A major Washington grower, CMI Orchards, recently announced that one of its primary growers, McDougall & Sons of Wenatchee, has certified its operations with the Equitable Food Initiative, a workforce development organization that certifies a farm’s labor practices. 

With their certification, CMI Orchards joins other Washington tree fruit producers who have partnered with the initiative for workforce training and certification, including Rainier Fruit, Stemilt Growers and Domex Superfresh Growers. About 20 farm operations in the U.S. have been certified to date, according to a news release from the Equitable Food Initiative. 

The Equitable Food Initiative (which was featured in the May 1, 2021, issue of Good Fruit Grower) includes both training and certification components. Leadership teams of workers from across all levels of an organization, from seasonal workers to senior management, form and train together in soft skills, such as problem solving, communication and leadership, to foster a culture of empowerment and continuous improvement. The program was developed in partnership with retailers, growers and farmworkers.

The certification’s standards include labor practices, food safety and integrated pest management. Participating retailers, including Costco, pay a premium for certified fruit, and growers are required to share that premium with their workforce. 

According to the release, CMI plans to expand certification toward additional acreage and operations. 

“CMI is an organization that has always been committed to responsible sourcing — social responsibility isn’t just a trend, it’s the right thing to do and something we have been focused on for many years,” said Bob Mast, president of CMI Orchards, in the release. “Our philosophy has been to do the right thing, even when no one’s looking, and so it makes sense to partner with EFI to officially certify that philosophy and the good work going on in all areas of our operation.”

Equitable Food Initiative Executive Director Peter O’Driscoll said participating companies such as CMI and McDougall & Sons help to raise the bar on social responsibility for the produce industry. 

“They showcase what true commitment to social responsibility looks like and embody the very best ideals of continuous improvement and transparency in the supply chain,” O’Driscoll said in the release. 

by Kate Prengaman