Packer 25 2020 — Christopher Valadez
Since Christopher Valadez officially assumed the presidency of the Salinas-based Grower-Shipper Association of Central California in June of 2019, he has undergone a kind of baptism by fire.
In the fall, he was faced with an E. coli outbreak involving Salinas-grown lettuce, and a few months later, he had to take on the COVID-19 crisis.
In both instances, the association played a pivotal role in representing the interests of the industry, agriculture workers and the public.
Prior to signing on with the grower-shipper association, Valadez spent 11 years at the California Fresh Fruit Association as director of environmental and regulatory affairs.
He dealt with labor issues, which included management/employee relations, wage and hour issues and health and safety; water supply and quality; food safety; air quality and political engagement.
'He’s a guy who gets it done. He’s not one of those who just sits back and thinks of big ideas but never acts on them.' — Louie Brown, Kahn, Soares & Conway LLP
Prior to that, the Arizona State University political science graduate spent four years as deputy district director for former Congressman George Radanovich.
Valadez, the grandson of farm workers, grew up in California’s San Joaquin Valley.
He said that when he took over the leadership of the grower-shipper association, he had the support of the board of directors to expand its goal, which was basically industry members partnering to produce prosperity.
Now, he said, “We’re not only focused on the economics of the industry or policies or the regulatory arena, but we also have a focus on issues that are uniquely acute” — such as worker housing and advancing the wellbeing and the interests of people and families in the region who benefit from or are dependent on the agricultural sector.
When E. coli bacteria was detected in Salinas romaine lettuce last fall, “We were at ground zero,” Valadez said.
The organization filled a vital role as an information clearing house, he said, serving as a media adviser for the industry and working with the Food and Drug Administration as it conducted its investigation into the source of the outbreak.
'We’re not only focused on the economics of the industry or policies or the regulatory arena, but we also have a focus on issues that are uniquely acute.' — Christopher Valadez, Grower-Shipper Association of Central California
The organization also rose to the task when COVID-19 struck.
The association, together with other industry partners and county and health officials, put together guidelines for employers to follow using best available information from public health authorities, he said.
The organization also helped arrange temporary housing in local hotels for farmworkers who tested positive for or had been exposed to the coronavirus, helped speed up COVID-19 testing and helped secure 1 million face masks in early spring when face coverings were hard to come by.
Valadez said an ability to respond to challenges quickly and to be “flexible, adaptable and resourceful” have been keys to success for himself and the association.
Attorney Louie Brown of Sacramento-based Kahn, Soares & Conway LLP said he has known Valadez for 12 years and worked closely with him at the California Fresh Fruit Association.
“Chris has always been a very thoughtful individual,” he said.
“He’s a guy who gets it done,” he said. “He’s not one of those who just sits back and thinks of big ideas but never acts on them.”
Some of the steps he initiated to deal with COVID-19 served as a model for state programs launched in the San Joaquin Valley, he said, and reflect his ability to “bring different entities together for one purpose.”
His actions dealing with COVID-19 “truly exemplify the leadership skills that he brings to (the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California),” he said.