Food Leaders Perspectives
Rex Laird, CEO of the Ventura County Farm Bureau
Rex Laird is CEO of the Ventura County Farm Bureau, a position that he has held since 1981. Mr. Laird has served on numerous committees and commissions concerning such issues as water, land use, air quality, and agricultural chemicals. He is participating in the Ag Futures Alliance Committee, a diverse group formed to promote better understanding and dialog on agricultural issues. Mr. Laird is active in the Ventura Chamber of Commerce and also serves on the Ventura County Sheriff's Mounted Posse.
He is a team member on the Roots of Change sponsored Building Momentum for Change Leadership Network project. This project is building a California county leadership network and strengthening the collaboration among leaders working on county-level food systems issues.
Do you see the Vivid Picture project as being important to California's future?
The project shows great promise in its ability to show how all the various aspects of the state's food system fit together - more promise than any other related projects I know of.
This is important because it is the only way that people who live in the state can begin to comprehend how the California food system really works, how we all fit into it, and what is really happening. Once people have this kind of overarching perspective on the entire state, then they will have the ability to begin to create change.
Because of the sheer size of the task that the Vivid Picture project is taking on, I think that the GIS mapping that the project is using will be its saving grace. It will be able to clearly illustrate how all of the varied aspects and layers of the states food system are interrelated. Understanding these interrelations is key to understanding California's future.
How do you see the Vivid Picture working on a countywide level?
The challenge before those of us who are working on a county level is to see how each county fits into the big picture. We need to understand what our context is in the overall scheme of the whole state. Once we understand where our county fits in this big picture, we can plan for specific countywide action.
Do you see this project as important to California's agricultural future?
The project has the ability to inform the 98 percent of the population who are totally outside of agriculture, the people who are completely outside of the industry, about the context that agriculture currently exists in. It also has the potential to help these people understand the relationships between agriculture and land use, water use, consumption and all the multitude of aspects that make up the California food system.
This dialogue is key. It will help the general population of the state understand the interrelationships between the various aspects of the system.
I believe that once these people can see the limits of the existing system, then change will really come from outside of the agricultural industry. This will create California's agricultural future.
What is your biggest hope for the Vivid Picture project?
My biggest hope is that the Vivid Picture project will actually be able to put this complicated and important information into a form that can be used by the general public. I really think this has the potential to create information that will encourage people to become more engaged.
I am involved in showing people in Ventura County that there are other ways to create community, understand consumption, and manage land use in order to support open space and support farming. I think that the Vivid Picture can really help in supporting land conservation and developing a new understanding of density and urban growth.
Most people are unaware that their daily choices are affecting land use and agriculture. The general population doesn't understand how consumer-buying power affects land use and how that affects farming and food.
I think that the Vivid Picture project comes the closer to actually illustrating these interconnections and their consequences than any other project I have ever seen.
What is your extreme vision for the food system of the future?
In the future food system I see a more direct relationship between the growers, the grocery stores, and the consumers. Food will go through fewer steps to move from field to table. This simplified direct process would allow consumers to understand where their food is coming from.
In the future, consumers will recognize the true power that they have within the food system, and their demands for quality food will be met by the entire system.
Reported by Ali Edwards, Straus Communications