By Vicky Boyd

Dave Phippen, an almond grower and partner in Travaille & Phippen Inc. in Manteca, is a firm believer that if you don't tell your story, someone else will tell it and you may not like what they say.

Over the years, he has spent countless hours conveying the almond industry's positive message to the media, lawmakers, regulators and whoever else will listen.

"Our family is 100 percent vested in the almond industry as growers of almonds, shellers and processors, and we don't have any other investments," Phippen said. "So I've devoted time to my family and partners, and what better way to spend my time than advancing the almond industry?"

For that reason, Phippen recently received the Almond Alliance of California's Member of the Year award in Monterey.

"I was surprised I was being considered," he said. "Frankly, I thought they had awarded me enough." He was referring to receiving the 2016 Almond Achievement Award from the Almond Board of California.

Phippen also was quick to point out that his four partners in Travaille & Phippen should have instead received the Almond Alliance award because they've allowed him to take time away to advocate on behalf of the industry.

"The main reason I'm able to do it is my wife is tolerant and I have partners – this is a partnership I'm in, it's not a one-horse operation – so I can be absent from my operation," he said.

Each year, the Almond Alliance Board of Directors nominates two individuals who have gone above and beyond to support the association and the almond industry in general, Alliance President and CEO Elaine Trevino said in an email. The association's voting members then select the award recipient via ballot.

Trevino said Phippen was nominated because he had "played an instrumental role in strengthening the relationships between the Almond Alliance, the Almond Board and other agriculture industry members."

"Dave understands the importance of the almond industry being engaged in the political landscape of California which ultimately impacts the operations and success of the almond industry," she said.

Phippen has been active in the Almond Board for more than a decade, even serving as chairman. He also has been a member of just about every Almond Board committee at one time or another.

Not only does he provide input, but Phippen said he continues to learn from the experiences.

For example, he currently serves on the Almond Board's Food Safety and Quality Committee. Many of the members are scientists, but Phippen said he believed it is important to offer the grower and handler's points of view. In return, he "sponges" up the latest findings in food safety and quality to take back to his partners.

"Some good things have come from it," Phippen said. "Overall, I think it's been a value to Travaille & Phippen. Certainly, it's been a value to me expanding my base of knowledge, and hopefully, I think the industry thinks it's been of some value to them."

He also serves on the Almond Board as an independent handler, the San Joaquin Farm Bureau board, the SJFB Foundation for Agricultural Education board and the CoBank board, among other organizations.

In addition, Phippen is active in the Almond Alliance – formerly known as the Almond Hullers and Processors Association – sitting on its California Almond Industry Political Action and the Government Relations committees.

He was involved with the formation of the Alliance in 2016. Because of the federal marketing order structure, the Almond Board cannot advocate on behalf of the industry in front of lawmakers.

The scope of the Almond Hullers and Processors was expanded to include advocacy, and with it came the new name. Through a memorandum of understanding with the Almond Board, the alliance is now able to advocate on behalf of not only hullers and processors but also the state's almond growers.

"Now we're trying really hard to get growers involved in the Almond Alliance," Phippen said. He believes in the organization so much that he's paying alliance membership fees for all of the growers who deliver to Travaille & Phippen.

"If we can't get together, we're going to get defeated," he said. "It's critical to me to support the Almond Alliance at this critical juncture because there's nothing more important than having a fully funded organization to represent all of the almond growers in the state to sound off about the good news we have to share.

"There's always been this missing piece, and we were able to recognize that need with the Almond Alliance."