A passion for fair trade prompted Jessie Gunn to make her move several years ago from Harley Davidson to Wholesum Family Farms.
Gunn has been the vice president of marketing for the Nogales, Ariz.-based company since 2014, and she still gets emotional speaking about the positive effects she has seen of fair trade on the lives of workers, from the creation of physical infrastructure to the provision of daycare.
“Great days are standing on a farm and hearing a woman tell her story to a film crew from a major retailer about how different it is for a her as a mother ... how different it is for her to work on a farm where there’s fair trade as opposed to where there wasn’t,” Gunn said.
In spreading that message, she hopes to ensure more mothers have that story to tell.
“It really, really rocks my soul,” Gunn said. “That’s inspiring stuff right there, to know that tomatoes are bettering the lives of entire communities. It’s kind of a cool concept, right? Imagine if all capitalism was that conscious.”
Transparency is another attribute for which Wholesum strives and for which Gunn is an advocate.
“We’re one of many, and what makes us somebody’s choice is that we’re willing to explain to them why and how we do what we do,” Gunn said.
As someone still relatively new to the industry, she has lots of ideas on how to innovate tradeshows and other industry elements.
Todd Linsky, who runs a consulting firm that has worked with Wholesum, said Gunn’s perspective is great for produce.
“Any time that you can bring outside learnings into this little industry, there’s no downside to that,” said Linsky, previously an executive of Bakersfield, Calif.-based Grimmway Farms.
“Perspective changes conversations in companies, and good leaders want opinions. Good leaders don’t have to agree with all the opinions, but a good leader wants to hear other opinions. A good leader wants to be surrounded by smart people to help them make smart decisions.”
Gunn aims to be exactly that kind of leader.
“I want to train everybody that I’m with to know everything I know,” Gunn said.
“I document everything I do really well because if they know everything I know, they have absolute foundation to give me a fuller perspective that could create a chasm in my thinking and open up an entire possibility realm that I hadn’t even considered.”
Linsky attributed Gunn’s success — including work on the recent launch of Wholesum Berry Co. — to her commitment to the cause.
“Things that she believes (in) she fully gets behind,” said. “It’s super refreshing to see. She’s very much an all-in person.”