Everkrisp Vegetables Inc.. Tolleson, AZ
WG Member Since 1972
Background: Abbie and Andy Etchart come from a long history of agricultural workers. Their great grandfather, Mathieu Etchart, left his family farm in the Basque region of France in the early 1900s, looking for new opportunities in America. He found them in Southern California. His emigration to the states brought him to the Chino area where he continued the farming tradition that had long sustained his family back in Europe. The newly-situated California farmer began a new life based on an old occupation, growing sweet corn and potatoes, which he sold on the wholesale market.
Along with his vegetables, Mathieu also grew a family in California. He married Dominica, a girl from his hometown in France, who had followed him out to California. Their only son, Ferdinand (Ferdie), was raised in the family farming tradition, so it was no surprise that when he came of age, he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps. As an adult, he began work with Admiral Packing Company, an iconic California lettuce grower. It was with Admiral that Ferdie Etchart moved away from his parents to Arizona in search of more land and more opportunity. Arizona land was more plentiful and was much cheaper. That would eventually be a factor in allowing him to leave Admiral and venture out on his own and start Everkrisp in 1972.
In time, Ferdinand began his own family. He married, Alice, and had five children with her — Mathieu, Alicia, Marty, Mike and Miles. Mathieu, Alicia and Mike all learned the business from Ferdinand and continue to work for and run Everkrisp today. Ferdinand’s son Mike, a company vice president who oversees business operations, is father to Abbie and Andy Etchart, Everkrisp’s third-generation of farmers (fourth generation family farmers) who are also involved in the family business. But it didn’t always seem like it would work out that way.
Finding the Way Back to the Farm: Although the road to working at Everkrisp may have been more apparent for some of Ferdie’s children, it was not as obvious for two of his grandchildren, Abbie and Andy. As they reached adulthood, their future with the company was never certain. And while they both had different pathways that brought them back to the farm, there was a common element that prompted each to return — it took being away from the family business to gain an appreciation for and a desire to be part of it.
When the time came for Abbie to go to college in California, she took up theater and business for her undergraduate degree. It wasn’t until a couple years later that she got interested in sustainability and environmental stewardship. That new-found interest led her to obtain a master’s degree in urban sustainability. It was actually her sustainability research that brought her full circle to wanting to be involved in the family business. She completed her master’s thesis while working at Everkrisp and decided to draft a sustainability plan for the company — until she realized the firm already had one in place — they just referred to it as an environmental or conservation plan, further validating her career decision.
Andy’s path back to Everkrisp was a little different. He had been working in the company fields on school breaks since he was 16. College took him away from the farm and he was happy for that. After college, he wanted to travel, learn Spanish and do volunteer work. It was while he was away and traveling that he realized how important Everkrisp was to him.
Despite Andy’s previous hands-on field experience and Abbie’s Masters’ degree in sustainability, it was obvious that they needed to become better acquainted with farming operations. So they went through at least one harvest season with the harvest foreman to get a better understanding of the operation. Now both Abbie and Andy work in the company’s sales department.
Western Growers Connection: As a company, Everkrisp has been a member of Western Growers since its inception in 1972. But the company’s connection with Western Growers precedes its own membership in the association. Everkrisp’s founder, Ferdinand Etchart, was very familiar with the organization from his days with Admiral Packing Company. Admiral Packing was a long-time member of Western Growers. The company was co-founded by former WG Chairman John Derdivanis and his partner, Herb Fleming, both icons in the fresh produce industry. John Derdivanis was Chairman of Western Growers in 1971. Admiral Packing has since dissolved, but clearly its relationship with the Association had a lasting effect on Ferdinand Etchart. “When he left Admiral to start Everkrisp, it was ingrained in him that he was going to continue that relationship,” said Abbie Etchart. “He had a familiarity with Western Growers and he liked that there was representation in the legislature in California and Arizona and if felt like there was someone on his side.”
Everkrisp’s Role in the Community: Everkrisp’s community involvement philosophy originated with company founder, Ferdinand Etchart. Ferdie felt the need to be part of the community, to give back and have a relationship with its people. Abbie explains, “Our office has been located in the same spot in Tolleson since we started and it was important to him to be a good neighbor. Tolleson has been a great neighbor to us. So we want to do everything we can to return the favor.”
Many of Everkrisp’s employees live in Tolleson and the company has a long-standing positive relationship with the town, not only providing jobs, but also working closely with St. Mary’s Food Bank, and the local Boys and Girls Club, who named a citizen of the month award after Ferdinand Etchart. The farming company also sponsors community youth organization activities and sports teams and donates boxes of excess greens on a weekly basis to help supplement the diets of animals at the Wildlife World Zoo.
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