2023 AgVenture class, left to right: Ben Rickelman, Mitchell Breedlove, Mary Jo Velasquez, Clebson Goncalves, Bonnie Sears, Mark Lipps, Katie Evans, Rick Reynolds, Laura Beltran, Nocole Flora, Sam Upton, Brad Rasmussen. Not pictured: Erny Padilla, Daniella Santana
Lake County California Women for Agriculture’s 2023 AgVenture class met for its first session on August 25 at Lake Event Design’s showroom.
Day One focused on pears and included expert presenters as well as orchard and packinghouse visits. Lake County Agricultural Commissioner Katherine VanDerWall highlighted the importance of agriculture to Lake County’s economy. Myron Holdenried, a descendant of a pioneering pear-growing family, spoke on Lake County agriculture’s historical evolution.
Broc Zoller, PhD, locally known as “The Pear Doctor,” educated the class about agricultural research programs, both public and private, supported by growers themselves through marketing orders. He explained the development of integrated pest management (IPM), and showed a display of pears and walnuts manifesting the various pests and diseases that are controlled using cultural practices and products developed by this research.
Gregory Panella, a fourth-generation steward of the Henderson Ranch legacy and owner and manager of the Henderson/Panella Ranches, gave a farmer’s perspective on carrying on the storied family farm heritages of both the pioneer Henderson and Stokes pear farms. He fell heir to both legacies thanks to his aunt and uncle, Syd Stokes and Diane Henderson. He spoke in detail about integrated pest management, modern cultural and water management practices, sustainability, and various grower challenges, including the burden of regulatory compliance, keeping a labor force, and the weather.
A highlight of the day was the visit to Panella’s beautiful Henderson orchard at harvest time, where Greg continued to illustrate details of his classroom talk, and showed the class how to properly pick some pears to take home.
Toni Scully shared the background of her family’s entrance into the Lake County pear packing and shipping scene in 1974. She reviewed the economic forces that have affected California as well as Lake County pear growers over the years, a roller coaster ride that farmers of all crops endure.
Toni also gave an orientation and overview of the pear packing process, which was followed by a tour of Scully Packing Company’s Finley shed. The class was amazed to witness how 25 truck and trailer loads of pears come into each of Scully’s two sheds daily during the peak harvest time and get from field bins to a variety of market-ready packages every day. Forty percent of all fresh market pears from California are shipped from Lake County.
Pat Scully wrapped up the presentations on the subject of marketing the crop, constantly adapting to meet the changing demands of the retail trade in terms of packaging, promotions, and timing. He passed around examples of promotional programs entered into with chain stores all over the US, Canada, and Mexico, saying that, “If you don’t have a strong marketing program, at the end of the day, everything else you do is in vain.”
Launched in 2010, AgVenture is designed for non-farming community members who wish to understand the vital contributions of agriculture to Lake County’s quality of life. It is guided by a steering committee, all CWA members, including Colleen Rentsch, Rebecca Harper, Bonnie Sears, Toni Scully, Katherine VanDerWall and Sharron Zoller. This was the first of four sessions. September will feature wine grapes, October will highlight walnuts, and November will focus on olives and ag labor. Expert speakers will address the class on pertinent topics each day.
California Women for Agriculture (CWA), founded in 1975, is the most active all-volunteer agricultural organization in the state, with 20 chapters and more than 1300 members. Sharron Zoller of Kelseyville is the current state president. For more information, visit www.lakecountycwa.org.