Equitable Food Initiative's LeAnne Ruzzamenti and Stemilt's Brianna Shales Detail Importance of Farmworker Awareness Week
WASHINGTON STATE - A deep appreciation for farmworkers stands at the heart of those working in fresh produce. In honor of Farmworker Awareness Week, Washington State issued a formal declaration in support. To understand what this proclamation means from the perspective of both ends of the supply chain, I turned to both LeAnne Ruzzamenti, Equitable Food Initiative’s Director of Marketing Communications, and Stemilt’s Marketing Director, Brianna Shales.
“I sent the request to the Governor’s office to make this proclamation,” LeAnne told me. “Farmworker Awareness Week is an important event for the industry to recognize, and this year, I believe it’s of even greater importance, given the increasing recognition from the consumer as to the essentiality of farmworkers. Those of us who work in produce have known the incredibly vital role farmworkers play in bringing fresh fruits and vegetables to market. Most of those products are hand harvested, so it takes an enormous amount of hard work. And this recognition by the consumer is really critical.”
The proclamation itself came from Jay Inslee, the Governor of Washington. In it, he notes that Washington’s agricultural production covers more than 14 million acres and produces over $10 billion in production value. As many as 187,000 migrant and seasonal farmworkers assist with the cultivation and harvest of key crops grown in The Evergreen State.
Like all grower-shippers in fresh produce, Stemilt relies on many skilled agricultural professionals. As we’ve reported in the past, Stemilt stands out from the pack, because as a company, it’s investing in the training and development of its workers.
“We are so excited that Washington State has officially recognized March 25–31 as Farmworker Awareness Week,” Brianna told me. “Stemilt wouldn’t exist without these #AlwaysEssential workers, as they nurture our fruit from first bloom to last pick and help ensure we delight consumers with World Famous Fruit. Stemilt is family-owned, and that means we work to treat our team members like family. We support any effort that calls attention to the important work that farmworkers do and will continue to invest in providing a safe, healthy and respectful workplace where people can grow personally and professionally.”
Part of EFI’s mission is to bridge the gap between the consumer and the farm—and ultimately, the farmworker.
“We’ve seen the continuing trend that consumers want to know where their food is coming from and how it’s being grown. Farmworker Awareness Week really gives us that opportunity to keep talking about this,” LeAnne noted. “To me, the message we’re trying to get out to the industry is to use this event to build momentum and constantly put out stories emphasizing the skilled professionals working behind-the-scenes.”
Farmworkers are essential to getting fresh and healthy food on supermarket shelves. Consumers might not see them, but they’re growing, harvesting, and packing the food that adorns produce aisles. Being the root of our supply chain, it can’t be overstated how important their role is in making sure food is available, all while maintaining quality and safety.
In order to amplify this messaging and raise support for the workers that make bringing fresh produce to market possible, EFI has crafted a free communications toolkit for download. Within the toolkit, companies will find ready-to-use graphics, logos, and messages honoring these workers who support our agricultural marketplace.
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