News and Stories

CALP Trip to India

March 20, 2013

Markon’s Joe Ange examines cauliflower on his CALP trip to India


A quote from teachings of Lao-Tzu in the Tao Te Ching states:


The Master doesn’t talk, he acts.

When his work is done, 

The people say, 

“Amazing; we did it, all by ourselves!”


I was recently fortunate to be able to travel abroad with the California Agricultural Leadership Program (CALP) for an international seminar in India and Nepal. During the two-week seminar we studied business, cultural, political, and socioeconomic issues as they relate to leadership and agriculture. The people of these regions are well-versed in these topics—with a population of over 1.2 billion people, they have to be! Water, plumbing, sewage, and food distribution are only a few of the challenges this area faces, for example, there are over 600 million people in the country without direct access to a toilet. In fact, there are more cell phones than toilets in India. It’s estimated that 40 children die per hour due lack of access to and cleanliness of water. And although electricity is 100% subsidized, in many areas there is no regular trash collection. This means throughout the country, trash is thrown onto the ground or collected into big piles where pigs, dogs, cows, goats, and humans rummage for food or fodder. 


But don’t let these issues fool you—there is a sense of contentment, joy, hope, love for life, and exuberance held by these people.  Indians respect each other for who they are and what they stand for. Beliefs are displayed and celebrated rather than only discussed behind closed doors. The Indian term “jugaar” applies to most situations here; it literally means “to make due.” I am inspired by the people of India who exemplify this “get it done” philosophy.  Similar to the Markon staff, Indians are problem solvers of a different level.  


During the course of the journey we experienced both politics and culture. We were blessed with the opportunity to travel with a prior graduate of the CALP program, Karamdeep Singh Baines.  'Karm’ is a fourth generation tree fruit, almond, and prune farmer in the Central Valley of California and part of a prominent political and religious family exemplifying the Sikh religion. We essentially had a backstage pass to meet with political leaders and learn about the Sikh religion in a way that can only be done through firsthand experiences and candid conversations.  Our group received a blessing at the Golden Temple in Amritsar by the high priest of the Sikh religion (the equivalent to the Catholic Vatican and Pope). We were honored to be welcomed in such a way and happy to don turbans while we toured the temple and community kitchen (that voluntarily feeds over 70,000 people daily). Sitting on the ground, breaking bread with other worshipers, and even helping prepare some of the authentic Indian fare was a cultural experience I will never forget. 


Being that CALP is a leadership development program, there were many leadership lessons learned along the way. One that sticks out prominently is our experience at the Punjab Agricultural University. Our delegation of 23 fellows engaged in dialogue and Q&A with several of the university’s Deans of the Colleges of Agriculture.  We represented California agriculture and the United States in an impressive way, pooling our knowledge together to explain topics that ranged from growing and cultivation practices to post-harvest handling and distribution.  It was through this experience that I cemented my confidence in my individual and our collective knowledge of the produce industry. Much of the discussion involved increasing value along the supply chain and the concept of contracts. I was able to provide insight and understanding into how these systems work in the US. Our performance definitely had an impact on the university, for we were featured in one of the state’s newspapers, Punjab News.


As mentioned in previous Seedlings posts, people matter at Markon. This ideal was reinforced by my gracious Markon family over the two weeks I was away. I was concerned about my wife and children during my extended travels, so I asked a few people at Markon to help out with pre-made dinners. My co-workers at Markon jumped at the opportunity. I’m grateful to announce that dinners were dropped off at our house almost every day along with emotional and moral support.  My family is deeply indebted to the Markon staff for such generous contributions.  I’m also so appreciative of the support from the Purchasing and Customer Support teams at Markon for rising to the occasion and assuming the extra workload during my absence.  I’m only one link in the chain, but when someone is missing from our team, we all feel it. I pledge to remember this amazing experience and bring my new perspective to the team to make us all more effective.