WENATCHEE, Wash. – Stemilt’s journey to achieve Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) certification across numerous ranches and warehouses is well on its way to becoming a reality. As several Stemilt teams, and 66 employees develop the labor-management collaborative teams required for certification, there are three individuals who lead the charge within Stemilt: Marcela Covarrubias, Rosa Madrigal and Melissa Gonzalez.
“The EFI trainings are rigorous and require a lot of time and effort. Marcela, Rosa, and Melissa have stepped up to organize training and implement the EFI program to help us continue our mission of cultivating people and delighting consumers through excellence,” explains West Mathison, president of Stemilt. “They are also working towards becoming certified internal trainers of EFI to help us foster the program into the future.”
Covarrubias currently serves as Stemilt’s employee engagement coordinator and started at Stemilt 7 years ago. She has worked in multiple departments and moved to her current role in 2018. Madrigal is going on 10 years as a Stemilt team member and started in the field. In 2021, she took the position as Stemilt’s safety coordinator. Gonzalez started working in Stemilt’s orchards in 2014. Today, she serves as the company’s Food Safety specialist and has extensive background in the subject.
“Rosa focuses on the field side, working with the various ranches, while Melissa handles the warehouse side,” explains Mathison. “Marcela then acts as back up to both and is our main EFI coordinator.”
To become EFI certified, leadership teams at each of Stemilt’s company orchards and packing facilities are trained on more than 300 rigorous standards around labor practices, food safety, and pest management. The standards also emphasize collaboration, respect, and creating a culture of food safety. Stemilt has already certified its Quincy ranch/location and is heavily engaged in the values included in the EFI program. The company views the EFI certification as a proactive step forward to continue building its company culture around its vision, mission, values, and goals.
“Marcela, Rosa, and Melissa represent Stemilt as our internal EFI trainers because they demonstrate Stemilt’s values and cultural norms through their work on a daily basis,” explains Mathison. “As certified EFI trainers, they will be responsible for understanding EFI standards, along with identifying problems that could affect compliance. They also work with leadership teams to identify solutions and communicate with the broader workforce about EFI.”
To achieve trainer level, Stemilt’s three team members must go through a minimum of 40 hours of training through a combination of online courses, in person trainings and an audit to achieve their internal trainer certification. Once certified, they will provide ongoing EFI-related trainings throughout the company and work with the various leadership teams at each certified location.
According to Kevin Boyle, director of business and new product development for EFI, the focus on equipping its own team members as EFI-certified trainers demonstrates Stemilt’s commitment to bring EFI standards into its company and culture.
“The certified trainer role has proven itself worthy, and to have three individuals inside the organization who understand how to implement EFI principles is extremely advantageous for Stemilt,” explains Boyle. “The trainers support and strengthen the essential skills of farmworkers, supervisors and managers. They seek compliance and continuous improvement through collaboration with the leadership teams and follow EFI procedures.”
From team members equipped to train to an aggressive rollout of EFI training across its operations, Stemilt is looking forward to achieving several EFI certifications by the end of 2021.
“The EFI certification is an important step to provide both retailers and consumers transparency that World Famous Fruit is ‘Responsibly Grown, Farmworker Assured,” said Mathison. “But more than that, it equips our team members with important skills to live our core values and culture, while working together to cultivate people and delight consumers through excellence. I’m incredibly proud of the people involved in bringing this to life across our company.”
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 through excellence 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.