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Mini-cast 151: EO Values and Our Food Supply

Image of produce and canned goods with the EsoP Podcast logo; title "EO Values and Our Food Supply"

Bret Keisling discusses the importance of buying employee-owned when possible, but when it’s not supporting companies aligned with EO values, such as First Watch’s Project Sunrise. Victoria Huerta spotlights EsOp Tanimura & Antle.


Mini-cast 151 Transcript

[00:00:00] Bret Keisling: Welcome to the ESOP Mini-cast. Thank you so much for listening. My name is Bret Keisling, and as it says on my business cards, I'm a passionate advocate for employee ownership. Today, I want to spend just a couple of minutes talking to you about EO values and our food supply and to kick off the conversation I'm joined once again by Victoria Huerta, who is the communications manager for the EO Podcast Network.

Victoria, how are you?

[00:00:34] Victoria Huerta: Great, Bret, how are you?

[00:00:36] Bret Keisling: Excellent. Thank you. You have another great employee-owned company to spotlight for us today. Take it away.

Tanimura & Antle logo

[00:00:43] Victoria Huerta: I'm very excited to talk about Tanimura & Antle today. They are a group of employee-owned family farms that have been growing produce in the Salinas Valley for over nine years. They offer fresh field, organic, artisan, and greenhouse grown produce. And in 2016, they opened an agricultural employee housing center to provide safe and affordable housing for their seasonal employees. In 2017, they became one of the first growing, packing, shipping ESOPs in the US.

On their website they state, "we believe our employee owners are a part of our extended family and maintain a culture that upholds [...] family-first values." And I believe they have successfully created that family-first atmosphere among their farms.

My final thoughts on Tanimura & Antle would be that 14% of their employees have been with the company for over twenty years. In addition to that, they have opened their agriculture employee housing a year before they became an ESOP and I think that just proves that they have always thought that employees come first.

[00:01:38] Bret Keisling: Victoria, once again you've done a great job identifying employee-owned companies. Tanimura & Antle is really cool for a variety of reasons. First of all, we're grateful for the employee owners and we thank them and we celebrate them, but that's also really hard work, you know, the farming, the harvesting of the food, and we all rely on it. As we look at wealth inequality and income inequality, those who are working on our food supply benefit from it as well. So that's a great spotlight, Victoria. Thank you very much.

[00:02:07] Victoria Huerta: Thank you, Bret.

[00:02:08] Bret Keisling: That's going to lead to just a couple of more minutes today talking about EO values and our food supply and through employee ownership, the values that we're all in this together. Our communities rely on businesses and jobs; employee-owned companies provide that stability. So, there are values that are connected to employee ownership, but aren't necessarily in the employee ownership space.

Here's what I mean by that. I've been going for four months, all summer long, to a place called First Watch. It's a national chain for breakfast and lunch. Just this morning, I was talking to my friend, Nancy, who is one of the servers there, and I was telling her about the spotlight that Victoria was going to do on Tanimura & Antle and she told me about Project Sunrise.

In 2018, First Watch launched a program where the coffee all originates from the Huila region of Columbia. All of the farmers are women who got together and set up a farmer cooperative.

So first of all, First Watch is buying fair market value, the coffee presumably, from the women of Huila. And there are also philanthropic efforts where they're making donations based on the coffee sales.

Victoria, can you join us for just one more moment? You did a little bit of research. Can you tell us about Huila, Columbia?

[00:03:24] Victoria Huerta: Huila is one of Columbia's southern-most coffee producing states. It's home to its third highest peak, the Nevado del Huila volcano. Huila accounts for around 18% of Columbia's total coffee production. The coffee from this region tends to have a bright, sweet flavor such as tangerine or red apple.

[00:03:42] Bret Keisling: Now, you've joined me a couple of times throughout the summer at First Watch for brunches, as we've been ramping up the EO Podcast Network. And you know that I try to support employee-owned companies. What happened when you and I were having a brunch meeting and we saw Bob's Red Mill grits on the menu?

[00:03:57] Victoria Huerta: We had to try them!

[00:03:59] Bret Keisling: And part of that was we're supporting employee-owned companies. We're supporting the restaurant. And you and I have never even had grits before!

[00:04:06] Victoria Huerta: Correct.

[00:04:07] Bret Keisling: So, it's supporting that. It's supporting Bob's Red Mill. And here's what I love about finding out about Project Sunrise. I'm going to drink coffee every morning. And certainly, there are employee-owned options for coffee. Equal Exchange [Co-op] is very, very prominent. There are much smaller companies in the coffee space. But where I'm buying coffee at a restaurant, if I can't buy employee ownership, it's really cool that all summer long I've been supporting Project Sunrise through its program that's empowering the women of the Huila region of Columbia.

So, what First Watch is doing isn't employee ownership, but it fits the vibe of what we've been talking about. Would you agree, Victoria?

[00:04:48] Victoria Huerta: I would agree. Bret.

[00:04:49] Bret Keisling: So, getting back to your company spotlight, Tanimura & Antle, I love the fact that they're employee-owned, and again, we celebrate them and congratulate them and thank them for being in the EO sandbox. But I guess my hope for the listeners is if you can't support actual employee-owned companies, support those companies that have similar values or their goals are aligned with what we're trying to do. And that's to make all of the participants in the profit-making process benefit from the profits that they helped generate.

Jesse Tyler and Rodney North of the EO Podcast Network

With that, we're going to wrap things up. My thanks, as always, to Victoria Huerta for coming on and doing a great company spotlight. We're just a few weeks away from the launch of the EO Podcast Network, where the EsOp Podcast and ESOP Mini-cast will be joined by Why Worker Co-ops with Rodney North and the Owner to Owner podcast with Jesse Tyler. We can't wait to bring you those exciting new podcasts.

Thank you so much for listening. This is Bret Keisling. Be well.


[00:05:48] Bitsy McCann: We'd love to hear from you! To contact us, find us on Facebook at KEISOP, LLC and on Twitter @ESOPPodcast. To reach Bret, with one "T", email, on LinkedIn at Bret Keisling, and most actively on Twitter at @EO_Bret. Again, that's one "T". This podcast has been produced by The KEISOP Group, technical assistance provided by Third Circle, Inc. and BitsyPlus Design. Original music composed by Max Keisling, archival podcast material edited and produced by Brian Keisling, and I'm Bitsy McCann.

Standard Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are my own and don't represent those of my own firms or the organizations to which I belong. Nothing in the podcast should be construed as guidance or advice of any kind in any field and the fact that I mentioned an organizational website or an advocate or a company on a podcast does not reflect an endorsement, but if you've heard your name or your group's name mentioned on this podcast, I'd love to have you come on and talk about it yourself.

A note on the transcript: This transcript was produced by Descript, an automated transcription service. While it has been reviewed by The ESOP Podcast, we can not guarantee the accuracy of the transcription. Please refer to the original audio when citing sources.


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