Readers' Poll BEST OF MONTEREY COUNTY® 2023 43 AGrICuLTurE Best Big Grower - Fruits & Vegetables Tanimura & Antle 1 Harris Road, Spreckels (800) 772-4542, Like Steinbeck’s migrant workers finding their way west in search of opportunity, so too did the Tanimura family arrive in the Salinas Valley over 100 years ago—in their case, making the journey east from Japan. Decades of hard work on the valley’s fertile farmland reaped a multi-generational agricultural dynasty—one which, in partnership with the Antle family, became one of the Salinas Valley’s largest and most productive produce growers. That work continues today from T&A’s Spreckels headquarters, surrounded by the bountiful fields from which grew a distinctly American success story. Best Organic Grower Earthbound Farm 150 Main St., Salinas (800) 690-3200 Farmstand, 7250 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel (831) 625-6219, Earthbound Farm started small in Carmel Valley in 1984, but there was always a big goal—to increase the accessibility of organic produce. Thanks in part to a 2019 sale to Salinas Valley ag giant Taylor Farms, Earthbound has made that happen, with products available at grocery stores across the country (and beyond). Now the brand has new sustainability-focused goals: In 2009, Earthbound began using 100-percent recycled plastic for its packaging, and in 2021 eliminated 27 percent of packaging plastic altogether. For a flavor of its humble origins, you can still visit Earthbound’s original farmstand location in Carmel Valley. Best Ag Industry Leader Bruce Taylor Taylor Farms 150 Main St. #300, Salinas (877) 323-7374, In John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, the fictional protagonist Adam Trask has a dream: He can ship lettuce from the Salinas Valley to New York. “I got an idea and I can’t get rid of it,” Trask said. “It’s a kind of a big idea.” In the book (spoiler alert!) things don’t quite work out for Trask—railroad delays, melting ice—but Steinbeck captured the kind of vision that is required of successful leaders in a notoriously unpredictable industry. Bruce Taylor, chairman and CEO of Taylor Farms and Taylor Fresh Foods, is such a leader. He founded what is now the largest supplier of fresh-cut salad in the United States, and ships produce all over the planet. Where Trask could only dream, Taylor succeeds. It wouldn’t make for a great novel (not enough tragedy) but it does make for the best in the Weekly’s reader poll. Best Woman in Ag Kim Stemler Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association P.O. Box 1793, Monterey (831) 375-9400, If you ask Kim Stemler to reflect on her leadership, she quickly pivots and instead talks about everyone else. “The Monterey County wine industry is known for being supportive of each other,” she says. “They are very generous, donating thousands and thousands of dollars in wine. They care about our land and our employees. They’re just really good people.” Of course that’s the classic mark of a good leader, someone who uplifts others, and that’s what Stemler does as executive director of the Vintners and Growers Association. Beyond that, she took charge during a time of crisis early in the Covid-19 pandemic, connecting ag groups to the Covid Collaborative and to the California Department of Public Health, getting out the word about testing and vaccinations, serving as a conduit for critical health information. On that, she’s also humble: “No one person or entity did it all. That, to me, is the magic of our region.” Best Farmers Market Vendor | Everyone's Harvest