Employee Spotlight: 10 Things to Know About Liz Garcia, Hydrovac "Tube" Operator


Liz Garcia started working at Ocean Mist Farms in February 2003 as a 12-Pallet Forklift operator. After 2 years, she transitioned to a Hydrovac "Tube" Operator role, which is what she's been doing at Ocean Mist Farms since! Learn more about Liz and the important work her team does to maintain our company's 4-hour cut-to-cool policy for Gold Standard freshness.

1. Tell us about your current job as Hydrovac "Tube" Operator?

I work on a team of 3 people operating 5 Hydrovacs, which "vacuum" the heat out of the freshly harvested product and cool the product down to 34-36oF before going into the cooler. Different products have different cool times on the equipment. A pallet of iceberg, for instance, takes 30 minutes to cool, whereas leaf lettuce and artichokes take 45 and 60 minutes to cool, respectively. My team works closely with 12-Pallet Forklift Operators and the Receiving department. Our teamwork makes operations more efficient in getting our product cooled more quickly.


2. Tell us about your department.

My role is within the Cooling Department. Our Cooling department is overseen by Johnny Rivas, Cooling & Receiving Manager. Our two Cooling & Inventory Control Supervisors, Mario Gutierrez and Ruben Rocha, manage the day-to-day operations done by Hydrovac "Tube" Operators like myself, 12-Pallet Forklift Operators, and Ice-Injector Operators.

3. The work your team does is at the heart of Ocean Mist Farms' 4-hour cut-to-cool policy. Why is this important?
Our 4-hour cut-to-cool policy is enforced to ensure we're efficiently moving our produce from field to cooler right after the product is harvested to ensure our product can reach retailers, distribution centers, and shoppers with the same consistent, superior quality they come to expect from Ocean Mist Farms.
4. Are there any differences between the Hydrovacs used?
Our larger Hydrovacs can cool 28 pallets of product at a time, whereas our smaller Hydrovacs can only cool 14 pallets at a time. There are also differences between our Hydrovacs that determine what product can be cooled on which one. Our organic product, for instance, can only be cooled on the Hydrovac designated for organic product. Additionally, all "bagged" products and liner packs can only be cooled on the "dry" Hydrovac equipment because it exclusively cools the product with cold air instead of the cold water used by "wet" Hydrovacs.
5. What are the iPads you carry around used for?
Hydrovac operators use iPads to record specific data for Quality Assurance and Food Safety purposes. Before the product is cooled, every pallet is scanned to timestamp confirm that it's compliant with our 4-hour cut-to-cool policy. Pre-cooled and post-cooled product temperatures are also taken to show that the product's internal core temperature is brought down within the 34-36oF range. Free chlorine and pH levels are also measured for Food Safety to ensure bacteria is killed.

6. What does a typical day in the life of a Hydrovac Operator look like?

Our typical Monday through Saturday begins after Receiving gives the "green light" to cool product after the first harvesting truck rolls in. The 12-Pallet Forklift Operators unload the pallets of uncooled product from the harvesting trucks, which is then staged for cooling on the Hydrovac equipment. After the product is scanned in and cooled by my team, the 12-Pallet Forklift Operators move the cooled product to the cooler until it's ready for shipping.

I have three different work schedules to accommodate the daily cooling needs of a given day. One schedule starts at 7:00 am, the second starts at 10:00 am, and the third starts at 11:00 am. My day can be anywhere from 8 to 12 hours depending on how long it takes to receive the product from the field and go through Receiving. Overall, my job can be challenging but I love what I do!

7. What are some of the other challenges for Hydrovac Operators?

It can be challenging when our Hydrovac equipment goes down unexpectedly. Although this doesn't happen often, our highly specialized Hydrovac equipment has to be up-and-running as soon as possible so our freshly harvested product can maintain cut-to-cool compliance. To overcome this challenge, we have to accurately pinpoint, communicate, and fix the problem with service technicians so cooling operations can resume at full-capacity.

8. Three words to describe your job?

Fast-paced, enjoyable, and teamwork. I always do the best I can for the team!

9. What do you like to do in your free time?

In my free time, I like being at home, hanging out with my family, and spending time outside whether walking to the park or just being in nature.

10. Do you have any favorite sports teams?

Yes, I'm a soccer superfan! My team is Las Chivas from Guadalajara. Besides soccer, I also love watching the action-packed UFC fights! 

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Julie Criswell
Julie has been connected to Ocean Mist Farms for half of her life! When she was 9, she participated in the Artichoke Festival’s Agro-art competition for the first time, and every year until she went to college in Chicago. Now, two years after her summer internship with us, she’s officially aboard our marketing team full-time. Enjoy her perspective of life in the produce lane!
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