Church Brothers Farms' Steve Church Talks Heritage, Tradition, and More
SALINAS, CA - Launching the Our Roots Run Deep campaign earlier in May, Church Brothers Farms sought to tell the industry its story. In a deeper dive with ANUK, I spoke with key members of the family on the tenets that make up the campaign.
I spoke first with Steve Church, Founder and Chairman. Starting in the 1960s, he and his brother Tom worked in the lettuce fields of Salinas, California. They went on to work for various produce companies in the Salinas Valley before coming back together to start Church Brothers Farms in 1999.
“When Tom and I left our previous company, we started talking about what we were going to do, and Tom suggested that we should do what we know best, which is consolidation of foodservice customers and a one-stop shop operation that offered various commodities and value-added,” Steve shared. “We started from scratch and built the company into a vertically-integrated business with close to $700 million in sales this year and 3,000 employees. And now we want to do the same in the retail segment.”
Heritage and tradition are strong pillars of the company’s campaign and the company itself. As a family business, Steve told me that produce very much runs in their blood.
“For my brother and I, the produce business has never been about the money. It’s a tough business—you’ve got to have the work ethic to make it and get the results. I’ve never known a lazy produce guy,” he said with a laugh.
The family element of the company runs even deeper, though, as the next generation of Churches step in to man the helm.
“My son Chuck is the Chief Performance Officer, and my daughter Megan is the Vice President of Food Safety, and they’re both doing an outstanding job,” Steve remarked. “My nephew Brian is the Chief Executive Officer, and my other nephew Jeff is the Chief Operating Officer. We have a lot of family members pulling the train here and making the thing work.”
Alongside his family, Steve has overseen major growth for Church Brothers Farms, such as recent developments like a new distribution facility in Salinas, a processing plant in Mexico, and an expansion of the company’s retail business.
We’ll dive deeper into the strategic growth and aspirations for the company next time with CEO Brian Church, so stay tuned.