Sakata Seed America Supports the AHA through its Sakata Gives Corporate Giving Program
New Release Edited by Patrick Cavanaugh
During the month of October, as part of its Sakata Gives Corporate Giving Program, Sakata Seed America, a world leader in breeding and producing vegetable and flower seed, participated in two walks, including a special Sakata-coordinated campus walk, to raise awareness and much-needed funds for the American Heart Association.
On the morning of October 20th, Sakata Seed America staff, friends and family joined the annual American Heart Association Central Coast Heart & Stroke Walk. The 5K walk commenced at the Depot Lot and continued along the scenic coastal pathway located in Monterey. More than 275 Central Coast residents and visitors gathered for the annual Heart Walk to raise life-saving funds and awareness for heart disease and stroke.
The event which included 19 teams, including Team Sakata, raised more than $44,000. Team Sakata raised $3,772 for the walk, earning the titles of Top Team, Top Company, and Top Walker (Jamie Kitz). Funds raised from the Heart Walk will benefit research, advocacy, outreach, and education.
In addition, on the morning of October 3rd the Sakata staff stepped out at their own regional offices for a companywide Heart Walk staged at seven of their campuses throughout the United States, including major locations in Yuma, AZ; Morgan Hill, CA; Salinas, CA; Woodland, CA; Ft. Myers, FL; Mt. Vernon, WA; and Burlington, WA.
A first for Sakata and the American Heart Association, Sakata’s coordinated campus walk was the “heartchild” of Jamie Kitz, Program Manager for Sakata Gives, the company’s Corporate Giving Program. Kitz said, “Partnering with strong community-minded organizations as the American Heart Association speaks to the essence of the Sakata Gives. We love engaging in our communities through activities that contribute to the betterment of both life and culture.”
To encourage and thank walkers, 400 colorful tulips were generously donated by Sun Valley Floral Farm. Participants were thrilled to walk away with gorgeous blooms that made for even happier hearts! Sakata was pleased to build awareness and camaraderie at their own facilities and blaze a new trail in fundraising for the American Heart Association.
From humble beginnings, the AHA has grown into the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. A shared focus on cardiovascular health unites their more than 33 million volunteers and supporters as well as their more than 3,400 employees. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the No. 1 killer, and stroke ranks as the country’s No. 5 killer. For nearly 100 years, the AHA has been fighting heart disease and stroke, striving to save and improve lives.
Kelly LaPorta, Regional Director for the American Heart Association states, “It is evident that the mission of the American Heart Association is a mission that is near and dear to the hearts of the Sakata Family. Heart Walk is our premiere event for raising funds to save lives from heart disease and stroke and Sakata has fielded a team for the past six years. Happily, Sakata wanted to do more. They wanted to be sure they could participate at the highest level and raise the most funds and awareness—hence we decided to co-host our first coordinated campus walk for Sakata and it was a huge success!”
Overall, roughly 110 Sakata employees participated in the two walks and raised over $4,900 for the cause.
Statewide, there has been a problem with bean seed germination. In other words, when growers plant the seed, it does not germinate well. This is seed that is being grown to be planted as bean seed for a crop to be consumed.
Rachel Long—a UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor based in Woodland serving Yolo, Sacramento and Solano counties—is studying the problem.
“We had a big meeting last year with the California Dried Bean Advisory Board to discuss this, and one of the thoughts that came up is that maybe because of the drought that we’re letting the seed dry down a little bit too much, and then when it’s harvested, it’s getting internal injury by the combine and therefore that internal injury is causing these seeds to not germinate real well,” Long said.
“So I started a project to try to figure out, whether or not there’s some relationship between seed moisture at harvest and the quality of the seed,” Long said. “We are seeing some differences in particular if you do a harvest, certainly in the morning where you have a little bit higher moisture content, that you end up with better seed germination.”
“So even though they are planting seed for a seed crop, the seed is not treated any different than if it were being planted for consumption, and they are harvested in the same way,” Long explained.
“But what we think is that if you’re harvesting beans or seed stock, then you have to be much more careful and really watch the moisture content, so growers would want to harvest them in the morning rather than the afternoon, when there is more moisture content,” she said.
