmway Farms. The Organic Produce Network and Western Growers recognized Jeff for his work managing Grimmway’s organic division in the early days of his career, growing the program from several hundred acres to over 50,000 acres.
“The Organic Grower Summit is a great opportunity to see and hear firsthand the latest in technology and crop production innovations directed toward advancing organic agriculture,” Jeff told me. “Opportunities to meet with the leaders in organic production in one venue is invaluable. The summit was extremely well done.”
The morning ended with the OGS Keynote Presentation, Grower Roundtable: The State of Organic Growing. Moderated by Western Growers’ Dave Puglia, the panelists included Tom Nunes V of The Nunes Company, Michael DuPuis of Divine Flavor, and Brie Reiter Smith of Driscoll’s. The four produce luminaries spoke on the most pressing topics impacting the organic industry, and what suppliers can do to support this growing sector.
“With the multiple challenges that face the production side of our industry; it is always great to gather with so many different farm support experts to discuss how we need to collectively move farming forward,” Tom explained.
Attendees hit the show floor once again before the event wrapped up with a closing happy hour, and we all parted ways, fueled by the invaluable insights we’d learned over the past two days. I found myself entirely blown away by the amount of sustainable innovations I encountered, and the potential partnerships I watched blossom.
I want to thank the Organic Produce Network and Western Growers for welcoming us into this unique space and encouraging us all to think more deeply about the growth of the organic sector and what the future holds. As Matt said, I’m looking forward to next year!