Employee Spotlight: 10 Things to Know About Rene Cardona, Shipping Manager
Rene Cardona has been connected to Ocean Mist Farms for "many years" as he says— exactly how many years only Rene knows 😉! These days, Rene plays an important role as the Shipping Manager in our Castroville office, overseeing the Shipping team responsible for truck order fulfillment to get our field fresh vegetables to your favorite retailers!
What does this entail? I gave Rene a call to find out! Keep reading to learn more about Rene’s day-to-day in the Shipping office, life since COVID-19, and to learn more about his “many years” at Ocean Mist Farms!
1. How did you first get started at Ocean Mist Farms?
My story of how I started out at Ocean Mist needs the backstory! I was born in Salinas and grew up here in Castroville, CA. My first job was picking artichokes in the fields around 14 or 15 years old in the summertime with my dad (I was saving for a car- 1969 Chevy Impala!), who was a local labor contractor. We used to hoe the artichoke fields and other lettuce crops, cutting between each plant to clean them up so growers could see the base and prevent weeding! I met Silvio Bernardo one summer, a landowner connected to Ocean Mist Farms, who wanted me to pick artichokes with him so I did— he even treated me to lunch every day at his house between my shifts! Silvio was such a great man and my first connection to Ocean Mist Farms!
2. Where does your experience with Shipping/Trucking at Ocean Mist Farms come in?
Silvio Bernardo, my first connection to this company, wanted me to stay at Ocean Mist to become an artichoke foreman but I wanted to experience trucking for a change of pace. I left the field work to start trucking for a local onion company, Oshita Farms, making some deliveries in Castroville at a business Ocean Mist Farms also had some business with. Long story short I made another connection to Ocean Mist Farms when making a delivery one day, which eventually got me started truck-driving for Ocean Mist Farms and seasonally for the onion company.
3. How did your first experience truck driving for Ocean Mist Farms connect to where you are now as Shipping Manager?
While truck-driving for Ocean Mist Farms, Hugo [Tottino] told me to stay with Ocean Mist Farms full-time and I listened- he was like a second father to me. Eventually, I traded in the flatbed trucks for fork-lifting in the Ocean Mist Farms cooler. I fork-lifted the artichoke bins from the harvesting trucks in the cooler for others to pack. During the off-seasons, I repainted the cooler top to bottom every year and maintained it. After “many years” and many shifts I knew this side of the business inside-out starting from the bottom and worked my way up!
4. What does your role look like as the Shipping Manager? What departments do you work with?
As the Shipping Manager, I oversee the day-to-day work of the Shipping department (2 crews split between 2 shifts) that’s responsible for getting all cooled product from inventory to the loading docks for truck-loading. We handle the corresponding Manifest and Bill of Lading paperwork that comes with each order and have to be on our game coordinating up to 25 different trucks loading orders on 25 loading docks.
Being on the same page as a team and working with other departments is essential. We primarily work with Receiving (receives the product from the field, cool, and tag product), Sales, and Logistics (responsible for managing the appointment loading schedule for when trucks are expected to load).
Here's an aerial shot outside the Castroville Cooler. The parking lot on the far left is adjacent to Rene's office, the Shipping Office! There are 25 loading docks that his team is responsible for to ensure orders are efficiently loaded and fulfilled on-time day in and day out. Picture above was taken when it was at full capacity.
5. How has COVID-19 impacted you and the Shipping Department?
Working remotely certainly has its challenges but communication and teamwork have always been at the heart of our department. The in-office team calls me anytime they need my help, we always have an open line of communication, and I’ve always had complete trust and confidence in them- we laid this framework well before COVID-19 so it’s business as usual, just modified procedures.
6. What does the truck loading procedure look like now with COVID-19 modifications?
To limit contact, truck drivers do not come into the Shipping Office as they used to before nor do they stand on the loading docks while their respective trucks are loading (this has been a standard required shipping practice regardless of industry). Masks and social distancing are required to be worn by everyone in the office and elsewhere on the plant.
Here's a peek inside our Castroville cooler, where operations are in full swing! On the far right you can see yellow circles next to each loading dock along this wall. Under non-COVID conditions, this is where truck drivers are required to stand while their trucks are being loaded to confirm they received all required product.
7. What did you like to do in your free time pre-COVID-19?
Before COVID-19, I loved going to the Santa Cruz Wharf (specifically Riva’s- the owners are great and their drinks are killer!), keep the car clean, and go on a drive. This has been my favorite weekend routine for the last 30 years! I also love a good BBQ so that too.
[Rene is famous for his BBQ—pre-COVID he would host planned and sometimes impromptu company BBQs outside the Shipping Office not complete without his amazing hot sauces and baked beans!]
8. What does your free time look like now because of COVID-19?
During COVID-19, I watch less TV than I ever did before. I clean my cars on the weekend, I clean a lot during the week, every other weekend I still BBQ, and I work in the yard if it needs it.
9. What is your favorite Ocean Mist Farms vegetable and how do you prepare it? Grilled?
Romaine Hearts in a chicken salad and Artichokes- either the jumbos stuffed or the baby artichokes fried! To tell you the truth, I don’t like the taste of vegetables when grilled!
10. What’s your work philosophy?
My dad always told my four brothers and I to always work hard and help each other- it will take you places. I stand by this and think communication and teamwork are essential for success in anything!