Julie Borlaug Honors her Famous Grandfather, Norman Borlaug, in Advancing Science in Agriculture
Editor’s Note: Julie Borlaug spoke recently at the 2016 Forbes AgTech Summit in Salinas, and shared with us the legacy of her Grandfather, Norman Ernest Borlaug, a man who used technology to ward off starvation and the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, as well as the importance of advanced technology in Agriculture.
Julie Borlaug, associate director for external relations, Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University, introduced the Institute’s mission, “We design and implement development and training programs. We take the legacy of my grandfather and we carry it out through the land-grant mission of teaching, research and extension. We’re primarily funded by organizations like USAID and USDA, so we truly are a development agency.”
Here is more of what she shared:
We all know why we care about agriculture and a lot of why we care is pretty much some of the same reasons my grandfather was up against during the green revolution. My grandfather was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal and now a statue in the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol. However, when I speak about my grandfather I like to humanize him a little and make people realize he was a normal person and that anyone can, if they’re dedicated, change the world.
Growing up with him, we didn’t really know what he did. We just knew he flew through Dallas on his way to Mexico or Africa or India. In third grade, I took him to show and tell, and he was upstaged by a hamster. I think it was good for him.
When he got the Congressional Gold Medal I got to sit with him on stage and he had two minutes to talk. The entire Congress was shut down. At 10 minutes, Nancy Pelosi‘s staff [was] poking me from behind saying, “You’ve got to stop him.” I leaned forward to President Bush and I said, “They want him to stop. You’re the President.” He said, “This isn’t my thing, this is the Congressional.” Right at that point, I think we were about 18 minutes in, my grandfather said, “Poverty and hunger are fertile seeds for isms, and terrorism is one of them.” At that point Bush leaned back and said, “Don’t stop him now.”
My grandfather was many things. He was a warrior against hunger, he was a teacher, but first and foremost he was a scientist. He often said, “The fear of change is the greatest obstacle to progress.” He came down on the side of innovation and was known to be bold and quick.
He was a fierce advocate for innovation and technological change, especially when it came to developing countries and small-scale farmers. His most potent view of science was that man’s most advanced knowledge and technology should be used in the battle against hunger and poverty.
Like my grandfather’s green revolution, we have a huge challenge in front of us: How to feed 9 billion people. This is going to require new economic, political policies, new rounds of innovation, of technological advancements, but most importantly in agriculture, it will require a new way of agriculture to address things.
We have to change our thinking, we have to have new partners and we can’t be the traditional Ag and take a silo approach. We have to be interconnected, transformative, with greater transparency and we need to bring the life science technology entrepreneurs—everyone, even the medical community—to the table.
That’s one of the reasons why my grandfather’s green revolution was so successful. He realized he had to bring the government, economic infrastructure and technology together for the small-holder farmer for it truly to work, because agriculture alone cannot transform.
Like my grandfather, I strongly believe in biotechnology and innovation. I always get asked, “Can we feed 9 billion people?” My answer is yes, if we are allowed to. If my grandfather were here he’d say, “We are not going to be able to do this without science and without pushing the boundaries of innovation.”
To feed 9 billion we need to realize we have a new strain of fact-resistant humans and we have a lack of transparency, that’s all you can call them. I could call them something else, but that’s the most polite way.
We need to realize that our consumer is very different. We have mommy bloggers, we have foodies driving the conversation and the table is moving closer to the farm. We have all the misconceptions; a backyard garden is not farming.
Pretty backyard gardens with chickens running around is not going to feed the world. It takes more than that and we have a public who thinks that’s what it is. I always ask those people, if they want to go see reality, come with me to rural Kenya and let’s ask a female farmer what she needs. It’s seeds, inputs and technology.
We also have market confusion. We have vegan green beans, we have gluten-free cranberries, we have GMO-free beef. I was at an opening of Whole Foods a few years ago and there was a North Texas cattle company that was showing GMO-free beef and I had to walk over and ask what he meant. He said, “We do not genetically modify our cattle.” I said, “Well, of course you don’t. Do you mean you’re not giving feed that has been genetically modified?” He said, “No, no, no, we do that. We just don’t genetically modify our cattle.” It was great marketing.
We had GMO-free salt that sold at stores. I like that one. We have a public that believes everything on social media, especially what their 20-year-old yoga instructor says, who got a degree in nutrition online. We also have fear campaigns; look at what Greenpeace has done.
