The payoff comes by consolidating volume from scattered growers.
“We’re giving them a greater fair market access, but also sustaining what we’ve had for decades,” Hirasuna said. “It enables us as a marketer and shipper to access some of the buyers that require consistent quality and volume. Those who undergo audits will be able to access the more lucrative buyers, while the ones who don’t will be seen as too risky. Even if we’re the only shipper in the area requiring this, they’re still net money ahead.”
The goal is to make small growers self-sufficient in food safety.
“They can find a way to incorporate it in a cost efficient and effective manner to their operations,” he said.
Growers who pass audits can have their produce packed under Sunnyside’s Calway and Truway labels. The company packs cherry and grape tomatoes under Truway; eggplant, squash, beans, peppers, onions and other commodities under Calway.
Even with many growers in its fold, Sunnyside isn’t the largest operation out there.
“Normally we have 15 to 20 fulltime employees,” Hirasuna said.
One is Briseno, hired in September as food safety coordinator. She conducts onsite visits, among other aspects of the training.
The classroom portion met six times in 2011; two classes have happened so far this year, and more may be scheduled before production hits full stride.