In October, one of the country’s largest tomato growers announced that it had reached an agreement with the Florida-based farmworker group Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). Pacific Tomato Growers agreed to establish several practical systems designed to implement cooperatively the key principles of CIW’s code of conduct. Those principles include a joint — and, when need be, external — complaint resolution system, a participatory health and safety program, and a worker-to-worker education process aimed at insuring that farmworkers themselves are active participants in the social responsibility efforts.
“Pacific Tomato Growers believes that it is time to speak out publicly about working conditions in agriculture,” says Jon Esformes, operating partner, on behalf of the board of directors of Pacific Tomato Growers. “We, along with many other responsible agricultural firms, work daily to provide safe and fair working conditions, yet continued abuses within the industry demand that we speak out.”
“This breakthrough is a testament to the leadership at Pacific Tomato Growers, who truly came to the talks that led to [the agreement] with an open heart,” says Lucas Benitez of the CIW. “Without that spirit of partnership, it wouldn’t have been possible to even talk about the kind of changes contemplated in this agreement, much less hammer out the concrete systems necessary to make those changes real and sustainable.”
Last year, East Coast Brokers and Packers entered into an agreement with CIW, making it the first large commercial grower and packer in the state to do so. Its penny-per-pound agreement was made with Chipotle Mexican Grille.
• Palmetto-based tomato packers Taylor & Fulton donated $125,000 toward the expansion of the RCMA Wimauma Academy to include the middle school grades.
• Lykes Brothers donated $25,000 toward a new childcare center in Lake Placid.
• Six L’s Packing Co. has donated more than $200,000 to support literacy, after-school, and childcare programs.
• Wishnatzki Farms hosted its fifth Annual Tennis Pro Am, raising $80,000 for RCMA’s Wimauma Academy.
• RCMA’s 10th annual golf tournament raised a record $100,000, thanks to support from the Florida Tomato Exchange. Florida tomato growers donated $25,000 to sponsor the event; then they kicked in another $581 afterward so RCMA could reach its goal of $100,000.