Growers shoot for sustainability

07/12/2013 01:45:00 PM
Melissa Shipman

Courtesy Stemilt GrowersA worker turns compost during production of Stemilt Growers’ specially designed compost on a farm near its orchards. All green waste is recycled at the compost farm, communications manager Brianna Shales says.Sustainability is a long-term goal toward which many growers, shippers, and sellers are working.

Brianna Shales, communications manager for Stemilt Growers, Wenatchee, Wash., says efforts to “go green” are not about instant gratification.

“A lot of these efforts aren’t new, but with sustainability you’ll be reaping those benefits for years,” Shales said.

Stemilt has put several sustainability practices into place over the past two decades, she said, and the savings from those decisions are continuous.

Others also see longstanding benefits from sustainability efforts.

For Mucci Farms, sustainability makes sense from many perspectives, not just as a standalone benefit for the environment, said Jim Gallant, vice president of operations and engineering at Remasco, Kingsville, Ontario.

Remasco is a Mucci-controlled corporation.

“From the priority of our consumers to the payback and rate of return, sustainability makes sense,” Gallant said.

“You are doing a disservice if you just look at it in terms of environmental benefits, even though that’s important,” he said.

In the future, some expect to see sustainability certifications with similar requirements to organic certifications.

“It’s my opinion that eventually there will be a sustainability certification, much like organics,” said Kathleen Phillips, supply chain sustainability manager for Pro*Act, Monterey, Calif.

Phillips also oversees Pro*Act’s Greener Fields Together program.

“It will be another way to differentiate yourself and define your farming style,” she said.

Phillips expects that certification to come somewhere around 10 years down the road.

“There are some great folks laying down the groundwork for that now, but I think it will be a while,” she said.

It’s important to note that sustainability efforts are relative to where a company is beginning the journey.

“Some companies were early adopters who already have things figured out. They are more advanced,” Phillips said.

Other companies may already have been practicing sustainable habits without understanding the movement.

“You have some growers who, just in the essence of being a good farmer, are good stewards of the earth but haven’t formalized those efforts,” Phillips said.

No matter where a grower is on the path to sustainability, there are ways to move forward, Phillips said.

“We all have the opportunity to move along the spectrum, and we’re hoping to help them see what’s possible for them to achieve,” she said.



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