GoodFarms' Amalia Lommel Shares Insights on Implementation of Equitable Food Initiative's Sexual Harassment Training
SAN DIEGO, CA - As April marks the arrival of National Sexual Assault Awareness month, we have gone in-depth with the Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) to understand its sexual harassment training programs created for the industry in partnership with the University of Washington and to bring attention to the fact that farmworkers are disproportionally affected by this type of abuse. Showing the direct impact of EFI’s training tools, I spoke with Amalia Lommel, Director of Social Responsibility at Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce, which sells under the GoodFarms brand, an operation that has implemented the organization’s programs.
“Before the EFI program started in 2013, we had not received complaints of sexual harassment. Even though I was proactively reaching out to employees and inquiring how they were, how they felt, and how we could improve, the answer was always, ‘Everything is good.’ Once the process improvement team was established at the farm and education/training was completed for this team, designated representatives were selected to serve as a liaison for sexual harassment issues. After this, training of the entire farm workforce got underway, and we slowly began to see a culture shift,” explains Amalia. “Reports didn’t come in right away; it took time for people to feel safe and build trust. When trust increased, we started to hear about sexual harassment issues.”
EFI provided 40 hours of intensive training for the process improvement team, including various standards, communication skills, workforce safety, and sexual harassment. One key aspect included selecting one male and one female farmworker representative to become the liaisons with other workers for harassment issues.
“Changing the environment was critical. Not only did there need to be recognition of sexual harassment and a process for reporting, but there needed to be safe places to report and a culture change to show self-respect and a respect for others,” Amalia says. “Appointing designated workers for others to report their problems was very important. It wasn’t a manager, a suggestion box, an office, or a phone number; it was a trusted peer.”
After assembling the Process Improvement Team, every existing staff member at GoodFarms was educated on sexual harassment. All incoming team members were given the same training, ensuring a continued cycle of culture development. Today, the company reports that it has not received a sexual harassment complaint in over a year, but it has taken time and willingness to learn to get to this place.
“This shift in our culture wasn’t just about awareness or training; it was about learning,” Amalia imparts. “Education isn’t just about disseminating information; it is about asking people to be part of a solution. Workers are treated as professionals, and as part of the education, they are engaged to understand how this impacts us, what outcomes we want, and how we can change things together.”
As other companies look to go down the same path that GoodFarms traveled, Amalia acknowledges that tackling what could be considered an uncomfortable issue can be challenging. Still, in the end, it is worth the work.
“It won’t happen overnight, it will take time, but we are proof that success is possible,” she adds.
To get a copy of the ¡Basta! Toolkit created by the University of Washington’s Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (PNASH) and used by EFI, click here.
As sexual harassment remains a significant issue for male and female farmworkers, EFI will continue to share its training programs and tools to stop the problem and change cultures across fresh produce.
For more insights on the issues facing the industry, keep reading AndNowUKnow.