February 23, 2017

Taylor Farms shows employees support, appreciation

From the field to its processing facilities, Taylor Farms has implemented programs throughout the company aimed at improving the quality of work life for employees. The Taylor Farms Tennessee operation, which processes fresh-cut fruits and vegetables for the foodservice, deli and retail segments, has implemented various programs at its two facilities in Smyrna, Tennessee. A new lunch program and changes to how new workers are trained are helping the business not only attract but retain workers.

Initiatives to boost employee morale began by establishing a hot drinks program, offering free hot cocoa, coffee and hot tea all day, every day.

“There wasn’t a place to get hot drinks except for vending machines,” Thure said. “The program gives workers the opportunity to warm up.”

Employees at Taylor Farms Tennessee’s processing facilities typically work 10-hour shifts in 30 ̊ to 40 ̊ F temperatures, Thure said.

Taylor Farms Tennessee employees work on a line that cuts celery for vegetable trays. Photos: Taylor Farms Tennessee

After seeing employee reactions to the hot drinks program, the company decided to implement additional programs. The first step was expanding the hot drinks program to a full meal program.

The company worked with Five Star Food Service to provide healthier meal options in each facility’s café. As part of the Taylor Farms Tennessee’s employee lunch program, all hourly full-time employees receive a stipend of $25 per week on a money card. The money can be used to purchase meals and drinks at the café. The stipend is enough to buy a hot entrée and a drink five days a week, Thure said. At the end of the week, $25 are loaded back onto the card — regardless of whether the employee spent the previous $25 or not.

Lettuce Be Healthy, the company’s corporate wellness program, is now being incorporated into the employee lunch program, Thure said. As part of the program, full-time employees will now undergo annua wellness checks and receive a score, which is tracked on a confidential scorecard. Employees can increase points on their scorecard by choosing healthier meals in the café or attending coaching programs on topics such as exercise planning and healthy eating.

The lunch program, however, is only available to full-time Taylor Farms Tennessee employees. It’s one way the company motivates temp workers to stay with the company for more than 90 days — at which the worker becomes a full-time employee.

To help new workers make it to the 90 days, the company has implemented more flexible schedules and a buddy system to ease workers into facility operations. About 25 percent of Taylor Farms Tennessee’s workforce is temporary labor, according to Thure. A new captive footwear program was also implemented at the processing facilities “to give workers one less thing to worry about,” Thure said. The company purchases boots for workers and stores them at the processing facility.

Initiatives in support of employees are also taking place in the field, before produce reaches processing facilities. Taylor Farms, in partnership with Yuma, Arizona-based Labor of Love, recently gave thanks to two automated harvesting crews for their service to the agriculture industry.

Photo: Taylor Farms

Taylor Farms’ automated celery harvester and automated cabbage harvester are essentially mobile factories, according to the company.

Members of the Taylor Farms team and Labor of Love representatives drove out to the fields in Yuma to surprise the two crews. Nearly thirty team members were honored and surprised with breakfast, coffee, hand written thank you notes from Taylor Farms and $25 Wal-Mart gift cards. Two raffle prizes were randomly given out to each crew in addition to the celebration.

“At Taylor Farms we don’t have employees, we have family members,” said Christina Barnard, director of marketing at Taylor Farms. “We pride ourselves on taking care of one another. With family culture being our foundation, it is essential that we show appreciation and support to team members across the company.”

Photo: Taylor Farms

Taylor Farms first partnered with Labor of Love in August when representatives from both organizations visited a harvest crew of 34 people in Salinas, California.

For more on employee initiatives by Taylor Farms, see “Taylor Farms Tennessee implements employee programs.”

Ana Olvera, digital content editor