By Craig W. Anderson
Dave Phippen received the 2016 Almond Achievement Award at the Almond Conference Dinner Gala in December in Sacramento.
Phippen, a 16-year member of the Almond Board of California's board of directors, said, "This is an honor from an industry that I love and I don't regret the time spent working with the Almond Board of California and participating on various committees over the years. I enjoy playing back my knowledge to the industry."
"Dave's gift as a leader has been to become as well informed as possible about all aspects of the industry so he can make educated and thoughtful decisions," said Richard Waycott, Almond Board president and CEO. "Since Dave has worked with the Almond Board for so many years, he understands the accomplishments and capabilities of the organization and its staff."
Phippen said he's learned and gained experience "by building knowledge over a number of years about almonds and the best ways of growing and marketing them."
He literally grew up in the almond industry as his father and grandfather operated the family almond growing business and their farm changed along with the industry over the years.
Active board member
During his time on the board, Phippen served as vice chair and two years as chairman and participated in numerous committees, including: a year on the Diversity Committee; three years on the Global Market Development, the Industry Relations Steering committees and the Established Markets Subcommittee; 13 years on the Reserve Committee and 14 years on the Administration, Finance and Audit Committee.
"Research on almond nutrition has revealed the positive medical attributes of the nut," he said, "and we're constantly working to get the positive message to consumers. It's exciting to still be learning more about the healthful aspects of almonds."
Dave knows industry well
Phippen knows these aspects of the industry well, having served four years on the Nutrition Research, eight years on the PR and Advertising and nine years on the Food Quality and Safety committees.
"Being involved with meetings – anyone can go to committee meetings – is a terrific learning process," said Phippen. "I recommend growers attend as many meetings as they can. They're very beneficial."
"I've worked with Dave to coordinate tours on his operation [Travaille and Phippen], and he and his son-in-law Nick Gatzman, always do a phenomenal job explain the growing and harvesting process," said Molly Spence, director of North America for the Almond Board, "They do this in such a way that helps our attendees, mainly health professionals, understand all the hard, smart and thoughtful work that goes into producing the food we buy at the store."
Travaille and Phippen, as growers and handlers near Manteca, continue to develop innovations in pest management, irrigation and fertilizing from growing the crop through harvest, processing and marketing. The company is also continually integrating technological advances to enhance its farm's sustainability, inputs and production.
"I couldn't have done any of this without my partners in the business and, of course, my wife, Debbie, who allowed me to participate in ABC activities," Phippen said. "The board's nearby location in Modesto allowed me to work part of the day and then get over to Modesto for the meetings."
Waycott said, "Dave and his family have opened their orchards and plants to dozens, if not hundreds, of visits by reporters, regulators, food and health professionals and customers from around the world. His attitude is to encourage communication and understanding by inviting industry stakeholders to see firsthand what he and his family are doing."
Waycott also said, "This contributed to the good reputation of the industry, as well as the growth of almond usage."
Phippen has always considered educating the consumer about the benefits of almonds to be an important mission. "It's hugely important to continually get the public involved. It's equally important to educate those who are tip-toeing into the industry."
According to Phippen, growers too often ask of the nurseries that grow the young almond trees, "What's the easiest almond variety to grow?" when the question they should be asking is: "What's the public demand?"
What to plant
"The point is, growers ought to plant what we can sell," Phippen said. "And that relates directly to marketing, to keep all almonds in the public's consciousness and not be variety specific." To enhance the Almond Board's ability to do this the ABC has doubled its marketing funding he said.
Almonds are the perfect commodity because, explained Phippen, "they're a non-perishable crop, a tough nut that can be held off the market quite safely until being sold."
And, as a partner in a very successful farming and processing operation with keen insight and knowledge of the industry, when Phippen expresses an opinion, growers and the industry, listen.
The Almond Achievement Award has been presented since 2011 to an industry or allied-industry member who has been integral to the California almond industry by virtue of long-term service, contributions or innovations.
Past Almond Achievement Award recipients include Ned Ryan, Martin Pohl, Joe MacIlvane, Dave Baker and Jim Jasper.
The California Almond Board's "Outlook" newsletter contributed to this story.