Provisions for Job Security, Vision and Dental Insurance, and Retirement Savings on the Inside, and Building Infrastructure for Community Enrichment on the Outside.
Adding winter citrus to the packing schedule along with stone fruit and pomegranates three years ago allowed The Peterson Family, who run Homegrown’s Kingsburg, California fruit packing facility, to provide their employees with year-round work. Full time, year-round work can be hard to come by in agriculture jobs, though the benefits it brings to both employees and the industry are wide reaching. They include quality of community and family life and the blessing of an expertly skilled workforce.
“A part of our motto is, we farm, package and deliver the most delicious, nutritious, organic products in ways that benefit everyone involved. That’s everyone involved. So it’s part of our motto, part of our mission statement that our employees should benefit, the community at large should benefit,” Vernon Peterson said.
Employees have always been able to purchase the fresh produce that comes through the packing shed at cost, but when the family company experienced a change of seasons a few years back and became profitable after weathering through a difficult financial time, more benefits for employees could be materialized in new ways.
“You can’t do these things unless you’re profitable, there has to be surplus income,” Vernon said, “And when there was, we started thinking, what more can we do to help people?”
The Peterson Family put together a benefits package that included vision and dental insurance for employees and their families and a 3 percent matching 401k retirement savings program. All employees were included, from the office, to the packing shed, to the field. And though it can be tough to find year-round work in ag, it’s nearly impossible to find company benefits that extend to all positions.
“You become connected to the people you work with; you want to do what you can, when you can, to help people,” Vernon said.
In the outside world, long before the benefits program was established inside the company walls, Vernon was involved in helping to establish infrastructure for the Kingsburg Community Assistance Program (Kcaps); he’s been on the board for over thirty years. In the last five years, Kcaps has established branches in the nearby communities of Traver and London. “They’re in our backyard,” Vernon said, continuing, “I have a lot of employees that come from these communities.
”Kcaps is now a self-sustaining organization that brings in money through thrift store sales. The non-profit provides clothing, food assistance, ESL classes, after school tutoring, and job training classes. The Traver and London properties include community parks, playgrounds, and places for church meetings and other community gatherings.
Both inside and outside company walls, the goal remains the same, to use resources and abilities to make a way for people to be empowered to improve their lives and their families’ futures.