How We Grow

2019 Nov/Dec How We Grow

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1 1 FROM LEADERSHIP Tradition holds that each wedding anniversary is paired with a customary gift. For a one-year anniversary that gift is paper related, at five years the gift is made of wood and anything beyond 60 years is nothing but diamonds. For the ten-year anniversary the gift is aluminum, a metal symbolizing resilience, something that's pliable but impermeable, able to weather drastic drops in temperature and even absorb sound and shock. Reflecting upon the California almond industry and its journey over the past ten years, I liken our experience, and resilience, to the characteristics of aluminum. We've been responsive to practices developed from new research findings, resolute in the face of trade and market access challenges abroad, able to weather and continue to thrive amidst an increase in state and local regulations. And when we were surprised by push back from consumers regarding our industry's water use, we stepped up to improve our practices — and haven't looked back since. We would be greatly remiss not to acknowledge the program that's been with us and seen us through the past decade of ups and downs. The California Almond Sustainability Program (CASP), started in 2009, has grown and evolved with the almond industry over the past ten years, equipping us with the tools we need to asses our practices and make improvements. In fact, in the midst of the drought, it was statistics from CASP that allowed us to share with the world how responsible we are as an industry. What were we doing at the time to improve? Among other impactful practices, 70% of growers were using microirrigation systems and more than 80% of growers were using demand-based irrigation scheduling - almost double the state average at the time of 42% of farms. 1 CASP data allowed us to absorb the negative reaction to our water use, determine where we were succeeding and where we could improve, and then challenge ourselves to be more strategic and responsible moving forward. It was a tough time, but we as an industry came out of the drought stronger than before. What a success to celebrate CASP's ten-year anniversary. Beyond our improvements in water use, CASP allows us to tell the broader industry sustainability story, a story that international buyers are asking to hear repeatedly as their customers want to know how their food is grown. Data derived from CASP allows us to talk about what we are doing with credibility — it proves we aren't just telling our story of responsible farming; we're living it every day. And we are being recognized for that. In 2017, CASP earned a 2.1 Gold Standard rating after being benchmarked with the globally-recognized Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Platform's Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA). SAI Platform FSA Manager Joe Rushton said, "Gold equivalence reflects the comprehensiveness of the Almond Board's sustainability program, coupled with applicable federal and state regulations, and demonstrates how the California Almond Sustainability Program can be used as an equivalent means of assessing sustainable practices relevant to the California almond industry." In other words, our industry's sustainability efforts are recognized for excellence around the globe. But we're not stopping there. In 2018, we developed the Almond Orchard 2025 Goals, pushing the industry further to produce almonds in better, safer and healthier ways. And how did we create these four goals? By aligning CASP data with information derived from ABC's consumer research, we as the Board established the goals to take us where we need to be on the farm and with our consumers, meeting growers' needs and consumers' wants, advancing and innovating both for the sake of our crop and our customers. We cannot assume that because our customers care about our farming practices that they inherently know what great things we are doing out in the orchard — 95% of consumers live in urban areas and don't often have a connection to the way their food is grown. This means we must document our responsible practices and provide a basis from which to tell our story in a credible way. But ultimately, until you fill out a CASP module, attend a workshop and participate you won't be contributing to that story Holly A. King Chair, Board of Directors Almond Board of California 1 California Almond Sustainability Program, Jan. 2014.

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