Sep 21, 2020Stemilt hits milestone with first Equitable Food Initiative certification
Stemilt has taken another step to fulfil its mission to “cultivate people and delight consumers” by achieving Equitable Food Initiative certification at its impressive Quincy, Washington, orchard operation that grows apples and cherries. Stemilt completed a successful EFI pilot in 2019 and is now working with EFI to train and develop cross-functional leadership teams that will foster continuous improvement throughout its operations.
“Our team members are the driving force behind World Famous Fruit and our constant journey towards ensuring our fruit delights consumers,” said West Mathison, Stemilt president. “A trusted certification like EFI helps us cultivate people who produce World Famous Fruit. Quincy is a large orchard that is now benefitting from the continuous improvement work of our 11-person leadership team. EFI provides valuable workplace skills training and helps us put processes in place to practice great communication and collaboration every day.”
There are more than 300 rigorous standards that a farm must meet in order to achieve EFI certification for labor practices, food safety and pest management. The standards also emphasize collaboration, respect and creating a culture of food safety. Stemilt is already heavily engaged in these areas and views this first EFI certification as a proactive step forward to continue building its company culture around its vision, mission, values, and goals.
“Produce is a business where you must be able to quickly adapt to changing needs,” said Mathison. “EFI’s soft skill training around leadership, communication, problem solving, and conflict resolution provides our team members with a way to adapt through continuous improvement. It will help us live and share Stemilt’s core values.”
Earlier in 2020, the company’s executive management team and supervisors received EFI background training. According to Kevin Boyle, director of new product and business development for Equitable Food Initiative, the management trainings are above and beyond the necessary requirements for EFI certification and demonstrate Stemilt’s commitment to the process and holistic approach towards workforce development.
“Stemilt has made a commitment to intentionally cultivate a high-performing and inclusive organizational culture,” said Boyle. “They are working systemically and on numerous levels to enhance their culture, and we have found great alignment with their work and EFI’s workforce development programs.”
Stemilt’s Quincy orchard went through a third-party verification audit conducted by SCS Global Services to ensure it complied with EFI standards. The certification is valid for three years. With the Quincy certification now in place, Stemilt will quickly expand the EFI program throughout its operations. The company will work with EFI to train and certify all Stemilt farms in 2021 and will also start implementing the EFI program at its packing facilities. Stemilt’s goal is to have active leadership teams’ company-wide to work on continuous improvement initiatives.
“We always say that World Famous Fruit is a journey, not a destination,” said Mathison. “There is always work to be done to achieve our mission and this first EFI certification is going to equip our team members to ensure we are always innovating.”
Stemilt is a family-owned grower, packer, and shipper of tree fruit. Owned and operated by the Mathison family, Stemilt’s mission is to cultivate people and delight consumers with its World Famous Fruits. Stemilt is a leader in sweet cherries and organic tree fruits, and a key supplier of apples and pears.
The company stewards an environmentally sustainable and socially responsible business through its Responsible Choice program, which has been in place since 1989.
For more information about Stemilt, visit www.stemilt.com.
Equitable Food Initiative is a nonprofit certification and skill-building organization that seeks to increase transparency in the food supply chain and improve the lives of farmworkers through a team-based approach to training and continuous improvement practices. EFI brings together growers, farmworkers, retailers and consumers to solve the most pressing issues facing the fresh produce industry. Its unparalleled approach sets standards for labor practices, food safety and pest management while engaging workers at all levels on the farm to produce Responsibly Grown, Farmworker Assured fruits and vegetables. For more information about Equitable Food Initiative, visit equitablefood.org.
Photo at top: The EFI group with latest certification. Photos: Stemilt