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Coign of Vantage: A Grower's Commitment: A Q&A With Julie DeJarnatt, Director of Brand Strategy, Chelan Fresh

Coign of Vantage: A Grower's Commitment: A Q&A With Julie DeJarnatt, Director of Brand Strategy, Chelan Fresh

When I sit down to start a Snack project, there’s a planning process. There’s the pitch, the coordination, the questions, slotting the interview, and then the writing. It’s a practice I’ve become accustomed to. Every endeavor brings a new story, which offers a fresh vantage point.

One company bringing me to a new lookout is Chelan Fresh, which continues to stand as a beacon in the industry. Director of Brand Strategy Julie DeJarnatt is galvanizing for the company as she details just how big a project could be—a 50-page undertaking, to be more precise. Now, we here at The Snack are well accustomed to complex discussions, so you know I was more than eager to skydive right in.


Lilian Diep: Julie, I was so excited flipping through Chelan Fresh’s Joyfully Grown Commitment report and seeing familiar faces along with new ones. What led the company to release this overview of your Sustainability and Social Responsibility commitments?

Julie DeJarnatt, Director of Brand Strategy, Chelan Fresh: Chelan Fresh made a concentrated effort to start telling our story and sharing our rich history a couple of years ago—this is what led to the development of our Joyfully Grown brand. The Joyfully Grown Commitment does exactly that.

There’s a real need to educate people, from retail buyers to consumers, as we strive for full transparency, such as water conservation, labor practices, and how we protect the planet. It’s easy to say we’re sustainable, but it takes effort to showcase that. With this report, we can share our message from the get-go versus just being reactive. We’re holding ourselves accountable to share what goes on within our company, whether it’s quarterly or annually, and to surpass those statistics.

We had a lot of fun looking through our fifth- and sixth-generation farming history—sustainability and doing the right thing for our food, planet, and people are built into our culture and identity.


LD: Transparency is a high priority for both retailers and end consumers. How did Chelan Fresh decide on what to put into the report? What made the company choose these features?

JD: The features had to be not only accurate and measurable but meaningful to our enterprise partners. We didn’t want to put in a lot of fluff or storytelling; we wanted facts and data about what we do in our business. By doing this, we’re setting realistic goals to continuously improve.

While we were putting this first report together, we realized how much of our story has never been shared. The team had a great time sourcing content because we are fifth- and sixth-generation growers, and we have a lot of experience, much of which has pioneered growth in the industry.

“It’s easy to say we’re sustainable, but it takes effort to showcase that. With this report, we can share our message from the get-go versus just being reactive.”

Julie DeJarnatt, Director of Brand Strategy, Chelan Fresh

For instance, while looking at the history page, I realized that the practices we were doing to protect our fruit through quality assurance and storage pioneered some of the earliest storage rooms. We were also on the front end of nurturing and respecting our people by being the first to work with Mexico on the guest worker program. You see headlines casting agriculture in a negative light on topics like abusive labor practices or being reckless with our land and resources. In reality, that’s not how our industry works—at least not in farming operations that have managed to survive for six generations. That was something we felt necessary to educate about through this report. To do so, we’ve identified our pillars as Protecting; Nurturing; and Honoring Our Food, Our Planet, and Our People to keep our vision clear and focused.

Back in 1920, we never would’ve called that social responsibility. When our growers started farming, what some call social responsibility was just day-to-day business practices to our founders—we do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. Not just to check the box on a new trendy topic. These are methods that we’ve long been doing for generations, and we are proud to talk about them.


LD: It’s true that sometimes pointing out the obvious might not be the most obvious choice, but it seems like Chelan Fresh may be at the forefront of that as well. In that case, what are some features that stand out to you? What do you want readers to take away from the report?

JD: There are so many! While putting the report together, we talked with our growers and some of the earlier generations to ask what they would like to see in the release. Through them, I learned so much about our company and the people that make it whole.

“When our growers started farming, what some call social responsibility was just day-to-day business practices to our founders—we do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.”

If I had to choose, I think readers should definitely pay attention early on in the report where we explain why we released our first-ever Sustainability and Social Responsibility report. It features Eric Borton, a third-generation grower, and how we bring modern practices to our farms. We also go into our mission, vision, and three pillars that we stand on.

But of course, the entire report is a great read!

Whether it’s food, the planet, or the people, Chelan Fresh stands tall to represent its growers and position in the industry. As I dove into the 50-page wonder, I undoubtedly felt a connection to the many stories throughout the report—but I didn’t even scratch the surface. Leafing through, I was excited to talk to Julie more about the commitments Chelan Fresh made and is keeping its word on. It’s through these relations that fresh produce keeps thriving, and it’s through endeavors like these that I learn just a bit more to keep me intrinsically motivated to advocate for our industry. And when you get your hands on your own copy, the Chelan Fresh team is more than willing to jump right in on what’s to come. 

Coign of Vantage: A Grower's Commitment: A Q&A With Julie DeJarnatt, Director of Brand Strategy, Chelan Fresh