(Nov. 10) KOHALA COAST, Hawaii — Western Growers members put aside the beach and golf course for one day of serious discussion and reflection, dubbed “Islands of Opportunity,” Nov. 9 at their annual meeting.

In the preceding year, accomplishments for the group were many:

  • Past chairman A.G. Kawamura became California’s secretary of agriculture.

  • Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger instituted policies that were friendly to agriculture and business.

  • Western Growers president Tom Nassif and board member Carol Chandler were part of Schwarzenegger’s transition team.

  • In Arizona, the group helped address farmworker availability, perchlorate contamination in irrigation water and reauthorization of quality and standardization boards.

  • House passage of the Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act was boosted by Western Growers’ efforts.

Chairman John D’Arrigo spoke of Nassif’s role in the bill.

“Nassif suggested that if the specialty crop producers can’t get what is needed from the traditional farm bill, then we should draft our own legislation,” D’Arrigo said.

Another key Western Growers program has been the school garden program, which he said has installed 123 gardens thus far in California and Arizona.

“The results and reactions from our educators and children have been overwhelming,” he said. “We are developing a connection between these young people, the soil, the environment, farming and their food supply.”

For D’Arrigo, the event was a continuation of a time-honored family tradition. His grandfather, Stephen, led the organization in 1947 and his father, Andy, did the same in 1978.

Guest speaker Sandra Lee Kunimoto, chairwoman of Hawaii’s Board of Agriculture, said there is hope for more shipments of the island’s tropical items to the mainland.

Suppression and eradication programs for Hawaii’s four fruit flies is gaining ground, with U.S. Department of Agriculture officials giving increasing recognition of the state’s efforts in the area.

Next year’s meeting is scheduled for Nov. 13-16 at the Hotel del Coronado San Diego, its 80th annual meeting.