Rainier Fruit's Andy Tudor Discusses Sustainability, Climate Change, and More
- by Anne Allen
SELAH, WA - Over the years, Rainier Fruit has taken several steps to ensure that sustainability is one of the company’s top priorities. Alongside facility upgrades and a data-driven organic program, the company is consistently making improvements across the sustainability spectrum. For nearly twenty years, the company has been a Certified Organic company, and I wanted to find out more about how these efforts have added to Rainier’s Wholesome to the Core mission. Andy Tudor, Vice President of Business Development, was more than happy to fill me in.
“Rainier has been in the organic business for nearly two decades, and due to this, we were an early adopter of environmental tools such as pesticide and fertilizer management. We opened our awareness to a much broader range of management techniques for soil, water management, and natural pest control,” Andy shares with me. “But this work doesn’t take on the ‘line in the sand’ mentality that once we’ve implemented an idea, we’re done with it. It’s a focus on continuous improvement that is inspired by our employees, our customers, and even our consumers. We watch and listen closely to what everyone is saying and work to make changes in our business to meet the changing needs of shoppers and the environment to build a sustainable business for future generations.”
In the beginning, Rainier’s organics program was about managing pesticides and using natural fertilizer, but has expanded in its reach over the years. As emphasis on land use and water conservation grew, the company implemented high-density orchard plantings and new irrigation technologies focusing on water conservation.
Today, as the discussion around climate change continues to grow, Rainier recognizes there is more it can do as a company to offset the effects of climate change. First, it partnered with the Xerces Society to promote natural habitat restoration and expand pollinator conservation. This project is part of the General Mills Pollinator Initiative and aims to increase on-farm natural habitats supporting native and honey bee populations. The project also focuses on reducing pesticide’s impact on bees through reduced applications, improved practices, and biocontrol.
Andy noted that, “Rainier is constantly looking to tackle environmental stewardship in new ways and we are currently exploring the next generation of soil management through carbon capture programs that work to improve soil health—also known as regenerative agriculture or biodynamic farming.”
I wanted to dive into the meaning of regenerative agriculture, and how this and other budding technologies fit into Rainier’s Wholesome to the Core culture.
“Regenerative agriculture is not a new idea,” Andy explains to me. “It’s been around for hundreds of years, but as commercial agriculture grew, so did the basic tenets of soil health. Soil is a living, breathing thing, full of organisms working together. Like a community, everything needs to be in balance and work together in order for good things to happen. So, that requires a healthy environment where we do more to improve soil health, such as being selective with the types of compost we apply, how we work the soil to let in more air and water, and how we rebuild soil organic matter and capture carbon dioxide from the environment.”
Rainier has even taken steps to work with a retailer, taking that company’s food waste and turning it into a liquid fertilizer—reducing food waste that would originally end up in a landfill.
“Our Wholesome to the Core mission is always about doing the right thing for today and for the future,” Andy concludes. “Our efforts should improve our product, our community, the lives of our employees, and the experience for the consumer as just a small guage of our efforts.
Rainier Fruit uses comprehensive data analysis, which allows it to use category data and consumer trends so that it can watch sales movements and make long-term investments in orchard varieties. Andy tells me that this process of predictive analysis takes into account future sales and production goals that allows Rainier to scale year-round production of organic and conventional favorites like Gala, Fuji, Granny, and Honeycrisp.
With this tech at its back, it’s no wonder Rainier remains a forerunner for sustainable, organic fruits.