Employee Spotlight: 10 Things to Know About Ismael Hernandez, Harvest Commodity Manager
Ismael Hernandez started working at Ocean Mist Farms nearly 25 years ago as the Harvest Commodity Manager overseeing broccoli production. Today, not only does Ismael continue to oversee all conventional and organic broccoli production, he also manages all conventional and organic celery production, too!
I caught up with Ismael over the phone to learn more about him and his role at our company, how his day-to-day has been impacted by COVID-19, and what his thoughts are on the celery juice trend. Keep reading to find out!1. How did you get started at Ocean Mist Farms?
My role with Ocean Mist Farms goes back to even before I even started working here actually!
For background, I grew up in Mexico and came to the States (including Salinas) during summer vacations because my parents worked for an ag company in the area for the summer harvesting seasons. I ended up staying in the States and worked in the broccoli fields. I started out as a foreman, then as a field supervisor. Both roles were under a harvesting contractor for Ocean Mist Farms. Then in 1994, Ocean Mist Farms offered me a full-time position as the broccoli Harvesting Manager. By the time I accepted this role, I already had 5 years of experience working with broccoli!
2. How did you become the Harvest Commodity Manager for celery?
Ocean Mist Farms asked me to manage the celery in 1998, which was a smaller program for Ocean Mist Farms at the time and a completely new crop for me personally. Just as I've seen the broccoli program grow over the years, I’ve seen our celery program grow!
3. What does your day-to-day work life look like?
My day-to-day involves a lot of driving, evaluating growing conditions in different field locations by walking the fields, and talking on the phone with other team members. On any given day, I receive customer orders from the Sales department and then I update the Sales Commodity Manager where we stand with daily crop projections. Then I work with field supervisors and foremen to make sure we’re harvesting the right fields for the right orders with the right product quantity needed.4. Can you give a bit more detail about what you look for when "walking the field"?
A big part of what I do is walking every celery and broccoli field. Walking the fields means to evaluate overall product quality, to take measurements of plant growth, and to take progress photos to report to Sales. I start walking each field starting at 6-7 weeks before harvest. The information I collect is used to put together the daily, weekly, and monthly supply projections that is used by both the Sales and Harvest teams.5. How has your role adapted during COVID-19?
With COVID-19 happening, all of my meetings are now done on the phone. I physically distance from everyone I see in the field just as we all do, and of course I wear a face mask and gloves while walking the fields. Every precaution has been taken at the field level to protect our team members just as it should be. Strict precautions like physical distancing between crop rows, more strict guidelines for the sanitation of all equipment, more protective gear requirements (which were already strict pre-COVID-19), and installing harvesting partition dividers on all equipment. This is just a few of the ways we've adapted in the field.
In light of COVID-19, partitions were installed on all harvesting equipment in the field. Above is a recent photo of the partitions installed on broccoli harvesting equipment.6. I can only imagine how excited you were to see the celery juice trend that caused an uptick in consumer demand last year. Tell me about that?
It was phenomenal, unbelievable really. We couldn’t have predicted that and I can’t say I’ve ever seen demand for a commodity reach that level before. Initially we thought the markets would go up for 3-4 weeks if at all, but not for multiple growing seasons!7. I imagine you have tried the celery juice trend?
Yes, of course I tried the celery juice trend! I suggest that you juice it with other produce - add carrots, ginger, beets, and honey!8. What is your favorite Ocean Mist Farms' vegetable?
Broccoli is my favorite vegetable! My family usually steams it or oven-roasts it, then adds Parmesan on top.9. How do you spend your weekends, particularly during this COVID-19 time?
I spend time with my family, go mountain-biking with my brothers in Toro Park or Big Sur- it's beautiful I love it there! I also love watching soccer… under normal circumstances when a global pandemic isn’t happening!
10. Who is your soccer team?
Ismael (center) pictured with brothers at 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Mexico!!! I saw them play at Levi Stadium last year and even went to the 2018 World Cup in Russia with my brothers to see them.
I saw 6 games in 6 different Russian cities over the span of 3 weeks. Russia was amazing. I plan to go to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar with my brothers, obviously depending on what happens with this pandemic!
The next time you see Ocean Mist Farms and Ocean Mist Organic broccoli or celery on the grocery store shelves near you, just know Ismael Hernandez had a hand in bringing that produce to your plate.
Thank you for giving us readers the opportunity to learn more about you and your role at Ocean Mist Farms, Ismael!