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January 4, 2010

Why Sustainability? Almond Board Newsletter

Almond Board of California
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The latest step in the Almond Board's industrywide sustainability initiative is a self-assessment program designed to inventory actual practices in the orchard. The program's first module—focused on irrigation and fertilizer management practices—is likely to provide a prototype for additional self-assessment modules down the road.

Turlock grower Brian Ramos is among a few dozen growers who participated in the pilot self-assessment questionnaire in recent months. The process, he said, helped him understand the importance of a sustainability program for the industry.

"My initial reaction was, 'What is sustainability?' I mean getting through another year is sustainability," he said.

But after answering questions about his fertilizer and water monitoring and management programs, he began to understand why collecting the information is important.

"It totally clicked. It's about telling people that we are doing a pretty good job," he said. "This gives us the opportunity to tell the world the good things we are doing."

Almond grower Chuck Dirkse, of La Mancha Orchards in Denair, agreed.

"I initially felt annoyed like, here is another thing to deal with," Dirkse said. "But after talking to a handler who said buyers, particularly in Europe, are asking about sustainability, I realized it is an important thing for us as an industry to be proactive about."

Cliff Ohmart, vice-president of professional services for SureHarvest, discussed the program during a panel discussion on sustainability at the Almond Industry Conference in December. He said an industrywide self-assessment program provides a tool for measuring sustainable almond growing practices while sending a message to consumers and regulators that California Almond growers are proactive on sustainability, with the data to back it up.

ABC's Gabriele Ludwig said the confidential self-assessment process benefits almond growers by giving them credit for the many proactive production practices already being implemented while also helping them learn where improvements may be possible.