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A visit to the inspired sustainable business, “Lundberg Family Farms”

Here’s a quick tale taken from our Winning Workplaces blog, recounting a trip out I took out West to visit the lundberg172-year-old organic rice-farming operation Lundberg Family Farms.

The company had applied for the Top Small Workplace recognition project last year and won; their “Success Story” can be viewed here.  We’ve featured them several times in our media, but it was fantastic to get a first-hand glimpse of this excellent family-owned operation, which builds it workplace culture firmly on the values of respect for the land, support for your fellow man, and taking care of the soil.

Drivinlundberg2g out to see the good folks at Lundberg Family Farms, I was surprised to find the sun-baked valley south of Chico quite temperate.  This time last year, local residents were wrestling with yet another bout of extreme temperatures and raging wildfires.  But on the heels of Richvale’s Centennial celebration, the community was enjoying a break in the heat, with employees of the organic rice farm stacking bags of flour, preparing delicious baked goods, and tending to the employee garden during a pleasantly cool spell.

We were thrilled to have Rhonda Turner and Michelle Jackson as our guests in Chicago for our annual conference in 2008, and these Lundberg ladies were kind enough to give me a of tour of the operation.  From climbing through the belly of complex grain sorting machines, to marveling at the production line where rice cakes go flying by in a blur, it’s clear that the company runs a very tight ship.  A lot is expected of employees at Lundberg, but the company takes good care of the team, and there’s a sentiment of concern and camaraderie throughout the facility.lundberg3

Beyond abundant safety measures, in each department you’ll find lists of the fresh produce everyone eats from the free batches delivered daily.  Head out to the employee garden (featured previously in my work) and you’ll see every department has a raised bed of their own.  Michelle made sure I tried a few of the sun-warmed strawberries while discussing their homemade yard art and compost setup.

Driving out beyond silos that line these old California railways, I passed by the rice fields that have filled bellies for generations.  From New York kitchens to Miami cupboards and the tables of Richvale residents that very night, the same product that has made for many tasty dinners continues to provide for Lundberg employees and their families.  Having also accepted the 2009 Agricultural Stewardship Award from the USA Rice Federation in addition to their Top Small Workplace award, Lundberg continues to set the precedent for sustainable rice farming and responsible people practices.

lundberg4Out toward the highway, a massive wetland bird could be seen over the very patties that Lundberg tends to so responsibly.  And with a bag of tasty rice chips at my side, I headed back for my own flight out of Oakland, very happy to have met the delightful people that bring us such tasty treats, and continue to make Richvale proud with its progressive farming, business and people practices.

Related: Lundberg’s VP of Administration, Tim Schultz, helped present a webinar for Winning Workplaces earlier this year on “Sustainable Workplaces – The Workplace of The Future” and also led a panel discussion at this year’s Top Small Workplace conference on “Leading Through Sustainable Growth and Expansion.”

Posted in Sustainable Business, Travel.

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