Anticipate Change and Be Willing to Adapt: An approach to overcoming the volatility of agriculture
For more than 50 years, I have had the privilege of working in agriculture. In that time, I’ve witnessed one of mankind’s oldest industries — the production of food — evolve and accelerate to feed a nation.
Just 100 years ago, California primarily grew grains on broad-acre, unirrigated land similar to the Midwest. The major shift in our production practices took place after WWII as the modern farming revolution began. Fertilizers, pesticides, seed technology, plant breeding, viticultural and horticultural advancements, mechanical innovations and irrigation systems quickly became available. These innovations now seem basic compared to the sophisticated practices used on our customers’ operations today. But at the time, they enabled growers to evolve to make massive strides in the quality, quantity and diversity of what they produced.
The post-WWII era and revolution in ag innovation was a tipping point for California agriculture. Early adopters and innovators started to shape the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, first taming our wild rivers and constructing water storage and delivery systems that opened tens of thousands of acres to ag development. From there, they planted fruit trees on irrigated land and evolved to the 400 plus commodities we currently produce. It soon became obvious cultural practices on the farm needed to change as we became aware of erosion and subsidence. Being stewards of the land became just as important as producing food. Agriculture moved forward.
Watching this industry grow and evolve — from my time as a boy growing up in a small farming town to my time as a grandfather — has always left me looking to the future. What’s next for agriculture? How do we continue to stay ahead of the challenges?
I believe the formula for success in agriculture is simple: anticipate and embrace change. Change is constant. Adaptation and evolution are keys to overcoming the challenges of today and tomorrow. In this newsletter, you’ll read about Guinness McFadden, a grower who adapted to grow wine grapes in Potter Valley. As an outsider to the region with minimal agricultural knowledge, McFadden faced critics early in his journey. Instead of letting those critics shape his future, he chose to double down and immerse himself in grape growing and wine production, experimenting and taking chances when necessary. Innovation and evolution continue to define his business.
Conversations around water management have changed as the battle for water continues. Drought, water allocations and regulations are at the forefront of production decisions. Responsible water use and management now require precision and meticulous attention to detail. This all has brought forth an influx of technology and efficiency tools. But water management today is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Our team recognizes the need for tools and resources that are simplified, customized and yield the best results. To address these changes, Grow West acquired WaterLabs in 2021 to better equip our growers with water management knowledge and innovations. We’ll provide an update on WaterLabs in this issue.
Lastly, we will discuss the evolution of management resources taking place across ag business operations. Today’s labor marketplace calls for out-of-the-box thinking. The ability to evolve starts internally — transparency, partnerships and community involvement need to be considered. Being open-minded to making these adjustments is the first step in ensuring we sustain a happy and successful talent pool in agriculture.
Seeing the scope of agriculture change and how our team adapts has left a fire in my belly for the future. Though our widgets may be similar to other ag retail partners, the quality of our leadership and employees is unmatched. Change is impacting all of us, but there is one thing that will not change: Grow West employees will continue to provide the same industry-leading level of service while evolving to meet your changing needs. We will continue to value the relationships built as your partner, neighbor, family member and friend.
Our team, customers and partners are my inspiration. I look forward to the future as we embrace the changes in agriculture together.
Owner + Chairman