Organic Grower Summit Looks to the Future
MONTEREY, CA - The month is moving full-speed ahead as we are tearing out the calendar pages that read “Organic Grower Summit,” and penciling it onto new ones for next December. 2019 marked the third-annual Organic Grower Summit (OGS), which took place last week. Presented by California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) and the Organic Produce Network (OPN), the event featured a sold-out exhibition floor showcasing the latest trends in soil and plant health, bio-pesticides, seeds, food safety, and ag technology. Kicking off the two-day event were a pair of educational intensives focused on practices for organic soil health and growth of ag technology.
“Conventional ag has had the benefit of hundreds of millions of dollars in research over many years and now, on the organic side, we’re playing catch-up,” said Haley Baron, Education and Research Program Associate with the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFR) and the Moderator for the session on soil health, noting that farmers are desperate for information. “The goal is to give organic growers practical advice—a toolbox that is science-based and backed by research.”
Baron said conferences like OGS are an important vehicle used to distribute information culled from the latest research and gain valuable insight into areas and issues important to growers. In the second educational intensive, Founders and CEOs from six progressive ag tech firms shared their thoughts on precision and automated technology, talking about the challenges present in supply chain efficiency and food waste management.
“Our tent has gotten bigger,” said OPN Co-Founder Tonya Antle, “and with that comes new challenges. We wanted this summit to address growers’ real-world issues.” With that in mind, OGS organized a series of educational sessions that offered a dynamic mix of old school experience and new technologies and markets offering a glimpse into the future. According to a press release, keynote presenters offered three unique perspectives on how organic agriculture can drive social and economic change: hemp as a possible plastics replacement, sustainable ranching with a social consciousness, and an ambitious initiative to sequester one trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere within soil.
According to keynote presenter David Perry, Indigo Ag President and CEO, he aims to eventually pay participating farmers $15 to $20 per ton of carbon that they sequester. Called the Terraton Initiative, Perry said regenerative farming practices can improve both the quality of soil and the profitability of farms, while at the same time reducing global warming. The Terraton Initiative has already signed up 13 million farmers.
The educational sessions focused on how to manage water and pests, compost composition, and how to increase yield, quality, and profitability. From emerging hemp and cannabis markets to changing consumer attitudes, cost pressures, and the economics of ever-expanding regulations and certifications, the educational sessions provided a platform for lively debate and back-and-forth discussion.
One family that has navigated those issues and built a successful multi-generational business was honored at OGS with the Grower of the Year award, sponsored by AGCO. The Lundberg family has been producing quality organic rice and rice products since 1937. Today, the third and fourth generations carry on the family heritage of using sustainable farming methods that produce quality products while improving the environment for generations to come.
CEO Grant Lundberg accepted the award on behalf of the entire family, and told the story of his family’s farming roots, “In 1937, my grandparents were farming in central Nebraska in the dustbowl and they experienced environmental catastrophe and that motivated them to move to California and instilled in them a sense that you need to take care of the soil for the future. In 1969 a future customer asked us to grow organic rice, and that started us on this journey.”
By the numbers, OGS was attended by nearly 700 people, including 200 organic growers and 90 exhibitors on a sold-out tradeshow floor. The summit also included several social events that provided networking opportunities and an exclusive screening of the award-winning short documentary, The Last Harvest. Produced by Driscoll’s, the short film shines a light on ongoing labor shortages and immigration reform and was followed by a lively discussion on challenges and possible solutions from industry experts.
That’s a wrap for OGS 2019! And by the way, it’s never too early to fill out your calendar, especially when it comes to industry events. For more from all pages of the produce book, keep reading AndNowUKnow.