Employee Spotlight: 10 Things to Know About Danny Martinez, Coachella Plant Manager
Danny Martinez, our Coachella Plant Manager, has been working at Ocean Mist Farms for over 35 years! What has he been up to all this time?!
I caught up with Danny this week to learn just that, to find out what life looks like inside and outside of the "office" as Plant Manager, and hear how he uses his free time in quarantine when not at the plant.
Keep reading to learn more about Danny and the important part he plays in getting our field fresh, Coachella-grown artichokes and other produce to you in winter!1. How did you get started at Ocean Mist Farms?
I started working seasonally for Ocean Mist Farms in 1981. At the time, I was working for another local Salinas Valley company. Each year, when that company’s seasonal operations moved to Yuma, I worked for Ocean Mist Farms hand-stacking artichokes cartons on skids in Castroville. I eventually moved to Ocean Mist Farms full-time as a Loader in 1985, the “official” beginning of my 35 years here full-time!
2. How did your previous roles pave the way for your role as Plant Manager of our Coachella plant?
After my first full-time role as a Loader in the 1980s, I became the Tube Operator. I operated the piece of equipment that removes the heat out of the freshly-harvested produce, bringing the product temperature down to 34oF, which gives it a longer shelf life. Next, I was the Receiving Manager. In that role, I oversaw all product received from the field ensuring it was set up efficiently for inspection before going into the cooler. After these two roles, I was named Coachella Shipping Manager. In this role I oversaw the product order selection process and "staging" that happens on the loading docks in the cooler. It was in 2019 that I was promoted to Coachella Plant Manager.
These previous operational roles paved the way for my current role as Coachella Plant Manager. I oversee the entire Coachella campus which covers several different critical areas—the cooler and its loading areas, the carton yard, cold room, machinery like the tubes and ice injector, and the office itself.
3. What does your day-to-day role look like as Plant Manager?
A typical day involves overseeing product inventory to see how much product we have on order, what product we’re short on for the day, and ensuring product doesn’t “age” in our cooler. I work very closely with Receiving, Shipping, Logistics, Food Safety, and Accounting to make sure we’re operating as efficiently as possible to deliver the best-quality for our customers every day.
Safety is paramount every step of the way. Ensuring our employees are working safely in compliance with both Food Safety and Occupational Safety best practices are together priority #1. Particularly now that we're in the middle of a pandemic, "safety" as essential workers has taken on a whole new meaning. Mask-wearing, social distancing, and remote meetings are a few of the many ways we’ve adapted at the Coachella plant and at Ocean Mist Farms as a whole.
4. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve experienced in your 35 years at Ocean Mist Farms?
Since I started, operational efficiencies changed allot. Hand-stacking pallets like we did in the '80s are a thing of the past. A warehouse data management system helps us track where product is in the cooler, our Loaders now operate computerized forklifts that tell them exactly what to scan and where to load, and we use an appointment loading system for more efficient order fulfillment.
For perspective, when I started working for Ocean Mist Farms in Castroville during the early 1980s, we were certainly loading truck orders then as we do now, but we were also still loading and ice-packing produce by railcar to be transported as far as New York. At the time, we were one of a few that had our own ice system. Railcars were phased out by the mid-1980s but it’s still hard to believe I was at Ocean Mist Farms when that was still happening.
5. You started your Ocean Mist Farms career in our Castroville location. When/how did you find your way down to our Coachella plant full-time?
To piggy-back on the previous question, Ocean Mist Farms moving seasonal operations down to the Coachella Valley is the other major change I’ve experienced because once we did that, we were able to service our customers year-round! Ocean Mist Farms started seasonal growing operations in Coachella Valley in 1988, and with that the company started to develop the proprietary Coachella-grown artichoke we have today. I went back-and-forth seasonally from 1988 until 1995, and after the company purchased the cooler in 1995, I moved down here full-time.
Even when our Ocean Mist Farms seasonal winter operations have wrapped up between November and March, our Coachella plant is still in full-swing cooling “hot weather crops” (like bell peppers and sweet corn) on contract for other regional growers. So even when seasonal Ocean Mist Farms production ends here, I'm still managing the plant!
6. Three words to describe your role as Plant Manager?
Challenging, constant, exciting (sometimes stressful).
7. What is your favorite thing about working at Ocean Mist Farms?
The team dynamics and family atmosphere, which has always started with the generosity and support from the owners. I’ve worked with so many wonderful people over the years. I love seeing our employees’ children joining Ocean Mist Farms after watching them grow up after all these years!
8. How did you spend your weekends pre-COVID?
Pre-COVID, I loved going to the gym, playing basketball with the grandchildren, and visiting different parts of the country with my family wherever my granddaughter's travel-softball tournaments were being played.
I’m also a big sports fan and enjoy watching my Northern California teams— the 49ers, Warriors, and San Francisco Giants. When I first moved down to Coachella, So-Cal people loved poking fun at my favorites (all in good fun of course). Funny I ended up marrying a Dodgers fan… After all these years I’ve gotten used to it even though my Giants-fan sons still haven't forgiven me.
9. Have you picked up any quarantine hobbies?
Yes—it’s not a hobby per se, more of a lifestyle change! My wife and I took up a plant-based diet, which has been the biggest, best lifestyle shift I’ve made. The increased energy levels alone make it amazing. I still have a little meat on occasion but not nearly as much as I used to!
10. What is your favorite Ocean Mist Farms vegetable?
Love all the vegetables, especially given my newfound plant-based diet. I’ll pick our Ocean Mist Farms artichokes every time—they’re the best!
On behalf of everyone here at Ocean Mist Farms, thank you for sharing your story on this week's post and most of all, thank you for your 35 years of service, Danny!