Episode 210: LeAnne Ruzzamenti and Nicole Minnich-Zapata
The annual Farm Worker Awareness Week, which falls along Caesar Chavez’s birthday and along the same time when fresh fruit and vegetable production moves back to the U.S., is an important week to honor the daily contributions that farm workers make to our food system. We truly wouldn’t have access to the quality supply of products we enjoy without our farm workers who are invisible to us as consumers.
LeAnne Ruzzamenti, Director of Marketing and Communications at the Equitable Food Initiative, was raised on a family-owned apple farm in the Hudson Valley and has been in agriculture her whole life. Joining the Equitable Food Initiative in 2016 was an opportunity for her to share her passion for sharing stories that highlight the people behind our food. The EFI is a certification organization focused on workforce development and engaging with farm workers directly to create healthier workplaces and safer foods.
For example, the EFI works with growers like Misionero (the company behind Earth Greens, Garden Life and Green Wave Farms) to help train workers and create communication and collaboration that works across the entire team, and they also work with retailers so they can understand different levels of social responsibility. It’s the small, unnoticed tasks that happen every day the EFI is shining a light on for the agricultural industry and consumers.
“We know what it takes to get fresh and healthy food on our table, but most consumers probably don’t think too deeply into the supply chain. It’s really important to show our appreciation for these men and women who are the backbone of our food system and also to call on the agricultural industry as a whole to better educate consumers about where their food comes from and all the hands that are responsible for it.” – LeAnne Ruzzamenti (9:51-10:17)
Nicole Minnich-Zapata works as the Marketing Director for Misionero, the company that brings you your favorite organic and conventional salads and salad kits, lettuces, bagged vegetables under brands like Earth Greens, Garden Life and Green Wave Farms. Nicole attests to what a huge part EFI plays in all areas of the business. For example, one of the concerns Misionero was hearing from employees was that the parking lot was too dark at night when they left from their second shift. This led the company to putting in new lighting in the parking lot, and making other changes like adding more paid time off and new bathrooms.
Misionero has been EFI certified for over three years and just recently has started a new pilot program called The Producing Reduce Program, a zero waste initiative that launched six months ago, and a Work Process Skills pilot program which focuses on the upskilling of employees, reviewing all operation processes and adding input for areas of improvement – specifically around professionalizing agriculture workers and identifying areas of leadership opportunities for new and current employees.
“As we think about sustainability, how we treat our people and take care of that human capital is a huge part of a sustainable movement in a sustainable agriculture system.” – Lori Taylor (18:20-18:31)
You can support the Equitable Food Initiative as a consumer by looking for third party certification labels on the goods you buy like fruits, vegetables, seafood, coffee and tea. When you do your part by buying these products that are verified by audits to meet labor standards, you’re making a huge difference! You can also get involved through social media and follow updates through the EFI website (www.equitablefoodinitiative.org) to start learning about each brands’ process and companies you’re buying from. Learning about each of these farmworkers’ stories and how they’re contributing to our greater food system will warm your heart and give you the valuable connection to your food resources that we’re all looking for.
How to get involved
- Join The Produce Moms Group on Facebook and continue the discussion every week!
- Reach out to us – we’d love to hear more about where you are in life and business! Find out more here.
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Previous episodes you may enjoy
- Episode 209: Jill Overdorf
- Episode 208: Walt Dasher
- Episode 207: Carley Parsley
- Episode 206: Tamara Claunch
- Episode 205: Donna Lynn Browne, Aribel Aguirre-Beck, and CarrieAnn Arias