California almond board progresses toward sustainability program

07/12/2013 02:38:00 PM
Melissa Shipman

Courtesy Almond Board of CaliforniaMelanie Losa fills out assessments at a Supreme Almonds grower workshop in Bakersfield, Calif. The Almond Board of California is using self-assessments to gather data about sustainability practices in the state’s almond industry.The Almond Board of California is working with SureHarvest, Soquel, Calif., to build a sustainability program for growers.

The idea for the program came a few years ago, when the board decided it was necessary to start telling the story of sustainability in the California almond industry, said Kendall Barton, coordinator of industry relations for the board.

“We know the growers do what they do for a reason, and we want to tell other people who don’t know the reasons,” Barton said.

“If you don’t tell your story, someone else will, and it could be wrong. We want to be proactive and make sure it’s a true story backed up by statistics,” she said.

In order to gather information from about 6,000 almond-growing operations, the board is offering workshops where growers can come for lunch, education opportunities and to fill out self-assessments.

“The self-assessments are pretty much yes or no questions, and we use that data to come up with statistics to tell the story of the entire industry,” Barton said.

As of July, more than 1,000 producers have completed self-assessments, which represents almost 88,000 acres. That’s more than 10% of the state’s total.

The board recently had that data certified as being significant enough to tell the story of the entire industry.

“It’s an average for the entire industry,” Barton said.

At the workshops, the board tries to partner with industry allies and targeted education, though events sometimes are short and growers simply fill out assessments.

The board also offers the assessments online.

“They can save their progress as they go even if they only have 15 minutes or so while they are waiting in their truck, which saves a lot of time for them,” Barton said.

In addition, the online version, which has been available for about a year, allows growers to clone answers that pertain to more than one orchard that is managed the same way.

They also can go back in later years to make changes to accommodate for any updates or changes they’ve made to their operations.

“It only takes two minutes for them, but we get an entire new data set,” Barton said.

The online system has brought an increase in grower participation, but the workshops are still popular.

In the future, Barton hopes 100% of the growers will participate in the program, though she’s excited to begin sharing the story of sustainability in the California almond industry.


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