The world is currently facing a pandemic that has severely shaken every industry, company and employee. It is during these high stress situations that a company’s workforce either flourishes or falters. Luckily for Loren Booth, she had the right players in place before coronavirus infiltrated the world. These employees are leading the charge in adapting the company’s protocols to prevent and minimize the spread of COVID-19. Among them, many are women.
“It’s interesting how different people act and communicate during hard times,” said Booth, president/owner of Booth Ranches. “At Booth Ranches, we value people who are forward thinkers and good team players. The ones who show up, step up and volunteer to solve issues when they arise. This crisis has brought to light the employees who are there to find solutions.”
When most Americans were gearing up to “shelter in place,” Booth tasked her staff with flipping typical contact-heavy activities into “social distanced” possibilities. This would allow Booth Ranches to continue to provide safe and nutritious citrus varieties for the nation, while keeping the farm’s 600 workers safe.
Stacy Thompsen, who leads the IT Department for Booth Ranches, stepped up to the plate. Thompson and her team of three rolled up their sleeves to help all employees rapidly and efficiently transition from an in-person office setting to a work-from-home model. Though Booth Ranches was an early adopter of going paperless, Thompson expedited the process throughout the entire organization within weeks in an effort to maximize social distancing and prevent any spread of the virus.
“When truck drivers arrive, they hand us a piece of paper. When bins leave the field or packing house, there is an exchange of paper. There’s paper involved in many aspects of farming, and Stacy quickly figured out how to make it all paperless,” said Booth.
In addition to helping the company still run like a well-oiled machine during the pandemic, the commitment of Booth’s leadership team to the employees is unmatched. Alex Rios, the human resources manager at Booth Ranches, works 13-hour days to ensure that the needs of all employees—from the field to sales to the packinghouse—are met, while the company’s chief financial officer (CFO) vigorously fought to overcome COVID-19 just to be part of the effort to feed the world.
Teresa Barone, who Booth recently hired to serve as CFO, contracted and beat COVID-19. While battling the virus, Barone insisted on working from home and as soon as she fully recovered she was back in the office to support the industry.
“I suggested a slow transition back but Teresa is tough and couldn’t wait to get back to the office. She’s the kind of leader who is not afraid to jump in, take chances and ask, ‘What are we going to do about this?’” said Booth. “Women are strong and they get it done.”
In addition to hiring women to fill executive level positions, Booth Ranches makes it a priority to identify and develop future leaders within the company. Tracy Jones joined the farm in 2009 and worked her way up the ranks to now serve as the vice president of sales and marketing. Similarly, Moniza Zaragoza came to Booth Ranches through USA Staffing—the staffing organization that supplies workers for the farm’s two packing plants. After years of continually stepping up and identifying innovative solutions to improve efficiency in the packing house, Zaragoza was hired by Booth to be a lead at Booth Ranches Plant 2.
“I love to hire from within and see people grow like a dandelion. It’s my favorite part of the business,” said Booth.
Booth has developed a culture of growth, where employees are supported in their pursuit of a higher education and have ample opportunities to participate in professional development activities. Since taking her entire farming operation in-house in the year 2000, Booth has sponsored numerous children of employees in their quest to receive a university degree. Additionally, in an effort to promote personal and professional growth, she hosts workshops and sends employees to classes where they can learn additional skills and enhance their knowledge. She also encourages her staff to apply for opportunities such as the California Agricultural Leadership Program to gain the training needed to be an effective advocate for the agriculture industry as well as a driving force within their own organization.
Similarly, Booth Ranches has a well-established internship program that often hires interns as employees. Booth remarks how her pest department’s most recent hire, Georgina Reyes, worked three summers at Booth Ranches while attending Fresno State and today, she is in charge of maintaining a majority of the north region of the Booth Ranches properties. She joins Kaycee Reeves as the second female Agricultural Pest Control Advisor for the farm.
“The fact that we have two women PCAs is quite unusual in the agriculture industry. To add to that, we have Tracy who leads our sales department. I don’t know many organizations in California where their head of sales is a woman,” said Booth.
Booth notes how establishing a strong female presence among the executive team and throughout the organization was unintentional, however, incredibly beneficial. She is proud to oversee and be part of a company that has broken the mold of the typical male-dominated agriculture industry.
“We have not only been open to hiring women, but we have been successful at it. I encourage more companies to do it,” said Booth. “A shout out to the men that work for us, too. No matter what the gender, we have a terrific team.”
Today, women comprise a substantial percentage of Booth Ranches’ full-time workforce.
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