“Today’s pear is the same pear in appearance as 100 years ago, which in today’s marketing world is unheard of,” CEO David Garcia said in his talk to Diamond members last week, noting he plans to “stay around for a few more years,” to help Diamond through the changes he said are certain to come. Here is his talk, edited slightly for space reasons:
“The secret to survival for a product in today’s world is change. From the telephone to truck to tractors to refrigerators and even the grower change has been mind blowing! So how do we keep our product relevant in a world that change is mandatory for survival?
“This question really falls into Oneonta’s and the Pear Bureau’s expertise, but from what I see, as the world continues its neck-breaking face of change, the pear, as it has done over the last 100 years, will fill a need. Tomorrow that need is for a healthy and safe food product.
“So as we struggle with costs and demands of the various food safety audits out in the orchard and in the packing house, we need to remember that what we are doing is making our product relevant in a changing world. This is especially true as you read about people getting sick from frozen berries that were packed in Oregon; this will lead to stricter adherence to food safety guidelines.
“So the better we are at ensuring to the public that our product is safe to eat and the mover value our pears and cherries have.
“Nutrition-wise we have a gem: It is a great source of fiber and vitamin C. The public is changing its eating habits and there is a national campaign to prevent obesity amongst our children. The food pyramid has been preplaced with MyPlate, showing fruit and vegetables taking up half the plate.
“So as the world changes its eating habits the pear is in the perfect position to be relevant in the future.
“What about Diamond itself? How will it change? Will we stay a cooperative? Will we close Parkdale? Will we pack blueberries or apples? Will we get bigger or smaller? Will we get rid of our trucking? Are we putting in a new packing line? Are cherries over planted?
“These are the type of questions I hear whenever the topic about the future of Diamond is discussed. Being a cooperative is something very special today that I feel meets our current members’ needs as it did for our founding fathers.
“The Hood River Valley is still made up of the family farmer and not the big corporate farms that we are seeing up north and in the Midwest that build and operate their own packing houses. Within Diamond the 30-acre grower still has a voice as well, and is valued as much as the 300-acre grower and they are both owners of Diamond.
“Your board did take the opportunity to change the type of cooperative we are, from a tax-exempt to a non-exempt; and although this puts us into a taxable category it also gives us more freedom to shape our future. Allowing you, the owners, to decide what type of business you will be shapes our future. Allowing you, the owners, to decide what type of business you will be doing, more membership business or more non-member revenue generating business.
“We now have a business model for the future: We get to control our destiny with how we attract volume; we can look at buying another orchard; financing our growers to purchase new orchard; generate revenue by packing for others or renting out bins or storage, which will help pay for new lines or facilities which will enable us to keep up with the latest technology on the lines. I feel this was a big step in moving Diamond into a position for the future.
“Over the next 25 years there will be quite a few orchards that change hands, either through sales or family session, and Diamond will need to be prepared to help our members to stay part of these orchards.
“Working with the next generation of orchardist is a very high priority for us; whether that is helping them finance an orchard or working with them on understanding the administrative side of an orchard, we need to build that connection and loyalty so that they will be at the next 200-year celebration.”