Employee Spotlight: 10 Things to Know About Gabriel Fletes, Harvesting Commodity Manager
Gabriel Fletes, Harvest Commodity Manager, has been with Ocean Mist Farms for over 20 years. He has a unique perspective on iceberg lettuce. As the American essayist, Charles Dudley Warner once wrote "lettuce is like conversation; it must be fresh and crisp...", our conversation with Gabriel, will surely give you a fresh take on him personally and his position with Ocean Mist Farms.
1. How did you get started at Ocean Mist Farms and what is your current position?
Let me give you a little background as to how I landed at such a great company.
Growing up I remember my father traveling alongside the migration season between California & Arizona where iceberg was grown and harvested. During the summer months, I was able to bond with him on common “ground” 😊. I worked alongside him every summer getting my feet wet and my horizons broadened, learning as much as I could. Through the years, the knowledge I gained from my father helped me in finding jobs that were helpful to my career. I worked for a few harvesting companies and then landed at Fresh Express as the Assistant Commodity Manager for the Romaine program gaining more experience. Twenty years ago, I was approached by Tony Gonzalez, Commodity Manager at that time, and was offered a job at Ocean Mist Farms. I applied and accepted with no hesitation. Today, I’m the Harvest Commodity Manager and I manage the iceberg program for Ocean Mist Farms.
2. What does your day-to-day work life look like?
Every morning, I walk through the crop fields to ensure product quality and to make estimated sales projections. While walking the fields, I assess the size of plant growth and take photographs to mark the daily progress. I then talk to the sales team, and I update them on daily crop projections while sales updates me on their daily customer orders. I then inform my team of the update and coordinate next steps including what field locations to harvest, and depending on the order, when to harvest. It’s a process that we do daily throughout the Growing Regions.
3. What are some challenges in the role you take at Ocean Mist Farms?
Some of the challenges I have experienced throughout the years involve adjusting to rapid changes, adapting to the weather at times, and accommodating each department's needs. Even though we work as a team, and we all strive for the same goal, there are times it doesn’t go the way we planned but ultimately, as a team, we do what is most needed during the workday and what’s best for the company.
4. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned on the job?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned working in the Ag industry is to be open-minded and levelheaded when it comes to unexpected challenges.
5. Three words to describe your role.
Time-management, Preparation, Organization.
6. Tell us a couple of fun facts about working in the lettuce fields?
Funny you say that!
On any given day I walk an average of 2-3 miles every morning inspecting the iceberg fields.
We hand pack approximately 324,000 heads of iceberg lettuce each day.
7. How often do you eat Iceberg lettuce and how do you prepare it? Do your kids enjoy eating it too?
Two of my favorite ways to eat iceberg are simply on my sandwiches and as a wedge to add a delicious, crispy, and fresh part to my meals. My children enjoy using the leaves as an add-on to their ramen. Yes, their ramen, do not ask me why! 🤔
8. What is the best advice you have ever received?
The best advice I received came from that same person that offered me this job; in order to succeed in what you do in life including your career, you need to embrace it. That piece of advice has served me well.
9. What is your favorite book or movie?
My favorite book is “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. It’s a self-help book that gives tools and strategies to build relationships with the premise of obeying the “golden rule”, treat others as you wish others to treat you.
10. If you were a vegetable, what would you be and why?
You would think that I would say iceberg lettuce. However, I would be a Celery due to its versatility and adaptability. I feel that I am very much like celery in that way. I adjust to any social environment depending on the situation, hence my adaptability.
One last note about Gabriel Fletes. If being a Harvest Commodity Manager were not enough, Gabriel is also a part-time student at the California State University, Monterey Bay. He is working on his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Agribusiness. Let’s hope he doesn’t forget about his Ocean Mist Farms peers when planning his graduation party! 😊