Home Industry News Shaping the Future of California Walnuts Starts Now

Shaping the Future of California Walnuts Starts Now

Robert Verloop

Op-Ed by Robert Verloop, Executive Director and CEO, California Walnut Board/Commission — The California Walnut Board and Commission are asking for industry involvement through participation in elections and weighing in on the strategic planning process.

The California walnut industry is facing some of its greatest challenges, from rising costs and a maturing market to global competition, the effects of drought/heatwave and a mounting list of obstacles. But I believe a brighter future is ahead — and it requires the involvement of growers and handlers of all types and sizes to lend their ideas, critical thinking power and time to advance the industry.

As Executive Director and CEO, I’m committed to creating space for this to happen by fostering a culture of openness, inclusion, collaboration and transparency – and there are lots of ways to get involved. At the top of the list is board service.

Board and Committee Service Provides Opportunity to Make Your Voice Heard

Elected board members serve a critical role in guiding our industry, offering their unique knowledge and expertise, representing the interests of growers and handlers in their regions, and providing oversight and governance functions to the California Walnut Board and Commission.

The nomination and election process for both the board and commission will soon be underway. We are looking for individuals who recognize the importance of board functions and are willing to put their “company” hats aside and think and act for the betterment of the industry overall. We are looking for people to not simply rubber stamp the decisions of the CEO or any one individual, but rather respectfully push themselves, each other and the industry to think big and challenge the status quo in order to advance. This means asking tough questions, engaging in respectful dialogue and not being afraid to move away from activities and practices that are not serving the industry well.

If you are unable to serve as an elected board member, you may want to consider serving on a committee that aligns with your knowledge and interests. The California Walnut Board and Commission work through broad based committees and working groups, including marketing and market development; production research; health research; issues management; and grades and standards. Serving on these committees and working groups is a tremendous opportunity to learn more about the broader industry issues, including challenges and opportunities, and contribute to the development of the next phase for our industry.

Getting involved with the board is especially important for young people, who represent the future of California walnuts. Many California walnut farmers are from multi-generational farm families that want to see their agricultural legacies live on – and your sons and daughters hold the ticket. Encourage them to get involved with the industry. Their viewpoints are critically important as the California walnut industry evolves and seeks to build affinity with younger consumers, many whose values, interests and purchasing habits are unique to their generation.

And while board and committee service is formal and an ongoing way to get involved, it is not the only opportunity for engagement. In fact, the time is ripe (in fact it’s critical) to make your voices heard as part of our strategic planning process.

Strategic Planning Will Set a New Course

Recently we initiated a strategic planning process to help guide a new phase for our industry. Strategic planning is about asking ourselves: Where are we now as an industry? Where do we want to be in the future? How will we get there? And how will we know when we have arrived?

To help answer these questions we are casting our net far and wide for input. We’ve spoken to many growers and handlers individually and will soon be hosting a series of roundtables throughout the state where industry members are invited to a facilitated dialogue designed to solicit input. We encourage you to take part in an electronic survey between now and March 31, 2023 at CaliforniaWalnutSurvey.org. We’re looking for candid and constructive input, and all ideas are welcome. We’ll be listening carefully so that your voice is heard and incorporated in the planning process.

We’ve assembled a strategic planning task force whose members will roll up their sleeves and listen to all the input we receive before developing the key elements of the strategic plan. The task force has been chosen to represent the diversity of the industry, and consists of industry veterans as well as fresh voices. All task force members have expressed a shared desire for evolution and progressive thinking.

The work of the task force will be reviewed and ultimately approved by the board and iterations of the plan will be shared during our open board meetings. Ultimately, the plan will be rolled out and socialized with industry who can again weigh in on the plan. Once complete, the plan will guide not only the work of the California Walnut Board and Commission, but also serve as a roadmap for the overall industry.

Your input and support – whether in the form of board or committee service, part of the strategic planning process or via any other means – has never been more important. The California Walnut Board was created in 1948, and the California Walnut Commission was created in 1987. The world has changed significantly since the formation of these organizations, and we, like the industry, need to advance and adapt to the challenges we face, in order to thrive. While the challenges are numerous, so too are the opportunities and I am confident that by working together we can create great things including growing demand for California walnuts and creating a prosperous future for the industry. Read the full op-ed article from Robert Verloop in the March issue of Pacific Nut Producer Magazine.

Every two years the California Walnut Board (CWB) and California Walnut Commission (CWC), hold elections for board members to serve on the respective boards, beginning September 1 and seated at the 2023 Fall meeting. While the timing is similar (March – July), the process is slightly different for the two organizations. For a full explanation of the election process, qualifications and definitions please contact Dana Hull at dhull@walnuts.org.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *