Yesterday, more than 40 women from Western Growers (WG) member companies were on hand in Fresno, Calif., for the much-anticipated launch of WG Women, a new program designed to identify and prepare women for positions of leadership within the fresh produce industry.
The half-day event, held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, featured opening remarks by WG Chairman, Ryan Talley, and WG President and CEO, Dave Puglia, followed by a series of presentations outlining the professional development and leadership training activities at the core of WG Women.
WG Senior Director of Membership, Kim Sherman, began by moderating an insightful panel of experienced, accomplished women in agriculture, which included Carol Chandler of Chandler Farms, Loren Booth of Booth Ranches, and Alexandra Allen of Main Street Produce. The dialogue centered around the role of women in the fresh produce industry and opportunities for future growth, which helped establish the program rationale.
WG Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Karen Timmins, followed the mentor panel with a brief presentation of the WG Women program elements, which will include mentorship, networking, leadership training, political and consumer advocacy, and community outreach. Timmins explained that the vision of WG Women is to help promote a fresh produce industry that reflects the value of women in production agriculture and elevates them to the highest levels of company and industry leadership.
Nancy Heffernan of Lucas Public Affairs, a leading public affairs firm, and Laura Gonzalez of Unearth, an innovative digital strategies and public affairs firm, then previewed the content they will cover in a series of upcoming in-person and web-based seminars on political and consumer advocacy. Through a combination of traditional and social media workshops, participants in WG Women will develop the skills needed to engage with consumers and influencers through both earned and digital media.
Next, Sherman organized a speed-mentoring activity in which several designated mentors rotated around the room at short intervals, introducing themselves to potential protégés and setting the stage for future mentor-protégé pairings as part of the mentorship element of WG Women.
Timmins then revisited the stage to provide insight into the leadership training component of WG Women, which will be based on curriculum from the Arbinger Institute, which champions concepts such as “Getting Out of the Box” and “The Outward Mindset” as ways to change lives and transform organizations.
Finally, Chelsea Ketelsen of HMC Farms shared her involvement with Communities for Healthy Kids, a Central Valley initiative aimed at reducing childhood obesity, which is currently focused on installing water bottle refill stations in local schools. Ketelsen explained that one of the goals of WG Women is to create a forum for program participants to discover and collaborate on shared passions, ultimately culminating in chapter projects that benefit the rural communities in which WG member companies operate.
Breakfast and lunch were provided to the participants, who collectively took advantage of the meal and break times to network with each other, many who were meeting for the first time and could be found exchanging business cards and social media handles.
Coming out of the WG Women kickoff event, WG staff will evaluate the feedback provided by the attendees and develop a formal calendar of program activities. It is anticipated that the in-person events will be regionally-based, beginning in the Central Valley and later expanding to other regions of WG membership.
Please contact Kim Sherman ([email protected]) or Karen Timmins ([email protected]) if you would like to participate in upcoming WG Women events, or are interested in organizing the effort to bring WG Women to your area.
In addition to the tremendous women who served on the Mentor Panel – Alexandra Allen, Loren Booth and Carol Chandler – special thanks are in order to the following women who were instrumental in the strategic development of the WG Women mission, vision and program elements:
- Monique Bienvenue, Bee Sweet Citrus
- Tracey Chow, Western Growers
- Mandy Critchley, Critchley Family Farms
- Krystal Del Bosque, Del Bosque Farms
- Catherine Fanucchi, Tri-Fanucchi Farms
- Briana Giampaoli, Live Oak Farms
- Chelsea Ketelsen, HMC Farms
- Heather Mulholland, Mulholland Citrus
- Lorna Roush, Shultz Ranches