As a leader in the apple category, Selah, Washington-based Rainier Fruit has partnered with Equitable Food Initiative to begin training and move toward formally certifying its largest farm of more than 2,300 acres. This will include a full manifest of EFI certified organic and conventional apples, organic cherries and organic blueberries, and will in turn make Rainier the first EFI certified establishment in Washington State’s fruit industry.
Rainier’s first EFI trainings took place the week of March 9 with Rainier’s Mattawa Operations and team leaders from its primary facility, Rainier’s Harrison Plant. Rainier’s employee focus teams went through the 40 hours of EFI training which included developing skills of conflict resolution, problem solving and collaboration. These existing teams have representatives from all levels of the employee workforce, from operations and management, to packinghouse crew, harvesters and foreign guest workers.
“This training is very hands on and tailored to different learning styles, so the team has the opportunity to understand their roles as the facilities work toward certification,” said Courtney Lane, HR manager for Rainier’s Zirkle Warehouse operations. “This adds more tools in our toolbox to aid in the ongoing collaboration between employees and management.”
The EFI program is one of the most comprehensive certification programs in the industry and has more than 300 rigorous standards focused on worker engagement, satisfaction, labor retention and increased emphasis on food safety. EFI has provided a third-party certification for the produce industry’s Ethical Charter for Responsible Labor Practices, which in turn has impacted more than 35,000 farmworkers across the United States, Canada, Mexico and Central America.
“We have enjoyed working with EFI over the past three years and are excited to formalize our relationship and proceed with certification,” said Rainier Fruit CEO Mark Zirkle. “We have always been a company focused on our employees and our processes, but we are also a company rooted in a commitment to excellence, and the EFI program offers a level of shared values and integrity our customers have come to expect from Rainier.”
Rainier Fruit is a multi-generation, vertically integrated fruit company.