From Western Growers

Albert Keck is Elected New Western Growers Chairman of the Board

Albert P. Keck II, President of Hadley Date Gardens, Inc., will serve as the Western Growers Chairman of the Board of Directors for a one-year term.

Keck, a third-generation Californian and farmer, is a lifelong native of the Coachella Valley. He is Chairman of the California Date Administrative Committee and the California Date Commission. He was elected to the Western Growers board in 2015, and previously served as Senior Vice Chairman.

“Our industry is grappling with issues and challenges more daunting than ever, and it seems the perfect time for a happy warrior to step into the role of Chairman of the Western Growers Board of Directors,” said Western Growers President and CEO Dave Puglia. “Albert Keck is indeed a happy warrior, always looking to get after the toughest industry issues with a limitless supply of creative energy and imagination. I look forward to working with him to press forward against, or around, the obstacles confronting our members.”

Outgoing Western Growers Chairman Ryan Talley passed the gavel to Keck during the Western Growers 2021 Annual Meeting in San Diego. “I have been fortunate beyond words to serve my first two years in this position alongside Ryan Talley, who led us as Chairman through a historic pandemic with calm confidence and wise counsel,” Puglia said. “As the only person to serve two years as WG’s Chairman, Ryan has given far more time and effort for the greater good than could be anticipated. We are enormously grateful to him and to his family.”

Keck sat down for a Q&A to explain what he sees as the biggest issues he will face under his Chairmanship.

Where does the agriculture industry stand amid this difficult pandemic transition period?

We’ve been in this surreal spin cycle for going on two years. It’s nice to think we’re coming out of this malaise that we’re in. That’s our hope, but we’ve had these false starts plenty this past year, right? I refuse to accept this new normal as the new reality – no, it’s not. It’s still surreal and dystopic. It’s not our new normal. It’s messed up, and we are desperately needing to get out of it. That being said, the challenges we face are no less than what they’ve always been.

And what do you see as the top challenges?

Labor and water are neverending. They’ve always been there. It’s bad because it seems like they are becoming white noise. It’s like, what’s new in the last 20 years? Labor and water are always going to be some of the most important issues that we’re grappling with. But coming out of this COVID time in our country, what we’re really starting to see is real threats to our supply and distribution channels. We’re starting to realize how vulnerable we all are in our industry and our individual businesses.

How can we translate this problem to a wider audience?

I think we have a good story to tell, and I think people are becoming much more aware of the essentials in their lives. I think we’re supplying them with an essential need in food, and I think there is a huge opportunity there that is going to elevate our message that we matter. We are a key part of everyone’s lives, and there are a lot of vulnerabilities in the supply chain that can affect everyone here in our country. There’s going to be some interesting things that come from that, and that may be a shifting of our awareness as a society and as a culture. I think Western Growers is in a good position to capitalize on that.

Besides Keck, the other newly-installed members of the 2022 Western Growers Executive Committee are: Western Growers CEO and President Dave Puglia; Senior Vice Chairman Stuart Woolf, President and CEO of Woolf Farming & Processing; Vice Chairman Rob Yraceburu, President of Wonderful Orchards; Treasurer Neill Callis, General Manager of Turlock Fruit Company; Executive Secretary Don Cameron, Vice President of Terranova Ranch; Talley, in his role as Past Chairman, and Ron Ratto, President of Ratto Bros. in his role as Past Past Chairman.