We Need To Work Together To Feed A Growing Population [opinion]

Joe Ferrari from Dole and Liphatech's Chuck Hathaway discuss strategy at the VegetableGrowerConnect in Sand Diego in November.

Joe Ferrari from Dole (left) and Liphatech’s Chuck Hathaway discuss strategy at the VegetableGrowerConnect in San Diego in November.

The discussions that took place at American Vegetable Grower® magazine’s VegetableGrowerConnect, which was held in San Diego, CA, in mid-November, are top of mind as we begin to look forward to 2016. The Connect, an invitation-only event that revolves around one-on-one meetings between some of the largest vegetable growers in the country and industry suppliers, is a great opportunity to discuss potential solutions to problems on the farm.

It also gives the growers a chance to talk with each other, and it allows me the opportunity to hear what concerns these growers the most.


To kick off VegetableGrowerConnect, we held a two-hour growers-only roundtable discussion. Overall, the big issues, such as government regulations and labor, continue to keep them up at night.

Labor was a focal point as growers talked about having to find workers who will show up every day and put in the hours needed to get the job done because, as one said, “the squash isn’t going to harvest itself.”

Convincing your coworkers and your company to invest in new tools and ideas that will make your operation more productive and efficient also was talked about. In addition to labor and technology, the roundtable participants discussed various ways to keep equipment clean to avoid spreading disease, software to help track and manage multiple facets of the business, and succession planning when your family doesn’t want to take over the business.

Dealing with ongoing problems such as the ones mentioned here are part of daily life for these growers and most of you. But most of you are also becoming increasingly aware of what the predicted rise in the global population will mean for you and your colleagues. As the projection is to have 9 billion people to feed by 2050, you know ramping up production will be part of the plan.

If you read the story “Rise To The Challenge” you’ll know the bulk of production agriculture is expected to be generated right here in the U.S. To get to the numbers that will be necessary to feed the world, the focus needs to be on all issues plaguing growers — from labor and regulations to preventing the spread of disease in fields, just to name a few. Having discussions that incorporate potential solutions like the ones we had at VegetableGrowerConnect are a great way to keep the focus on what needs to be done, and no issue is too small.

It is about being a part of the solution because the sustainability of the world depends on it.

No pressure, but we have about 35 growing seasons to make it happen.