You cannot be anti-hunger and anti-innovation. If you are going to be anti-innovation, you better have a solution for us because we’re willing to accept it.
Innovation and NextGen
What’s really [fascinating] is where my grandfather would be excited about the future of Agriculture. My grandfather would be most excited about the gene revolution. We have gene-editing and synthetic biology. There are so many new solutions out there. We have a sharing economy, internet of everything, cloud biology, MachineryLink—something I’m involved in. It’s an uber platform for sharing of equipment.
In order to really get to my grandfather’s legacy, we have to remember that we are responsible for the next generation. We have to build the hunger-fighters that my grandfather built. The next generation is growing up with technology, they’re creative, they have bold ideas, they collaborate across discipline and they want change. We need to bring them to the table and support them.
When my grandfather got the Nobel Peace Prize, the Chair said, “Behind the outstanding results in the sphere of wheat research for which the dry statistics speak, we sense the presence of a dynamic, indomitable and refreshingly unconventional research scientist. We still need more of those today. It’s going to be unconventional partnerships and innovations that help us end hunger. Just remember, if we don’t allow it to happen here, if we try to ban the future of agriculture and innovation, it’s just going to happen somewhere else, and I think we want that to happen here.”
If my grandfather was here he would thank you for your dedication and he’d tell you to move faster, because there are 25,000 people who are going to die today while we’re debating future technologies. I think we need to always remember that.
Before he died he said he had a problem. This was when he was told he was going to pass away, and it was 3 days before he died. My mom and I asked what his problem was and he said it was Africa. “I never brought a green revolution to Africa.”
I quickly said, “All the hunger-fighters, everyone you’ve trained, everyone in this room is going to ensure we bring a green revolution to Africa that’s appropriate for each country and each area, and we will do that everywhere.” That is what you’re doing, but remember, your innovation and technology is only good when you take it to the farmer.
Farmers may disagree over the cause of climate change, especially whether it’s caused by humans, but it’s difficult to dismiss the extreme weather patterns that have developed in recent years.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack attributed the new patterns to climate change.
“You all know that the climate is changing, and you all know that it impacts agriculture. More intense weather patterns, longer droughts, more severe storms, more pests and diseases—this really does have an impact on agriculture. If we don’t get serious about adapting and mitigating, it will just continue.”
Farmers and ranchers continually look for new ways to create more predictable outcomes, noted A.J. Kawamura, a third-generation grower from Orange County, Calif. In Kawamura’s case, given drought conditions that grip the Golden State, that means using water more economically.
Kawamura has already moved to drip irrigation at Orange County Produce. “And now we’re looking very hard at agroponics, which can use 60 to 70% less water than drip irrigation per square foot.”
In the future, he predicts that farmers will look to systems that harvest water from the atmosphere, reuse water from their operation, or desalinate water.
“The problem isn’t that we don’t have enough water on the planet—it’s that we have salty water,” said Kawamura, who has seen an uptick in the number of reverse osmosis machines wheeled into greenhouses. Thanks in part to this technology, he reported, roughly 40% of vine-ripened tomatoes in California are now produced in hot houses.
Kawamura believes that better-engineered seeds are part of the solution. He might have lost his entire lima bean crop due to high temperatures this May. “Instead, because of a new drought-resistant seed, I’m going to harvest 85%.”
Developing new seed varieties that require less water and can withstand more heat will be a big part of the equation going forward, said Gerald Nelson, a former University of Illinois agricultural economist, who wrote the Chicago Council report. Nelson highlighted the need for more basic research.
“We know that higher temperatures are coming, and plants are susceptible to higher temperatures….If you get a really hot, dry period during the peak of pollination, yields go down dramatically.”
Meanwhile, nutrient runoffs from big spring rains have forced him to rethink the timing of applications. With the help of a grant from a nonprofit organization, he has equipped his sprayer with sensors that measure the vegetative index of his crops, varying nitrogen application.
Climate change, farmers speaking at the conference made clear, raises the stakes for farmers at a time when margins are squeezed by lower crop prices. Producers will need to devote more time and money to technology and innovation to sustain a track record of steadily rising yields.