The 46th Almond Conference Walks the Line Between Education and Entertainment
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — More than 3,900 almond growers, processors and allied industry members met in Sacramento, Dec. 4–6, 2018, for The Almond Conference. The 46th annual conference set a record for attendance and featured 254 exhibitors and more than 50 educational sessions. Planned and hosted by the Almond Board of California (ABC), this event provides the almond community with an opportunity to gain fresh knowledge, network with fellow industry members, reflect on the recent harvest and prepare for the coming year.
“In today’s fast-paced world it’s a challenge to keep up with all the changes impacting the almond industry. Whether it’s complying with new regulations, keeping up with best practices, or staying on top of the ever-changing trade environment, the list goes on and on,” said Holly A. King, chair of ABC. “This is the one event held each year that brings the industry together to discuss and learn about these topics, and work together to find solutions and propel the industry forward. It was great to see so many members of the almond community gathered in one place with the single-minded goal of advancing the industry.”
Setting Goals to Prioritize Efforts
From Tuesday’s State of the Industry address to Thursday evening’s Gala Dinner, the Almond Orchard 2025 Goals were a key focus throughout this year’s event. These goals, announced publicly at the Conference, demonstrate the California almond community’s commitment to continuous improvement and provide the foundation for the industry to grow and evolve into the 21st century.
Adopted by the ABC Board of Directors in June 2018, the Almond Orchard 2025 Goals state that by 2025 the California almond community commits to:
- Reduce the amount of water used to grow a pound of almonds by 20%
- Achieve zero waste in our orchards by putting everything we grow to optimal use
- Increase adoption of environmentally friendly pest management tools by 25%
- Reduce dust during harvest by 50%
During the State of the Industry address, King and Richard Waycott, Almond Board president and CEO, spoke to attendees about how the industry must work together to grow almonds in better, safer and healthier ways, protecting local communities and the environment.
“When we look back over the past couple of decades, in terms of the growth of the industry, it’s really been largely driven by repositioning almonds in the minds of consumers globally — we need to always be thinking about how to take almonds higher in the minds of our customers and consumers,” said Waycott. “The new goals we have set are all there to improve our productivity and achieve our vision to make life better by not only what we grow, but how we grow.”
King agreed, “These goals ensure our future.”
California Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross then joined King and Waycott on stage to offer her thoughts on the goals.
“It’s about documenting what we’re doing and being able to quantify it, and being able to measure and monitor the progress that we continue to make, creating a benchmark that we can all measure ourselves against,” said Ross. “That’s the secret to continuous improvement.”
Luncheon Speakers Inspire, Gala Entertainment Walks the Line
Luncheon speakers at this year’s Almond Conference all spoke to a need for the almond industry to get outside its comfort zone and push boundaries to persistently innovate. During Wednesday’s luncheon, David Deak, a disruptive innovator in the energy and tech space, demonstrated how rapid change forced the automotive and communications industries to advance at a pace that would change the course of history. Deak then challenged attendees to consider how that type of rapid change could push the almond industry to greater heights, to improve at an accelerated pace, and to continue setting the tone for California agriculture.
"The key to abundance is unlocking knowledge and creating new ways of getting more with less,” said Deak.
Thursday’s speakers, the Peterson Farm Brothers, built upon that challenge as they spoke to industry members about how the almond community can, and should, be creative and open to sharing their farming stories with those in urban areas, reaching them with messages that resonate. Greg, Nathan and Kendall Peterson shared four of their top songs, including their latest parody of “California Love” — “California Farms” — which features a shoutout to California almonds. After the luncheon, multiple Conference attendees crowded the ABC booth for an opportunity to shake hands and take photos with the Kansas farming brother trio, whose YouTube videos have reached more than 50 million views.
“The Peterson Farm Brothers reached a whole new audience with a positive message about agriculture,” said Daren Williams, senior director of Global Communications at ABC. “Hearing their personal story along with live performances of their hit songs was both entertaining and inspiring.”
The 2018 Almond Conference wrapped up with a show honoring The Man in Black himself: James Garner’s Tribute to Johnny Cash. The performance featured a blend of Cash’s greatest hits infused with short retellings of his life, from creating music with Shel Silverstein to performing for Folsom Prison inmates.
Bright Futures for CA FFA Students, Additional Highlights
Since 2011, Almond Leadership Program participants have worked to raise funds for California FFA students who seek to study agriculture after high school. This year, through efforts including a silent and live auction at the Conference, and a golf tournament this past October, the 2018 Almond Leadership class raised over $36,000 for California FFA. Altogether, the Leadership program has now raised over $100,000 in scholarships for FFA students.
“California FFA has been an integral component to the success of California ag leadership — training, educating and inspiring future leaders,” said Jenny Nicolau, manager of Industry Relations at the Almond Board. “The Almond Leadership Program’s commitment to supporting FFA members by providing scholarships is a true testament to ensuring today’s youth has the tools needed to become tomorrow’s leaders. Raising more than $100,000 in a few short years proves yet again that the almond industry believes in serving our communities and our youth.”
Other highlights from The 2018 Almond Conference include:
- Almond Board Research Funding Announcement
- The Almond Board of California announced a $6.8 million investment in 75 independent research projects exploring next-generation farming practices, including optimal use of everything almond orchards grow. ABC’s research programs provide a scientific basis for best practices across several priority areas, including water sustainability, pollinator health and finding new uses for almond coproducts.
- Former Almond Board Staff Bob Curtis and Sue Olson Recognized
- Curtis and Olson have served the almond industry for nearly 50 years, combined.
- General Session: Live Consumer Focus Group
- Four consumers participated in a live focus group in which they spoke on their expectations for food producers and perceptions of the almond industry, specifically. Overall, the group held positive opinions toward agriculture and the almond industry.
- Almond Board Shares New Vision and Mission Statements
- During the State of the Industry address, King and Waycott shared the Almond Board of California’s new vision and mission statements, which are available on the Almond Board website.
Stay tuned for more information on The 2019 Almond Conference, Dec. 10–12, at Cal Expo in Sacramento. If you’re interested in sponsoring the 2019 event or hosting a booth, please contact Nicolau at firstname.lastname@example.org.