WASHINGTON – Promotora Agricola El Toro, a JV Smith Companies facility with more than 3,500 workers and nearly 10,000 acres, has recently achieved Equitable Food Initiative certification, becoming the largest operation to have done so.
As part of the certification process, EFI trains a labor-management leadership team in communication and problem-solving skills and the team works to maintain compliance with labor, food safety and pest management standards. The worker-manager collaborative team at Agricola El Toro proved critical during the coronavirus pandemic, ensuring that proper safety protocols were communicated to all employees on the large team.
“The EFI model brings a range of opportunities and advantages to fresh produce companies and leads to a fair partnership between employees and the company,” said Vic Smith, CEO of JV Smith Companies. “As the pandemic began, it really showed us how much our communication networks had evolved with EFI, and the team played a critical part in protecting our workers and continuing to serve our customers.”
With EFI certification, farming operations like Agricola El Toro work to make sure that:
· Workers are treated justly and experience a safer and more secure work environment;
· Workers have direct communication to management and feel free to voice their concerns in identifying problems and creating solutions; and
· The facility commits to continuous improvement and sound management systems to improve both compliance and business performance.
EFI certification affirms the commitment Agricola El Toro made to its workers many years ago. The operation has been Ciudad Morelos’ chief employer for more than 25 years. In 2015, the company launched Sembrando Futuro, a foundation whose main objective is to further the integral development of the Mexicali Valley by promoting values of respect, dignity and solidarity. At the core of its vision, the foundation seeks to integrate the company with its community and workers through education, sport and culture. Moreover, the company offers a multitude of benefits to its workers, including adult education, scholarships for workers’ children, additional support for families, and an on-site medical office.
“EFI certification helps retail buyers and consumers identify growing operations like JV Smith Companies that are meeting socially responsible standards and truly care about their workers,” said LeAnne Ruzzamenti, director of marketing communications for EFI. “In today’s social justice movement, it is increasingly important to verify the good work and commitment growers make to their workers so that consumers can easily determine which brands to trust.”
EFI partners with growers and retailers to create a more transparent food chain, safer food and healthier places to work. The JV Smith Companies certification marks EFI’s 25th certification in Mexico and 42nd overall.
Agricola El Toro was started in 1992 as a company dedicated to planting, harvesting, packing and exporting produce. Today, the vertically integrated company is known for high-quality products, including green onions, leafy greens, broccoli, celery and leeks, that serve each and every one of its clients. Agricola El Toro is part of JV Smith Companies, based in Yuma, Arizona.
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.
View a list of EFI-certified farms at equitablefood.org/farms.
About JV Smith Companies
JV Smith Companies, helmed by Vic Smith, is a diverse group with farming and cooling operations, as well as distribution facilities and shipping capacities in Arizona, California, Colorado and Baja, Mexico. JV Smith Companies includes JV Farms, Triangle Farms, Promotora Agricola El Toro, Southern Colorado Farms, Skyline Potato, JV Farms Organic, Skyview Cooling and Fresh Innovations. Skyview Cooling was the first operation formed in 1970 and began as a cooling company in Colorado and New Mexico. By 1977, it had expanded to growing operations in Center, Colorado; then Yuma, Arizona, in 1988; Mexico in 1992; and Salinas, California, in 2012. Today JV Smith Companies farms a number of commodities, including conventional romaine, iceberg lettuce, spinach, potatoes, mixed leaf and organic spring mix, carrots, celery, romaine and green onions. Following in the footsteps of their father Vic Smith, son Kyle Smith and daughter Kristen Eshaya have also joined the leadership team. The JV Smith Companies team is committed to staying one step ahead of the industry by using innovative techniques, being diligent in research and working cohesively as a team to ensure the safest, freshest and most nutritious quality product possible.