LeAnne with her fami- ly at Olympic National Park in 2021

to reward workers for the additional responsibility they assume in the EFI model,” according to the EFI. When the EFI program is introduced to farming opera- tions, the organization’s goal is to create a commitment to continuous improvement and lean management that leads to innovation and improved organizational performance. “We are trying to offer long-term solutions, and that can be difficult for growers. It’s hard to focus on tomorrow when you have a crisis today,” acknowledges Ruzzamenti. Attracting retailers can be challenging She says attracting committed retailers is the most chal- lenging aspect of the non-profit’s business model. Some of the more prominent retailers that have signed on with EFI are Whole Foods Market, FoodBuy, owned by Compass Group and Costco Wholesale, which has a national presence. “The responsible recruitment of workers is an im- portant and complicated issue that isn’t expected to be addressed quickly or easily. We are interested in doing

business with suppliers who are learning to understand the complexity of the issue, and to elevate responsi- ble recruitment practices,” says Keith Neal, who is vice president/general merchandise manager of fresh produce for Costco Wholesale, which is headquartered in Issaquah, WA. Neal’s testament is music to Ruzzamenti’s ears and a validation of her work during the past six years. Like most enterprises in the past three years, Covid-19 has put a damper on the EFI’s momentum, but the pace has accelerated once again. In the EFI’s brief history it has generated more than $13 million in worker bonuses to a pool of approximately 60,000 farmworkers at 54 certified locations. Ruzzamenti, who grew up on an apple farm with three brothers in a rural agricultural area in New York’s Hudson Valley, is clearly an optimist with strong, long-established convictions. Her parents divorced when she was 14, but it didn’t deter her sense of mission. “For me, it’s all about ‘what good things am I putting out in the world?’ and

58 Vision Magazine

December 2022

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