2014 Ventura County Sustainability Exchange Recap Part 2
- by Jordan Okumura
VENTURA COUNTY, CA - With day 1 a smashing success, day 2 of the Ventura County Sustainability Exchange kicked off with a series of exciting tours of the fields and facilities of some of the leading growers in the fresh produce industry. Attendees of this exclusive pre-Fresh Summit event were brought into the backyards of San Miguel Produce, Deardorff Family Farms and Houweling's Nursery, getting a personal look at what makes Ventura County a one-stop-shop for sustainably grown produce.
“The leadership that I witnessed during the Ventura County Sustainability Exchange was more than eye-opening; it was inspiring!” said Lori Taylor, the Produce Mom. “I honestly had no idea how much Ventura County contributes to American Agriculture. And everything I saw; from the way these growers treated the planet & their crop to the way they treat the men & women who are part of their team, really just makes me want to shop for their brands in the grocery store.”
The first tour of the day took guests to San Miguel Produce, where the grower put its use of soil moisture recorders on display. San Miguel uses these devices in order to improve the accuracy and efficiency of its irrigation systems and better budget its water usage. San Miguel also shared with attendees some of its innovative solutions to the labor challenges facing the industry, including its use of harvesting belts to increase yields by 10% and productivity by 25%. Finally, visitors were introduced to the 600 acres which San Miguel devotes to its organic crops in addition to its acres of conventional crops.
Deardorff was next on the list where VCSE attendees were welcomed by Tom and Scott Deardorff through a video. The two were unable to greet visitors in person as they were currently participating in the Tour De Fresh event. While there, attendees toured LEED certified headquarters for office, cooling and packing operations, as well as the facility's recent addition of 1,368 new solar panels on its roof. This addition will offset 40% of Deardorff's electricity usage, according to a press release.
“They say ‘you have to see it to believe it.’ The VCSE did just that - it brought the industry to Ventura County to SEE the amazing commitment to sustainability and it made BELIEVERS of all the attendees,” Tom Deardorff II, President, shared. “This event was a huge success in both educating the industry and creating valuable relationships across the supply chain. Everyone left fully aware that Ventura County is like no other produce region - it truly is home to the best innovators and dedicated champions of sustainability!”
Houweling’s Nursery was the last stop of the day. CEO Casey Houweling led guests on a tour through the company's history and the challenges growers are confronting today, as well as through its 5 acre solar system and three cogen systems. These systems are the first in the United States which produce electricity, CO2, heat and water all for use at Houweling's 125 acres of greenhouses.
Be sure to also check out part one of our coverage of this exclusive pre-Fresh Summit event!
Congratulations to VCSE and all of its sponsors, Cool Planet, Agromin, Driscoll's, Houweling’s Tomatoes, San Miguel Produce, Deardorff Family Farms, Limoneira, and Calavo, for putting on this exceptional event.