Ventura County’s new agricultural commissioner brings professional experience

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Ed Williams may have a soft voice, but Ventura County’s new agricultural commissioner has decades of industry experience that belies his mild-mannered personality.

Williams, a 57-year-old Orange County resident, was hired as Ventura County’s agricultural commissioner in July. He has 30 years of farming experience and a career that has taken him to the far reaches of the California agriculture industry.

Williams developed a love of farming at an early age. Her parents met while working in an agricultural outreach program, and Williams remembers spending part of her childhood alongside farmers in her small, farming-focused hometown. After college, his first job was to work as a seasonal products inspector in Modesto. He gradually rose through the ranks, assuming a growing number of farming roles and responsibilities across California.

Williams worked as an assistant manager in the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner‘s Office for nearly six years before taking the Ventura County position. Williams noted that although he still lives in La Habra and travels to the Commissioner’s office in Camarillo daily, he plans to move to Ventura County soon.

Ed Williams, Agricultural Commissioner for Ventura County, checks out some Lee Family Farms grapes at the Thousand Oaks Farmers Market.

Henry Gonzales, the county’s former agricultural commissioner, resigned in February to take the same position in Monterey County. Susan Johnson, who was the county’s deputy chief agriculture commissioner before retiring in 2011, served as the county’s interim commissioner until Williams was hired.

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The opening came at the right time for Williams, who was eager to take on a leadership role in an industry he has long supported. Williams noted that he was thrilled to be working in Ventura County because of its diverse agrarian community.

“I enjoyed working as part of a team locally and statewide, which led to me becoming an agricultural commissioner,” said Williams. “I love the area. Ventura County is an amazing farming community with diverse crops and ranches, which was a great opportunity for me.

The function of agricultural commissioner is above all a managerial function. Williams, who earns an annual salary of $ 165,644, is responsible for ensuring his office manages pest control and marketing operations and creates an annual crop report that details the economic impact of the agricultural industry in county. The Agriculture Commissioner also acts as an intermediary between farmers and elected officials and is responsible for enforcing state agricultural policies at the local level.

Ventura County will benefit from an agricultural commissioner keen to be practical and communicate with farmers in the area, said Mike Powers, county general manager. Powers noted that Williams has shown enthusiasm for working with local farmers, but also has the connections to serve as an effective liaison with county and state officials.

“He wants to be a great partner with farmers and farm workers, and he goes into the community and meets them,” Powers said. “He wants to work with farmers and the state to identify state and federal resources to help address the challenges our farm workers face. Having this direct contact with industry and farmers and being available and accessible is an important trait and keeps it in step with the needs.

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Getting out into the community and connecting with his office staff and the farmers they work with is a priority, Williams said.

“I love going out and working with our staff and seeing how things work out in the field and seeing how our staff interact with the community,” Williams said.

Oliverio Castrejon, (left), who works for Rancho Santa Cecilia, chats with Ed Williams, Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner, at the Thousand Oaks Farmers Market.  Williams was looking at lawyers.

Williams especially enjoys his work at California Farmers’ Markets, especially when he led a task force in the 1990s to fight vendors selling stolen crops.

Since then, Williams has said he enjoys going to farmers’ markets regularly in his various jurisdictions and meeting with local farmers and farm organizers. Williams recently visited the Ventura County Certified Farmers Market in Thousand Oaks and said he was looking forward to meeting farmers from other markets soon. Besides community engagement, Williams said he will focus on pest control.

Williams was at the forefront of an explosion of huanglongbing, an incurable bacterial disease fatal to citrus fruits that is spread by the Asian citrus psyllid, while working in Los Angeles County, according to John Krist, CEO of Farm. Bureau of Ventura County. . Krist said Williams’ experience in controlling the spread of what is commonly referred to as citrus greening disease will be invaluable in Ventura County if and when it spreads to local citrus farms.

Citrus fruits play a key role in the county’s agricultural economy. Lemons were the county’s main citrus crop last year, with a gross value of more than $ 258 million, according to the latest Ventura County Crops and Livestock report. Another of the region’s key crops is Valencia oranges, which had a gross value of nearly $ 19 million last year.

Ed Williams, Agricultural Commissioner for Ventura County, examines peaches at the Thousand Oaks Farmers Market.  Williams was appointed the new county commissioner in July.

Krist, who was on the panel that interviewed the six finalists for the post of agricultural commissioner, said Williams stood out because of his communication skills and extensive experience in the industry. Since pest control and government regulations would be key challenges for local farmers in the near future, Williams’ skills made him the perfect fit for such challenges, Krist said.

“I was impressed with his commitment to open communication, which is an important aspect of this office,” said Krist. “One of the challenges will be the increasingly stringent state level regulations on pesticides and materials that are very important to agriculture in Ventura County. I hope Ed’s openness, good communication and sense of fairness will help him enforce them in a way that works for everyone.

Whatever the challenges, Williams ‘history of empathy and networking makes him the perfect fit for the job, said Karen Wetzel Schott, director of operations for the Ventura County Certified Farmers’ Market Association. Wetzel Schott met Williams over 20 years ago while working in Sacramento and said his positive relationships with farmers and elected officials would make him an invaluable resource for local farm workers.

“Ed has been a strong advocate for local farmers and understanding the interaction between the public and our agriculture makes him an ideal candidate,” said Wetzel Schott. “But he also understands the regulations and has so many connections statewide. He always has a network of people to turn to.

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