Driscoll’s Chairman and CEO, J. Miles Reiter Shares Charitable Giving Vision

Mon. May 11th, 2020 - by Jordan Okumura

WATSONVILLE, CA - True tests of character arise in moments of adversity. Whether it is through challenges like COVID-19, a natural disaster, or economies in upheaval—we have the opportunity to see obstacles as opportunities and strengthen our commitments to each other. Driscoll’s Chairman and CEO, J. Miles Reiter, is one of the many individuals taking up this task and building a firmer foundation for his team and the communities in which the company operates. Recently, Driscoll’s deployed more than $4 million in global charitable funds, across health clinics, food banks, fresh berry donations, and other community resources in response to the COVID-19 pandemic—one of many gestures as of late.

With vision and passion at the forefront of Driscoll’s current endeavors, Miles took a moment to share his personal take, insights, and understanding of charitable giving with me and how we can all step up to the plate and share our wealth for the benefit of our larger communities.

J. Miles Reiter, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Driscoll's“My early experiences with charitable giving came at an early age and really informed my understanding of how we might create a vehicle for giving back at Driscoll’s. By way of an old landlord twisting my arm, I was convinced to get involved in our local community foundation in Santa Cruz and I ended up being very engaged and chairing the foundation,” Miles, a fourth generation grower and the grandson of one of Driscoll’s Founders, shares with me. “That experience helped me think through how we could have an impact at Driscoll’s and it came down to two goals. The first goal: We wanted very much to have our presence be a net benefit in places where we operate in terms of economic activity but also the quality of health and life.”

And the second goal, you ask? Supporting employees in the things that matter most to Driscoll's. Miles shares that agricultural companies demand so much share of time and share of mind from people associated with their business—their employees.

Recently, Driscoll’s deployed more than $4 million in global charitable funds, across health clinics, food banks, fresh berry donations, and other community resources

“Charitable giving is not just an activity, but a mindset. I believe everybody has some charitable instincts embedded in them somewhere and I believe that we can not only enact charitable giving but help our employees discover some things about themselves in that area. We want them to find the things and causes that they want to get passionate about and contribute to, and to do it more broadly. That is the second goal—to generate these types of experiences and culture so we can pay it forward,” Miles says.

Miles has upped his own game in just the past month alone, he tells me, engaging more of his own energy in driving the Driscoll’s vision forward for the health of its employees. Circumstances can reveal opportunities where some may only see challenges and Miles is one of those people who leans into the more positive school of thought.

Supporting employees is one of the things that matters most to Driscoll’s, and the second goal of its COVID-19 relief program

“I have uncovered energy, capabilities, resources, connectivity within the organization and across the organization with our suppliers and customers, and within our communities,” he tells me. “What I really want to say is, let's gain from this. Out of crisis, we are finding tremendous opportunities in effecting collaboration.”

Miles adds that these challenging times can create more unity within companies and also within the greater industry.

“We've had to learn to trust each other and at levels that maybe we've been reluctant to, even just a month ago. I'm quite inspired. There's some light at the end of this tunnel if we all choose to learn some valuable lessons here,” he shares. “There's definitely an awakening that could be beneficial when it comes to the value of food, the quality, and the availability that many have not encountered before. Maybe we'll see a reinvigorated respect for food and the work it takes to bring it to the consumer.”

Above all, Miles’ message is to value your people above all else. A message I can surely get behind.

As we move through the second half of April and the “norm” continues to shift beneath our feet, I am encouraged by the steadfastness of our leaders to invoke change, rally the communities in which they live, and to take the utmost care as we find our new path forward.