Conference Success — Let Us Count the Ways

If success can be measured in numbers, the 40th annual Almond Conference was a triumph. From the total attendance (2,425) to trade show booths in the exhibit hall (226), records fell by the wayside at every turn.

Even with the move north from Modesto to Sacramento, more growers, handlers and exhibitors came from the southern region than the north and central regions. And nearly 70% of all who attended the Conference in 2012 had attended The Almond Conference previously.

A key number contributing to the success of the Conference was the size of the Sacramento Convention Center compared to the former location in Modesto. Instead of a limited amount of equipment displayed in a tent set up in a parking lot, 30 exhibitors brought large equipment to Sacramento, where it fit comfortably in the exhibit hall along with the other exhibitors. The hall also provided more room for posters (80) at the poster session following the research update presentations, and upstairs from the exhibit hall were more rooms and room to spread out for registration, the opening reception, presentations, breakout sessions and workshops.

More speakers than ever before (60) gave growers, handlers and allied industry members a greater opportunity to pick up nuggets of information about the California Almond industry, adding to their knowledge base to become more efficient, effective and productive in their roles.

Breaking all records, nearly 700 lunches were served on the second day of the Conference as attendees could choose from workshops on spray coverage, honey bee colony assessment and an economic update.

“Firsts” in 2012

In addition to record numbers, the 40th Almond Conference came with several “firsts”:

  • It was the first year the U.S. secretary of agriculture attended. Secretary Tom Vilsack praised the almond industry for stewardship and innovation, saying, “Almond growers are proactive and have an exciting message of stewardship and innovation that more of agriculture needs to embrace. I want to express my appreciation to you for a product that helps promote trade, is healthful and embraces innovation.”
  • The size of and accessibility to the exhibit hall at the Convention Center made it possible to exhibit large equipment indoors for the first time.
  • The first silent auction of 70 donated items raised more than $6,000 for California FFA scholarships. For the third year, students from Pitman FFA in Turlock volunteered as official greeters and mic runners during Q&A sessions, and created the floral arrangements on tables at meal events.
  • With more space in the exhibit hall, the Almond Board booth added a store, with California Almonds apparel, The Almond Story animated video, almond tins and more offered for sale.

Continued Growth and Improvement

But what is at the heart of The Almond Conference is the continuous growth and improvement of the California Almond industry, as noted by Chairman of the Board Bill Harp. “Yields are the key to our future,” he said in a presentation entitled “California Almond Supply: Ensuring Its Future.” “The years 2012 to 2017 will be a reasonably good time for growers, but growth will not be at the same pace as the last decade,” added CEO Richard Waycott. “This is the year that the rubber from all that planting hits the road, and the crop will not be as large as last year,” he said, adding that still, demand is high.

Continuous improvement in all areas of almond production was addressed in Crop of Choice presentations. Look for reports from the Conference in this issue and in future issues of “California Almonds Outlook.”

As Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said as he welcomed California Almond growers and handlers to Sacramento, the Conference celebrates “the small, smart things we can do to move the industry forward.”