Homegrown Organic Farms and Equitable Food Initiative Celebrate First-Of-Its-Kind ROC™ Gold Certification; Stephen Paul, LeAnne Ruzzamenti, Elise Smith, and Scott Mabs Share
PORTERVILLE, CA - Stewardship and compassion are concepts which ripple through the foundations of an operation, echoing outward to impact everything we do. Homegrown Organic Farms (HGO) is celebrating an industry milestone in this vein as the first fresh fruit provider to achieve Regenerative Organic Certified® (ROC™) Gold status, delivering a boost for regenerative ag messaging.
“Someone had to be the first, and Vernon Peterson’s stonefruit program was just that. He’s blazing the trail for others to follow, and it’s not the first time he’s been the trailblazer,” Category Director for Homegrown Stephen Paul shared. “During a global pandemic, he became the first Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) certified stonefruit farm. The EFI certification acknowledged and amplified the good works already happening on his farm, just as the ROC™ Gold achievement has in the present day.”
Currently, EFI is the only social responsibility program that is recognized for ROC™ Gold, Director of Marketing and Communications LeAnne Ruzzamenti explained to me. Meaning that you have to meet EFI standards to reach ROC™ at the Gold level.
“We have always believed that EFI offers the industry’s highest standards around social responsibility, and this is a great testament to that. Homegrown Organic Farms' stonefruit operation is a perfect example of the possible trajectory for fresh produce companies. The team started with organic, added the EFI certification, and then pursued and earned ROC™ Gold,” LeAnne commented. “I believe that the partnership between EFI and Regenerative Organic Alliance is bringing the full intent of ‘sustainability’ to the industry by addressing both the environmental and social aspects, translating to growth and broader awareness for regenerative ag and all it encompasses.”
Typically, a three to six month process—depending on audit availability, readiness of required information, and even time of harvest—just 29 of the nearly 100 total companies currently ROC™ certified are in fresh produce. While the number is increasing every day, Homegrown stands uniquely in the Gold category with just two other non-produce companies.
“Now that the trailblazing has begun, education must follow. Regenerative in many ways is still in the definition phase. We’ve started on that process and hope to help consumers understand regenerative organic practices and the benefits for the land, people, and the quality of our food,” Elise Smith, Marketing Manager for Homegrown, said.
The ROC™ program is a new agricultural-level certification communicating every level of impact to shoppers—environment, ethics, and social—building on USDA Certified Organic’s reputable, important designation. The process is not intended to replace USDA Organic, but to set a new standard for what’s possible in food and farming systems, the company shared.
Likewise, ROC’s goal is not to duplicate efforts, but to bring certification for all these areas under one umbrella label, so those applying are also encouraged to pursue other existing high bar standards.
“Companies that seek organic, and then regenerative organic, certifications are obviously committed to environmental sustainability and have taken great steps to care for the natural resources that support their business,” LeAnne points out. “Most consumers, however, think of sustainability as much more wide-reaching. A recent study from Hartman Group outlines the areas of labor, social justice, and economic vulnerability as part of sustainability along with the traditional components of pollution, resource use, plastics/packaging, etc.”
That awareness comes back to storytelling and spreading the word, something that can be accomplished by a label with this new certification, which HGO sees great potential in.
“For Homegrown, being able to provide our customers and consumers with the reassurance that our fruit was indeed grown in partnership with the soil and the people is an exciting aspect. We want to tell the story of Vernon and his family and how they strive to be stewards of the land they’ve been given,” Homegrown’s Chief Executive Officer, Scott Mabs, concluded.
Congratulations to Homegrown and all who made it possible for this exciting achievement, and for the growing number of participants it will inspire.