From Bill’s Desk: Keeping our team safe

One in an occasional series of entries from CEO Bill Haines.

On Monday, March 23, Bill addressed our team about recent world events and how Pine Island has decided to handle the pandemic in the short term.

After giving it a lot of thought, we decided the prudent thing to do was to shut down for at least a week. The management team will meet next Monday and assess what’s going on in the world, and then we’ll decide whether we’re going to work next Tuesday or not. If we decide it’s a no go, we’ll wait another week and assess.

We understand that everyone has families to take care of and bills to pay, so we’re going to make sure everyone gets their weekly paycheck.

We also understand that this is a farm and Mother Nature doesn’t wait. We need to grow the crop and we need to harvest it. We understand this is going to put us behind. Whenever we can come back to work, we’re going to do whatever it takes to catch up. If that means working dark to dark and Saturdays and Sundays, that’s what we’re going to do. We’ve never been through a pandemic but we’ve been through plenty of emergencies: in the Labor Day flood of 2012, we had 16 inches of rain in 9 hours that took out all of our reservoirs and many of our interior dams, as well as damaging irrigation systems. And we put all that back together in three weeks and started harvest right on time. So I know that my team can do that; we can do whatever it is we have to do.

I also want to remind everyone to do everything that’s been requested of them in terms of social distancing and washing their hands, etc. This is to keep everyone safe. This is not just time off; this is to keep all of us safe. Stay home, take care of yourselves, and take care of your families.

For our readers: please take care of yourselves and stay safe. We’re all in this together!

From Bill’s Desk: “Continuous Improvement”

One in an occasional series of entries by CEO Bill Haines.

Pine Island Cranberry is pleased to announce the creation of the position of Chief Operating Officer (COO). We are also pleased to announce Bryan vonHahmann has agreed to accept those responsibilities. Over the last several years, Pine Island Cranberry has grown in size, productivity and professionalism. As we have grown the business has become much more complex. With the purchase of control of Cranberries Austral Chile, the development of our Forestry business and the pursuit of additional opportunities for growth, we need additional talent and skills to pursue our mission to “continue our tradition of excellence”. After much discussion over several months, the Board of Advisors and I decided to create the position of COO. To help us select the best person to fill that role, we chose the search firm of Heidrick & Struggles. This is a major step forward for Pine Island as it fulfills our core values of continuous growth and continuous improvement.

Bryan has 25 years of multiple work experiences. He began his career as an aerospace engineer and then returned to his family business, Empire Tractor, Inc. Through his leadership, the company achieved significant growth, becoming one of the largest agricultural equipment dealerships in the state of New York. Since 2006 he has been a senior executive at Dairy Farmers of America, a national dairy cooperative. His experiences of leading and growing a family business as well as creating a culture of continuous improvement will bring significant value to Pine Island.

Bryan will be officially starting January 1, 2014. I am very excited that we have found such a highly qualified person and I am excited that he has agreed to join the team. All of the Pine Island team looks forward to working with Bryan as we continue to grow high quality, nutritious cranberries for a healthier world.

From Bill’s Desk: “Whatever It Takes”

Our newest feature: the first in an occasional series of entries by CEO Bill Haines.

At Pine Island Cranberry we believe in doing what ever it takes to achieve the goals we have set for ourselves. In fact, “Whatever It Takes” is one of the six core values that guide everything we do. This week three of our team demonstrated the kind of dedication it takes to put that core value into action.

The first day of harvest, our Sim Place well went out of commission when the harmonic balancer (also known as a dampener pulley) broke. It has been a dry August and September; our reservoirs are not as full as we would like. The well was crucial to flooding our Panama bogs for their first harvest. Louis Cantafio, manager of Equipment and Facilities, immediately went into action. He dispatched Ernie Waszkiewicz to remove the radiator from the engine to gain access to the balancer. In the meantime, he used every resource available to find the part. After locating one in northern New Jersey that afternoon, he made a four hour round trip to retrieve it. While waiting for Louis to return, Ernie rigged lights to make it possible to repair the engine and put everything back together after dark.

While this was going on, supervisor Matt Giberson, leader of the Blue harvest team, was successfully doing everything possible to flood the Panama bogs for picking. The team hit its target.

When Louis arrived with the balancer, he, Ernie and Matt went right to work. At 9:30 PM, I received a laconic text from Louis stating simply, “Well running”.

I am very proud of the effort, professionalism and dedication they displayed the first day of our 2013 harvest. They are perfect examples of the entire Pine Island team’s determination to do “whatever it takes” to be the best in the world at what we do. I am lucky to have such a team.