Pine Island Team Retirements: Jorge Morales

It’s hard to believe, but this week we said goodbye to Jorge Morales , who is retiring after 43 years here at Pine Island Cranberry!

Jorge started with us as a seasonal team member in 1976, and moved to full time in November the following year. In that time, Jorge has done every job there was to do on this place. CEO Bill Haines tried putting that into numbers for the assembled team. “Jorge mowed a lot of dams for us. When you think of how we have over 100 miles of dams, and some years we mow them four times, he’s easily mowed thousands of miles of dams. He’s hauled dirt and gravel, sand for bogs, and cranberries to Chatsworth or to our own packing house, and that adds up to thousands of miles in 43 years. Between frost nights and heat watch, he’s unplugged hundreds, if not thousands of sprinklers. He’s helped put in hundreds of gates. And that doesn’t include building bogs or installing irrigation. In 1975, we put in our first ever irrigation system. So since 1977, Jorge has actually helped install irrigation for the entire farm; as we’ve rebuilt or refurbished, he’s helped with that too.”

But Bill saved the most amazing numbers for the end. “Jorge’s first harvest was in 1976 as a seasonal guy. Since that first crop in 1976, he’s helped us pick 8,792,648 barrels of cranberries. Now, that’s an important number to us in the industry, but not everyone knows what it means; it’s even more impressive when you find out that it means Jorge has helped harvest 879,264,800 pounds of cranberries over 43 years.”

“It’s impressive, the amount of work he’s helped us to do,” Bill said to the team this week at Jorge’s farewell lunch. “Along with his wife Mildred, he’s raised a family of four kids – and Mildred deserves a lot of credit for that – and through all of that, he’s been cheerful no matter what we ask him to do. No matter the weather, through the heat, the cold, heavy rain, or snow, he’s always positive, always cheerful, always raised the atmosphere and the morale of the whole team.”

“You can be proud of the fact that you were a part of this team for so many years,” Bill said to Jorge. “You’re part of the family that’s been here for so long; your father-in-law, your brothers, Mildred’s brothers. I’m proud of the fact that people like you work for Pine Island; what you’ve contributed we’ll never forget. You’ve made a difference, Jorge, and we all appreciate it.”

And what did Jorge, the man who is never, ever short of a word, say in his address to us all?

“Thank you, everybody.”

Thank you, Jorge! We’ll all miss you very much, and wish you nothing but the best. Come back and see us!

Dan is retiring!

Dan Schiffhauer of Ocean Spray is retiring, and the New Jersey cranberry community is certainly going to miss him!

Dan was here as the contact for the growers for Ocean Spray and did whatever was needed to assist us with the crop. When he first came on board he was the point man for getting every Ocean Spray grower to use Integrated Pest Management and helped develop that program for all of us. He was available to deal with any horticultural issue, whether it was fertilizer, disease, insects, water management . . . if it had to do with cranberries, he was there as a consultant. His hard work and dedication made a tremendous difference in how we manage our crops.

Thierry Besançon, Rutgers University:

Dan is the guy here at the station who took a lot of his time to teach me about cranberry, not only the plant, but also the pests, the weeds, and all the complexity of cranberry management. He’s a very enthusiastic pedagogue, a mine of knowledge, and a great supporter of our Weed Science Research program! I’m glad that he’ll still be around because I still have plenty of questions on cranberry for him!

Steve Lee IV, Lee Brothers:

Dan is and will always be part of our family and we are eternally grateful for his tireless efforts in contributing to our success. We are thankful and appreciative of Laura, Sam and Maura for their personal family sacrifices made in support of Dan’s work over 29-plus years.

Peter Oudemans, Rutgers University:

Dan Schiffhauer is one of the most energetically creative people working in cranberries today . . . I can’t believe he thinks it is OK to retire!

Jeremy Fenstermaker, Pine Island Cranberry:

I am glad to have had the opportunity to get to know him professionally and personally. He was always available when needed and spoke from experience when called upon. He always had the growers best interest in mind. Now I hope he enjoys his retirement and shares where he is catching the big fish!

Shawn Cutts, ACGA President:

It is hard to overstate how much we will all miss Dan as he retires. Through his hard work, expertise, and willingness to attack any problem, he has been a tremendous resource in helping us growers to be our best. His friendship has been a blessing to everyone in the NJ cranberry community. We wish him all the best in retirement!

Bill Haines, Pine Island Cranberry:

Dan’s smart, he’s funny, and he always worked hard for the growers. The two biggest compliments I can pay Dan are that he was always there when you needed him, and in his 30-plus years here, he made a difference.

Bon voyage, Rick!

After forty-two years at Pine Island Cranberry, Rick Zapata is taking a well-earned retirement!

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During his time here, Rick has done a little bit of everything, and he’s always done it well. He started out as a seasonal employee but quickly moved up to full-time, and he’s been crucial to our operation ever since. “Rick’s like the utility player of the farm,” says Manager of Operations Matt Giberson. “There’s nothing he can’t do, and he always does a good job with whatever it is. After 42 years on the farm, you just pick up everything.” Ever since Matt came on board, he’s made sure to seek out advice from Rick, as well. “I always make it a point to go to Rick, and the other guys who have been here forever, and ask them how they would go about things, because they’ve done it all . . .and it’s always good to have those guys to back you up!”

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Rick was a long-time picking crew leader and our very first operator trained on the Gates Harrow. He’s always embraced new technology, right down to wearing a GoPro to demonstrate how the new machinery worked.

GoPro Gates Harrow from Pine Island Cranberry on Vimeo.

“I’ve worked with Rick since we were both about 18 or 19 years old,” says CEO Bill Haines. “He’s always been an important member of the Pine Island team: he’s smart, he’s reliable, he’s an excellent operator. He was a key part of the blueberry operation when we were in the blueberry business. He’s a guy you can plug in anywhere and he would get the job done, and we’re going to miss him.”

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Thanks, Rick, for everything you’ve done for us. We’re so glad you were here, and wish you the best for a happy, relaxing retirement!

Retirement

Pine Island bid a fond farewell this week to General Manager Fred Torres, who began his retirement on Tuesday!

We’re all going to miss Fred tremendously. He always gave the job 100%, and never asked anyone to do something he wouldn’t do himself. “He’s taught me so much since I’ve been here,” says supervisor Matt Giberson. “His work ethic is something else, and he really has the kind of personality that encourages people every single day. I’m going to miss the guy. He worked here for over forty years, he grew up here. After that long, the farm becomes a part of you, and you’re part of the farm as well.”

“There are a lot of ways we’re going to miss Fred,” says Facilities/Equipment manager Louis Cantafio. “He’s going to be a tough act to follow. He did a lot of hands-on work and had a ton of institutional knowledge. He was always up and always working…checking the temperature in the middle of the night, making phone calls, checking the water. He always knew what was going around here, every single minute.”

“It won’t be the same without Fred. Not only have I worked with him every day for forty-four years, but we worked together every summer before that; I’ve known him since we were five years old,” says CEO Bill Haines. “I knew his dad, who worked here for over forty years; I knew all of his brothers and his sisters. We did everything together as kids, and during summers we did everything together as well; we were shed boys, we cleaned ditches. And after we grew up and had real responsibility for the business, he was always my right hand. I could count on him to be there when he needed to be there and get done what needed to get done. I’m going to miss him as a GM, but am going to miss him more as a man.”

Thanks for everything, Fred! Neither the blog nor the buffet line will be the same without you.