Equitable Food Initiative Maximizes Opportunities for Midwest Growers; LeAnne Ruzzamenti and Kevin Boyle Share
WASHINGTON, DC - Opportunities for ag are opening up in the Midwest as Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) sets its sights on advancing workforce development across the booming region. The organization recently announced it is bringing a new focus to the Midwest produce industry as a result of market research and recent industry trends.
“One thing that has set EFI apart is that our certification program has never been one-size-fits-all. We have tested and piloted workforce development programs for organizations of all sizes to find viable solutions,” said LeAnne Ruzzamenti, Director of Marketing. “We recognize that many fresh produce suppliers in the Midwest have different types and sizes of operations and labor forces, and we are identifying new opportunities to expand our program offerings in this region to meet those unique needs.”
EFI partnered with Kitchen Table Consultants (KTC) back in May 2021 to evaluate the state of the Midwest fresh fruit and vegetable industry and understand the unique challenges and opportunities of the region, as noted in a press release. During this study, KTC also identified grower interest in improving labor practice, professionalizing ag labor industry-wide, and building a resilient workforce.
Key findings from the report revealed that the Midwest region has prospects to explore high-efficiency greenhouse production, as well as to test new specialty crop varieties not previously suitable for the region due to its changing weather patterns. In addition, the study suggested that the Midwest has a smaller overall number of H-2A workers and relies more heavily on family and local labor while paying relatively high wage rates due to the lack of year-round agricultural labor opportunities.
EFI utilizes this knowledge to help United States growers better understand workforce development and utilize it as a tool to retain workers and an adaptive measure to combat labor volatility. The organization develops customized training programs to create an environment that workers will want to return to each year.
“For the past six years EFI has trained thousands of farmworkers and certified dozens of farming operations. Each region, each location, each farm, every packing shed has unique needs, but the common thread is the reality that farmworkers in every operation—regardless of their situation—perform better when they are trained in leadership skills like communication, problem-solving, conflict resolution, and other soft skills,” said Kevin Boyle, Business and New Product Development Director. “Across industries and decades, I have witnessed firsthand how organizations that prioritize developing their skilled labor find ROI in company performance and worker satisfaction.”
EFI has a multitude of workforce development tools and training modules, including free educational resources that grower-shippers can access here.
For the latest strategies to bolster the fresh produce industry as a whole, keep clicking on AndNowUKnow.