Event Recap: New Agriculture in North County

“Rather than selling just a head of lettuce, we tell them this product is a solution to supply chain issues,” said panelist Pierre Sleiman, CEO of Go Green Agriculture. “It’s about being part of the holistic solution. Not being in a transactional world, but being in a partnership-type of world.”

Agricultural innovation is in the roots of northern San Diego. From the avocado fields of Vista’s past to the future of hydroponic technology in San Marcos, the field of innovative agricultural technology is fruitful across the 78 corridor.

This past spring the San Diego North Economic Development Council hosted its “Lunch & Learn Series: The New Face of Agriculture” event. The event, held in Escondido at a farm owned and operated by Deanna Smith of Deanna’s Gluten Free, featured a farm-to-table lunch and a panel of subject matter experts across the local agriculture industry to discuss the new issues agriculture is facing. The panelists of the event included:

  • Deanna Smith: Founder of Deanna’s Gluten Free Baking Company, the first gluten-free west of the Mississippi
  • Ray Schnorr: Owner of Highland Valley Vineyards, a popular winery based in Escondido
  • Pierre Sleiman: CEO of Go Green Agriculture, a company innovating greenhouse hydroponic technology
  • Hannah Bay (moderator): Executive Director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau.

The event opened with eye opening statistics about agriculture in San Diego:

  • The agriculture industry brings about $1.8 billion to the San Diego economy annually, and $4.8 billion indirectly to the economy every year
  • 70,000 individuals are involved in the San Diego agriculture industry
  • San Diego has the most women-owned farms in the nation

Together, the panel discussed issues such as COVID-impacts on agriculture, operating in the regulatory space, and the supply chain impacts the agriculture industry has faced.

“Inflation has impacted glasses, labels, bottles, and more,” said Schnorr of the impacts inflation has had on his business. “The product for a boutique, small winery is wine and an experience. Since we can’t change the impacts of inflation, we focused on the other side and developed experiences, like sip and paint events. We couldn’t do weddings during the pandemic, so we did other kinds of small events.”

“Community involvement and putting on events where families can come out and get educated is paramount,” said Smith when asked about working together with regulatory agencies. “At community events, people can realize how much is going on in wine country, hydroponics, and the agriculture industry. It’s difficult to understand agricultural regulations, and it shouldn’t be so difficult to throw a community festival.”

“Resources are scarce, so we ask ourselves ‘How do we use less?’ Or ‘How do we use a different resource that isn’t scarce?’” said Sleiman on strategy when facing increasing cost of core agriculture inputs, such as land and fertilizer. “We can either focus on challenges or focus on the path forward. Rather than focusing on changes, we accept changes will happen.  Others will face it too, so how do we handle it better? It allows us to approach challenges well, rather than wishing they would go away.”

To learn more about events hosted by San Diego North Economic Development Council, visit sdnedc.org.

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