With the walnut harvest season in full swing Don Barton, CEO of Gold River Orchards in Oakdale, uses words like exhilarating and exhausting to describe the process. These days, he's using the word exporting a lot more, too. "In 2004, exports were 30% of our business," Barton says. "This year, we're projecting that 90% of our business will be export."
He credits a lot of his export experience and knowledge to the California Agricultural Export Training Program, CalAgX, presented by the California Centers for International Trade Development in cooperation with the California Department of Food and Agriculture. For specialty crop producers and processors only, the fifth CalAgX will be offered in February 2011.
"I did the original training they offered in 2006, when we were doing some export business. Back then, there was a lot we knew we didn't know and the class seemed like a good idea," Barton says. With the help of the six-session program, Barton learned about freight forwarders, how to negotiate steamship freight rates, documentation and, most importantly, how to get paid.
After each lecture, Barton brought back information and inspiration to share with his staff. "Even things like different terminology for export contracts that would protect our business better," he says. He also made some valuable contacts. "The best part was getting business cards from the speakers. These were people who had been exporters all or most of their professional lives. They were willing to share their knowledge freely with us and help with additional questions, even after the program finished."
It was a sign of success that, in 2010, when Barton took the program for the second time, business was so good he was too busy to finish the course. With the 2011 session right around the corner, Candy Hansen, Fresno CITD director, says technology is in place to help producers avoid missing any of the valuable training sessions. "We'll have video sessions posted online so people can catch up if they have to miss a class. We'll have blogs, too. We're trying to be more and more accessible," she says.
Frank Nunez, CalAgX coordinator, explained that the program was developed in response to the tremendous interest in U.S. ag exports, which have increased from $21.8 billion in 1975 to $96.6 billion in 2009. "We mostly target new exporters or those with no experience who want to know where they should sell. It's also valuable for export companies who send new people to be trained," he explains.
The six-session program is offered in three different locations. The 2011 California trainings will be held in Napa, Fresno and Escondido starting February 1, 2011. Program fee is $199, $75 for additional representatives. Registration deadline is January 21, 2011. More at www.fresnocitd.org/calagx or contact Frank Nunez, (888) 638-7888, firstname.lastname@example.org.