Fresh Produce Companies Celebrate Women’s History Month

Every March since 1987 has been designated Women’s History Month—a month dedicated to honoring women’s contributions to US history. This year’s theme is Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, recognizing women who speak up and lead change in their fields. Anyone who’s ever had the ambition to lead change in their field will tell you it takes much more than a month to achieve.

I’ve had the good fortune of growing up in a family built by the ambitions of hard-working women. I learned the stories of career adversity and inequality from women of character who lived it themselves. Like those before me, each obstacle I’ve faced in my career has become an opportunity to propel forward and, with it, a promise to lead change for the next generation wherever possible.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion – this year’s theme – is no longer a rallying cry but a data-backed opportunity for business growth. McKinsey reports that “companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.”1

As a leader, I believe my actions speak louder than my words. I’ve always raised my hand to mentor because I think it’s how we continue to share women’s history. Through programs across our industry, I’ve built relationships with women who have inspired me with their stories and impressed me with their tenacity and ambition.

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Most recently, I was paired with two such women who are leading change in the fresh produce industry.

Camille Kolstad Bamford

Camille Kolstad Bamford, VP of Business Development & Sales for Plenty.

The first woman is Camille Kolstad Bamford, VP of Business Development & Sales for Plenty, who shared, “Fresh produce is an industry that must continue to innovate at a fast pace in order to meet the challenges posed by our changing climate and evolving healthcare crises. We need diverse talent, perspectives, and ideas to rise up to these challenges.”

She continued, “Throughout my career in finance, technology, and agriculture, I’ve been surrounded by incredibly talented leaders, but rarely strong female ones. This changed in 2022 when I attended my first IFPA Women’s Fresh Perspective Conference. I suddenly understood what it felt like to belong, and these women have given me the courage to believe in myself while also recognizing that I can make a difference for other women in our industry.”

Julie DeJarnatt

Another woman is Julie DeJarnatt, Director of Brand Strategy & National Account Manager for Chelan Fresh, reflecting on the month, “although Women’s History Month acknowledges how far we have come, it also opens a conversation on how far we still have to go.” 

Julie DeJarnatt, Director of Brand Strategy & National Account Manager for Chelan Fresh

She added, “I continue to see women underrepresented in the Fresh Produce industry, especially in leadership roles.” 

DeJarnatt continued, “Early in my career, I actively sought out Women Mentors who could help me navigate through the challenging years of establishing myself professionally while also raising a young family. Honestly, it was hard to find anyone who seemed to feel like they were doing it well. Eventually, I found a couple of mentors who helped me gain perspective.”

While a balance between work and life is more of a moving target these days, the conversation has shifted from wanting it all to wanting what works for you. Bamford suggests that women beginning their careers in the fresh produce industry should “be bold, not perfect. You will make mistakes, and that’s okay. It’s better to be bold and break a few things than let perfectionism or fear slow you down.”

DeJarnatt suggested that young professionals “talk openly with your family to understand where they want you to show up. It’s not possible to be everything to everyone.”

These women are leading the charge in their fields, and I celebrate them and all the other women – and men- who provide guidance and encouragement for young women in the fresh produce industry.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, I encourage you to reach out to a woman in your life and ask her about her career. Learn how you might support her success story as she finds her voice to speak up and lead change in her field.