Ever have one of those moments which you wish the order of things was switched up a bit?
I had one of those recently. I was asked to appear on Valley Public Radio in Fresno, Calif. The request was straight-forward: was I willing to go on the radio with local host Joe Moore to discuss drought impacts to California farmers?
From a business standpoint it was a good opportunity to promote Western Farm Press and what we do. From an agricultural standpoint it was a great opportunity to share a bit of agriculture’s message with an audience that likely does not read Western Farm Press or follow California agriculture much.
Personally it was an honor and a validation that I'm on the right track in my new position; it's always good to learn that people find value in what I write. In a perfect world it would have been good to have attended the two events I attended over the past day before going on Valley Public Radio, but life goes on.
Immediately after my interview I attended a meeting of the Raisin Administrative Committee in Fresno where I heard efforts the RAC is using to market California raisins to global buyers.
What struck me about raisin marketing efforts (and what would have been cool to share with the NPR audience) wasn’t just the volume of raisins that leave the San Joaquin Valley and wind up packaged for consumers in Japan, or in pastries in the United Kingdom; what impressed me was the favorable impression celebrity chefs and bloggers in other countries have of California raisins and the incredible marketing opportunities those perceptions provide.
California's positive perception
Much the same can be said of other popular California commodities with foreign buyers. As it turns out, California agricultural products have a very high standing among foreign buyers. I’ve heard similar stories during meetings of the American Pistachio Growers and the Almond Board of California.
The positive perception of California commodities is just one example of why California agriculture as a whole must be promoted at the policy level. Politicians need to pick their policy stances on what is in the best interest of California agriculture because of the far-reaching impacts our agricultural production has across the globe.
That’s why water availability is so critical to the state’s economy. Growers aren’t just planting something because it looks good in their fields; there is a very real commercial and economic value to what growers plant, and that can be seen all the way from the seed provider and equipment dealer to the union dockworker preparing goods for shipment on container ships at the Port of Oakland and all points in between. They all benefit from a vibrant agricultural economy.
California olives is currently working towards that goal as well. At the recent Sacramento Valley Olive Day in Corning, growers were told of the competition they face from European olive producers in terms of olive oil production. According to Paul Vossen, a farm advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension office in Sonoma County, 97 percent of the olive oil we consume in the United States is imported. Vossen calls that a significant opportunity for the California olive industry given our ability to efficiently produce high-value, in-demand crops.
Popular celebrity chefs with a bias for California-grown fruits and vegetables are not just a grand marketing opportunity for those particular commodities, but a great opportunity to highlight the value California agriculture is to the state’s culture and its economy.