Stemilt has taken another step to fulfill its mission to “cultivate people and delight consumers” by achieving Equitable Food Initiative certification at its Quincy, WA 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 over 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 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.”
Right: West Mathison, Stemilt president.
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.
“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.”