Rico Farms in Hermosillo, Mexico views their social programs as a catalyst for changing their workers lives, both on and off the farm. “We don’t just want better employees; we want the workers to be better people in our community and to provide better opportunities for all our workers” says Rico Farms operations director Jacobo Yanes.
The Tapia family owns and operates three Rico Farms locations in Mexico where they grow organic summer and winter squash, melons, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans and chili peppers. Their crops, which are all organic, are marketed by US partner Bridges Produce and their season runs from October through May.
Each season the Tapia family adds to their social programs and makes upgrades to their facilities all with goal of “Creating well-being and fostering a more sustainable world”. This year two of their most prominent social programs are a Fair Trade initiative that has allowed 850 workers to make upgrades and repairs to their homes and an expansion to their educational fast track reading and writing program to include 5 different levels of education/training.
Employees who were not previously able to complete their education can enroll in reading and writing classes and work with tutors, to graduate with one of the five certificates offered; literacy, primary/elementary, secondary/junior high, leadership and their newest program which was introduced this year, high school. So far, this program which is funded by the Rico Farms Foundation has had 337 people graduate over 5 seasons.
“Their interest and willingness to learn, is motivation for us. It makes us want to continue supporting them to grow as people in all aspects and to show them that they are important.” Stated Jacobo Yanes
In addition to the certificate programs they also invite their workers to take part in regularly scheduled educational talks, theater performances and movie screenings. Fostering self-esteem, drug prevention and promoting personal development through health and nutrition education are just a few of the topics that these presentations focus on.
In addition to programs funded by the Rico Farms Foundation they are also Fair Trade Certified. The premium that is paid on each box of Fair Trade product is then returned to the Fair Trade Committee so they can fund projects that are selected by the workers. The Rico Farms location in Hermosillo, Mexico has been Fair Trade certified since late 2013 but this year they took on their most ambitious project yet, providing materials to upgrade and repair 850 employee’s homes in Oaxaca, Chiapas and Veracruz, Mexico. This project, which will be completed by January 2020, is comprised of 600 workers from the current season with the remaining beneficiaries coming from the previous season. Over $100,000 in premium funds are being used to purchase and deliver building materials such as cement, cinder blocks, laminate, paint and metal roofing sheet to the workers home communities. This project will not only benefit the workers but thousands of their family members as well. These building materials are especially important in southern Mexico as many of the workers homes were damaged from the earthquake that hit two years ago.
Rico Farms employee Samuel Hernandez and his three brothers have been coming back year after year and now hold supervisor roles at the farm. “I would like to thank Rico Farms and the Tapia Family. We had the opportunity to study and work at the same time. We did not have this educational opportunity back home where we live. We are also receiving materials to fix our houses because of this great Fair Trade program. We want to continue working here so more people can benefit”.
Ben Johnson, president of Bridges Produce commends the Tapia Family on their continued social programs “The critical role of the field workers is too often forgotten in the supply chain. Rico Farms is dedicated to improving the lives of their workers and their community. Rico Farms is wonderful example of Bridges greater mission, to enable all stakeholders to thrive.”