(Sept. 18) LA QUINTA, Calif. — Dealing with water issues and boosting produce marketing through use of nutrition information are among the highlights from the educational program at the Western Growers Association’s 77th annual meeting, Nov. 10-13 in La Quinta.

The meeting also will feature exhibits, a golf tournament, a Living Desert tour and plenty of time for networking at evening parties and receptions.

Attendees will get a chance to hear from industry leaders such as Bruce Peterson, vice president and general merchandise manager for perishables for Wal-Mart Stores Inc.; Elizabeth Pivonka, president of the Produce for Better Health Foundation; and Candice Blackmoore, retail marketing manager for the California Department of Health Services’ 5 a Day program.

“This will be a great working meeting,” said Edwin Camp, a partner in Bakersfield-based D.M. Camp & Sons and the incoming chairman of WGA. “Things that people deal with in their businesses on a day-to-day level will be addressed.”

COALITION BUILDING

It will be the second annual meeting without David Moore, WGA’s former president, who died in June 2001. Camp said Moore is still missed.

But attendees will see a strong WGA with great plans for coalition building and working to advance the interests of its members and agriculture, Camp said.

“I think people will see an energized annual meeting,” he said. “This is a gathering of folks who know what we have to do for the association, its members and the industry.”

KICK-OFF

The annual meeting will kick off Nov. 10 with an afternoon of registration and exhibits.

The following day will give attendees the choice of a golf tournament or a Living Desert tour, which will take participants through a 1,200-acre park that contains bighorn sheep, birds of prey, prehistoric plant life and reptiles.

Nov. 12 will feature exhibits as well as a several workshops. One, the “Nutrition Symposium,” will highlight how important it is to tout the health benefits of produce. The day will conclude with a reception, dinner and dance.

Nov. 13 will feature exhibits, an informational brunch and a workshop on water. WGA members have told the association that water issues are some of the most critical issues facing them now, Camp said, and the workshop will focus on water issues from every region of California and Arizona. The evening will conclude with a suppliers party.

The meeting’s keynote speaker will be Ken Khachigian, an attorney in San Clemente and the founding partner of the Los Angeles law firm Smiland & Khachigian. Selected by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as a Fellow for Politics, Khachigian is regarded as an expert on legal and government affairs.

“It’s going to be a great meeting,” Camp said.