Underscoring the vibrancy of opportunities in organic produce, the first ever Organic Grower Summit (OGS) presented by CCOF and the Organic Produce Network (OPN), was an energetic, sold-out event with more than 800 attendees. Growers large and small joined other organic industry leaders and entrepreneurs in underscoring the need for strong, well-enforced standards as essential to the continued growth of consumer demand for fresh organic products.
The one-and-a-half-day event, held December 13-14, 2017 at the Monterey Hyatt Resort & Spa, kicked off with Pest Control Advisor (PCA) training, followed by a high-energy gala opening reception and the CCOF Foundation dinner on the evening of December 13. The inaugural event continued on December 14thwith full capacity morning education and keynote sessions, followed by a bustling, sold-out exhibition. Unique to OGS, sponsor Costco Wholesale held a “Meet the Grower” program, matching organic growers and farmers with buyers for the leading organic retailer.
“The inaugural Organic Grower Summit was a resounding success,” said CCOF Executive Director Cathy Calfo. “Sold out, forward-looking, and benefiting the work of the CCOF Foundation to launch the next generation of organic professionals.” As part of the CCOF-OPN collaboration of hosting the inaugural OGS, OPN gave a $50,000 donation to the CCOF Foundation for their work with organic growers and farmers across the nation.
In the “Issues Facing Organic Farmers Today” breakout session, panelist Arnott Duncan of Duncan Family Farms cautioned his fellow growers: “Organic integrity is critical to the success of our industry. People need to hear what that means to us…Our industry can’t afford the perception that we cut corners,” he said.
As a panelist in the “Grower Roundtable: From Wall Street to Main Street, Organic Means Good Business,” keynote session, Jeff Huckaby, President of Grimmway Farms told the story of a recent visit from US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. He took up just two issues with the Secretary: labor and robust organic standards. “Integrity of organics must stay strong. The standards can’t be watered down for the industry to thrive,” Huckaby said.
During the keynote session, Grower of the Year Award recipient Vernon Peterson of Peterson Family Farm and Abundant Harvest Organic accepted his award. Reinforcing another recurrent theme of the Summit, Peterson advised, “If you start with ‘I’m an organic farmer,’ people will listen. We have to find our voice. If we don’t use it, we’ll lose our precious agriculture in California.”
Industry response to the first ever OGS was highly enthusiastic, with sponsors, exhibitors and attendees giving the event high marks. “I have been selling organic fertilizer for over three decades and have been waiting for a great show like this. Thank you OGS,” said Tim Stemwedel of California Organic Fertilizers.
Other educational and keynote sessions at OGS included:
- Leveraging Precision Agriculture
- Tools for Plant and Soil Heath
- Organic Disruption — Cannabis: The Next Frontier
- Essentials of Sustainable Packaging through the Supply Chain
- Clean and Renewable Technology
- A View from the Capitol
- The Changing Retail Landscape: Organic Meal Delivery Direct to Consumers
Expressing a common reaction to the event, attendee Chris Glynn, Director of Organics for Tanimura & Antle said, “It was incredibly professional and brought together highly relevant speakers who delivered quality content. I was very impressed that the OGS was able to so effectively reach a broad audience geographically and from a crop and issue perspective,” he said.
The over 800 attendees included more than 300 growers/farmers of all sizes, a wide range of organic supply chain partners and service providers, as well as related state and federal ag leaders. While the majority hailed from the West Coast, attendees came from eight countries, including Bahrain. The sold-out trade show brought those 300+ growers together to more than 70 exhibitors from around the globe.
“It’s tremendous how much of our industry is here at OGS,” said exhibitor John Maxon of True Organic Products. “An outstanding event that provided excellent educational networking opportunities.”
The second annual Organic Grower Summit is scheduled for December 12 and 13, 2018 at the newly renovated Monterey Conference Center.