On October 1, New York's Torrey Farms of Elba, N.Y., will receive the 12th annual Grower Achievement Award at the United Fresh Washington Public Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. The award, presented by American Vegetable Grower magazine, honors grower operations that strive to produce high-quality produce while working for the good of the industry.
Torrey Farms and its leadership have excelled in both. Since the early 1980s, production on Torrey Farms has exploded from 700 acres to 7,000 acres. Owners John, Mark and Maureen Torrey attribute their success to hard work and a willingness to experiment.
"We aren't afraid to try new varieties," says Maureen. "We've always looked for what we can grow that is of good quality and volume that we have the packing facilities to manage."
Impacted by failed immigration reform
Maureen, who served as the 2006 United Fresh co-chairwoman, is a strong advocate for public policies that impact the produce industry, including immigration reform and the Farm Bill. She delivered statements before the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture on the 2007 Farm Bill and the U.S. House Committee on Small Business on immigration reform.
The importance of a stable labor force is hugely important to Torrey Farms. Last year, the operation lost 92 of 100 employees working in the packing shed due to an I-9 audit. "The employees we lost averaged about 18 years of experience. Now we have to build it up from scratch," says Maureen.
The Washington Public Policy Conference provides leaders an opportunity to make their voices heard on Capitol Hill. Produce industry executives from across the supply chain meet with congressional lawmakers and their staff, plus officials from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to discuss critical policy issues impact their bottom lines.