And The EFI 2024 Farmworker Of The Year Goes To???

by | Jun 12, 2024


Honoring the unsung heroes of agriculture, EFI names Maria de Sagrario Iglesias the 2024 Farmworker of the Year!

Maria de Sagrario Iglesias of FirstFruits Farms has been named the winner of the inaugural Grow the Good Farmworker of the Year Award, a groundbreaking program to recognize the invaluable contributions of farmworkers in the fresh produce industry.

Despite being the backbone of our food systems, the efforts and accomplishments of farmworkers often go unnoticed. Equitable Food Initiative (EFI), championed this new award and found a willing partner in The Packer through their People First initiative. EFI, known for its dedication to fair labor practices and improving conditions for farmworkers, advocated for this initiative to highlight and celebrate these essential workers. While the industry frequently honors marketers, retailers, growers and top producers, the millions of farmworkers behind the scenes have not received the recognition they deserve – until now.

LeAnne Ruzzamenti, director of marketing communications for EFI, emphasized the importance of this award, “We cannot overstate the significance of farmworkers to our food system. Their dedication and hard work are the foundation upon which the entire agriculture industry stands. This award is a step toward giving them the recognition and appreciation for the essential role they play.”

Selected from a pool of more than 40 nominations, Maria was selected as one of five finalists whose nomination highlighted the nominees’ consistent diligence, motivation, influence, eagerness to share knowledge, willingness to learn, positive attitude, resilience and dedication to supporting others’ growth – both inside and outside of their companies. These attributes reflect the remarkable passion and commitment of the farmworkers whose hard work sustains the industry and creates a starting place for all of us to go forward.

Maria has dedicated her 35 years in agriculture to working with FirstFruits Farms. Throughout her career, she has worked in various roles, from planting and nursery to picking, pruning and packing. Maria’s extensive experience has provided her with the opportunity to train many of her coworkers, who report that she is known for her willingness to lead and share insights. Those who nominated her noted that her commitment to others extends beyond her professional duties as she frequently volunteers her time to fundraise for coworkers and community members in need. In addition to organizing support for her community in the United States, Maria has also coordinated clothing drives for an orphanage in her hometown in Mexico, and personally delivers these donations on her visits. Maria’s nomination highlighted her kindness, thoughtfulness and natural servant leadership along with her dedication to her work and her commitment to leading by example.

Jennifer Strailey, editor of The Packer, added, “Supporting this award was a quick decision for us. At Farm Journal, we have a people-first ethos, we know how integral farmworkers are to the success of our industry, and we are honored to play a role in bringing their stories and contributions to the forefront. Our commitment to representing the industry starts in the fields and the packing houses, and we’re thrilled to be spearheading this initiative alongside EFI.”

EFI and The Packer extend their heartfelt congratulations to Maria de Sagrario Iglesias and to her fellow finalists: Andres Aguilar of Stemilt Growers, Crisanta Morales of Wholesum Family Farms, Eduardo Avina of Misionero, and José Luis Segura of Mastronardi Produce.

More information about the Grow the Good Farmworker of the Year Award and about the finalists and winner can be found at

About EFI

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Equitable Food Initiative is a capacity-building and certification nonprofit that works to improve the lives of farmworkers and drive business performance by integrating worker voice and engagement throughout the supply chain. As a multistakeholder organization, EFI brings together growers, farmworkers, retailers and consumers to create assessment, training and organizational development programs that support continuous improvement and address the industry’s most pressing problems. Its unparalleled certification program sets standards for labor practices, food safety and pest management while engaging workers at all levels on the farm to produce Responsibly Grown, Farmworker Assured® fruits and vegetables. For more information about Equitable Food Initiative, visit