Stemilt Achieves Equitable Food Initiative Certification; West Mathison and Kevin Boyle Discuss
WENATCHEE, WA - Last fall, we reported that Stemilt received its first Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) certification. Now, less than a year later, the fresh produce purveyor has announced it has garnered new certifications, achieving EFI certification across its entire operation.
“Being the first tree fruit company to achieve full EFI certification across our organization is an incredible accomplishment for our teams,” stated President West Mathison. “Most of this training and work occurred during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the perseverance our team showed to bring full certification to reality is a true testament of their dedication to provide consumers all around the globe World Famous fruit.”
According to a press release, the recent certifications make Stemilt the first apple, pear, and cherry company to achieve EFI certification of its entire operation, an important milestone for the supplier.
This achievement comes less than one year after Stemilt received its first EFI certification at its Quincy, Washington, orchard. Recognizing it as a program to build a culture around continuous improvement of its operations, Stemilt began working with EFI on a pilot in 2019.
To achieve EFI certification, suppliers must meet over 300 rigorous standards surrounding labor practices, food safety, and pest management. These standards also emphasize respect, collaboration, and creating a culture of food safety, aligning directly with Stemilt’s mission to cultivate people and delight consumers through excellence. With the EFI certification, Stemilt has made key improvements within its social and pest management areas, safety, and the well-being of its nearly 100 employees.
“All of the employees who are part of the EFI certification process have demonstrated their desire to improve and help Stemilt fulfill its purpose,” explained Mathison. “We have only just earned this full EFI certification, but I know the impact that it will make will be substantial for years to come. Each facility or ranch is led by an EFI leadership team made up of a group of cross-functional individuals. They are taught EFI’s soft skill training around leadership, communication, problem solving, and conflict resolution and then tasked with putting those newfound skills to the test through a collaborative project approach around continuous improvement. The leadership team structure promotes better engagement and helps us find leaders within the organization.”
To maintain the certification, Stemilt will move through two years of verification audits that take place annually and one recertification process that occurs prior to the end of the three-year certification, as noted in the release. These audits will ensure that all food safety and pest management standards and work involvement indicators are being met consistently.
“The EFI certification not only communicates our commitment to high-quality fruits, but it also ensures our workers that we are building a culture that is employee-centric,” added Mathison. “By teaching these skills, we are building confident employees who are committed to delivering fruit that is ‘Responsibly Grown, Farmworker Assured.’ That is one of the most rewarding things of all.”
Kevin Boyle, Director of New Product and Business Development for EFI, noted that being the first apple, pear, and cherry supplier to achieve operational certification cements the company’s commitment to both its products and employees.
“Stemilt has been a leader in developing its workforce through training and improvement processes, so it’s not a surprise that they became the first apple, pear, and cherry grower to certify its entire Washington-state operation,” Boyle said. “Their work throughout the pandemic is testament to their dedication and commitment to the certification process, as well as to their product quality and team culture.”
We at ANUK congratulate Stemilt on this pivotal milestone!