August 4th, 2015: The Sustainability Consortium and Ag Business Resources partnered to present the 2015 Ag Supply Chain School and Field Tour on July 28-30, supported by sponsors Cotton Incorporated and Syngenta. This first TSC field school involved fifty diverse participants, lecturers, and experts, representing growers, ag specialists, agri-business, food and related industries, academia and financial services. Program attendees came together for three days in Visalia, in the San Joaquin Valley of California, which is one of the most intensive agricultural regions in the world. Participants learned first-hand from growers and processors in both field and classroom settings, addressing a wide variety of sustainability and supply chain issues and complexities facing dairy, food, feed and fiber crops.
The wide array of topics addressed included agricultural hotspots, sustainability metrics, key performance indicators, supply chain networks, pest management, water management, soil erosion, fertilizer use, worker health and safety, labor rights, and addressing consumer demand. Extensive field stops encompassed grapes, stone fruit, citrus, tomatoes, almonds, Asian vegetables, cotton and dairy, plus visits to a tomato processing plant and stone fruit packing house, and meetings with experts at research field stations.
As expected, water was a recurring theme throughout the three days, and participants learned about the water issues facing California agriculture and actions being taken to tackle the challenge. On the topic of energy, among the numerous stops was a solar powered dairy with 2,500 heifers.
One key objective of the program was to understand the grower experience with sustainability metrics and surveys to better drive meaningful impact. Through the three days it became apparent that there is a need for better connection between corporate sustainability goals, sustainability surveys, and growers, and this event was an example of bridging the gap. Some specific key learnings were that growers want to know why data is being requested, want feedback on how they are performing on the surveys, and want dialogue about performance goals from their customers. A panel discussion with California Winegrowers Alliance, Cotton Incorporated, MARS, and Syngenta focused on metrics and how to drive change on the ground.
The participants dispersed with a commitment to implement new ideas in their organizations and drive a more sustainable supply chain, including new ways to work with TSC to build collaboration.
See the event page here.