organize the first Farm Worker Housing Summit, which called attention to the need for better and more affordable homes for farm workers. The summit attracted more than 150 volunteers to join the cause. From that was born an education and advocacy program called House Farm Workers! Today, Brokaw serves as treasurer and founding chair for House Farm Workers!, where she is part of the team that advocates on behalf of farm workers, educating elected representatives and the public about the need for safe, decent and affordable farm worker housing. Mario Pacheco: Rising Through a Crisis When news about the COVID-19 outbreak started surfacing in 2019, West Pak Avocado CEO Mario Pacheco anticipated the impacts of the pandemic and identified areas where West Pak would be required to retool. He quickly implemented an aggressive plan to prioritize the health and safety of West Pak employees, which included elevating sanitization efforts, dividing production floor workstations with protective plexiglass to enforce social distancing, and actively screening all employees and vendors for coronavirus symptoms. West Pak also made swift strides to expand its technological capabilities to guarantee that facilities remain safe and operational. This included adding automation and updating equipment to reduce unwarranted bottlenecks; installing
Sammy Duda (left) presents Vic Smith (right) with the 2017 Forbes Impact Award for his achievements in the agtech space.
newly designed HID-based door systems to reduce human-to-human contact points; and adding thermal detection camera systems and facial recognition software to alert internal staff of possible risk detection. In addition to proactively making changes throughout West Pak operations, Pacheco prioritized helping those affected by COVID-19. The company donates
pallets of avocados weekly to Feeding America Riverside | San Bernardino (FARSB), the Inland Empire’s largest hunger-relief organization. West Pak’s donation aids FARSB’s efforts to serve individuals with fresh produce, snacks, and boxes of emergency shelf-stable items to ensure that families are not going hungry through the COVID-19 pandemic. “West Pak is giving back to our communities to help feed those in need in a time of crisis,” said Pacheco, in a press release. “Now more than ever before, people need our help. We have the ability to provide and the desire to step up where we can be most effective.” These five pioneers are prime examples of how farmers pivot and adapt when faced with challenges, while simultaneously fighting for those in need. They are a small sample of the types of leaders that exist within western agriculture who continue to advocate for change that not only benefits the industry but the nation and world. As we enter an even more challenging environment due to the significant political, social and economic impacts caused by a monumental pandemic, we can expect more men and women in agriculture to step up to the plate and ignite change that reverberates around the globe.
Ellen Brokaw with a recipient of the Ellen Brokaw House FarmWorkers! Scholarship, which was named after Brokaw for her leadership in fighting on behalf of farm workers.
JULY | AUGUST 2020
Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com
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