Meet the Farming Community: Jonathan Field, LGMA Compliance Officer
Jonathan Field discovered his passion for agriculture as a child. After 12 years of working for the Arizona LGMA as a compliance officer and an entire lifetime of being a leader within the agriculture community, we learned that his retirement plans will keep him as active as ever. Thank you Jonathan for your service to the leafy greens industry, you will be missed!
How did you get involved in the agriculture industry?
My personal background is in the livestock industry. I got my first ewe when I was 6-years-old and my first dairy cow when I was 10. I milked cows and sold milk on my way to school and then picked up bottles on my way home. This was the beginning of my affinity with agriculture
After my undergraduate at Cal Poly in Ag Business and getting my MS from UCD in Agricultural Economics, I went to work for the California Ag Statistics Service and was assigned tree fruit estimates, grape surveys and fruit and nut tree sales reports. After a year, I went to work for the California Department of Food Agriculture (CDFA) as an agricultural economist. My first program was the Iceberg Lettuce Research Board and I also worked on the Fresh Tomatoes, Carrots, Celery, Potatoes, Cling Peaches, Processing Pear programs along with reviewing legislation for impacts on agriculture and recommending the departments official position. I also worked as a representative of the department on legislative committees.
While at CDFA, I wrote the first Marketing Agreement and was the economist assigned to the first Commission laws in California. In 1981, I left the department to become the Assistant Manager of the California Tree Fruit Agreement (CFTA), a federal and state marketing order program for peaches, pears, nectarines and plums. I became manager in 1987 and served as the President and CEO until 2000, when I “retired” and formed my own consulting and management company.
One of the major activities at CTFA was the inspection programs, a highly regulated in line mandatory inspection for all handlers. I was also involved in the litigation which went successfully to the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the legality of mandatory programs.
My entire career has been in the produce industry (mostly fresh) and the closest I ever came to livestock was the winding down of the California Egg program in the 1970s and a marketing agreement for eggs in California. I still have sheep and cattle and run about 180 ewes and 20 cows in Lincoln.
What do you enjoy most about the industry?
I have always enjoyed the passion for agriculture that people in the business have. Farmers and agriculturalist are hard-working people, providing food and fiber to feed and clothe the world. Like me, agriculture is not only a vocation but an avocation. I most enjoy the people that I have encountered in my career and have worked with the fathers and grandfathers of many of our industry leaders of today.
As Compliance Officer for the LGMA what does your day look like -- what keeps you busy?
Depending on the time of year, I receive audit reports for Arizona leafy greens in the winter and early spring, year round for the California leafy greens and in the spring and summer from California cantaloupes. I review about 700 audits a year with each audit start to finish taking about two hours. In addition, I manage a Walnut Bargaining Association and spend two to four hours a day working with my own livestock and farming enterprise.
What's your biggest concern about the produce industry right now?
The leafy greens industry has taken a leadership role for food safety. They initiated the programs in 2007 in response to the problems with spinach. As fewer and fewer people have a background in agriculture and the practicalities of farming and producing food, I worry that well-meaning consumers and politicians will rely on strict regulation to resolve problems. Agricultural leaders will come up with a reasonable response that will work for both producers and consumers through research and education.
You have been involved with the LGMA since the beginning. How have you seen the organization evolve?
I remember when med fly was the problem of the early 1980s and then pesticides and labor. I helped start the Alliance for Food and Farming and Minor Crops Farmers Alliance to address these issues. The leafy greens industries commitment to food safety to provide the healthiest product possible is impressive. The change in culture at all levels, from owner to irrigator, in support of food safety practices in very encouraging.
What are your plans after you retire from the LGMA?
My idea of retirement is doing something that you want to do and not what you have to do to earn a living. I will keep my livestock operations as long as I can, continue to manage the Walnut Bargaining Association, provide food safety compliance work for the Cantaloupe industry and look for opportunities as they arise. Retirement is an opportunity to find other challenges and follow the path.
What's your family's go-to leafy green?
My wife does the shopping and always buys Romaine. Personally, my favorite is good old Iceberg.