What started out as an experiment to offer a handful of NatureFresh Farms employees basic English reading and writing skills slowly evolved into a full-time Education Program that has benefitted roughly 100 of our team members over the past 3 years – many in uplifting, powerful ways!
Q & A with our Education Coordinator
Q: How did the Education Program get its start?
A: The program started at the beginning of 2016, and at that time, it was only running one day a week as an experiment to see if there was enough interest. I would come to the farm for one day and teach English as a Second Language (ESL) classes to primarily Greenhouse and Warehouse Supervisors. Slowly, the program started to evolve – we upped it from 1 day a week to 3 days a week, and since the middle of 2018, we’ve been running the program on a full-time basis!
Originally, the program was created to teach English literacy to individuals on our team who already spoke English but needed to develop their reading and writing skills. The ESL offshoot of the program has endured, but we have also expanded the program to include General Education Development (GED) classes, preparation for English standardized testing, and sessions that cover general English literacy needs.
Q: Why did our company Invest in this program?
A: All our team members have a very high skill-set when it comes to performing their jobs here, so one of the main purposes for creating this program was to catch some of them up with their English language proficiency so that it was on par with their occupational skills. This way, all our team members could continue to excel and progress within the company!
NatureFresh Farms has always been a company that encourages continuous learning, growth, and skill development. When Peter Quiring and John Kelter saw that there was a need for greater English literacy for many of our team members working in or pursuing senior-level positions, trying to create a program like this just made sense. And once interest started to grow, it was an easy decision to expand the program.
The ‘Grow-To’ mentality is strong throughout our entire organization – our team is constantly being motivated by our leaders to learn more and grow confidently alongside the company! And programs like this make it that much easier for our team to develop themselves professionally.
Q: Who can get involved with this program?
A: Our full-time team members who are interested in growing their English reading and writing skills are often encouraged to take part in this program. Supervisors and Managers are also encouraged to recommend individuals to the program if they identify team members who would benefit from developing their English literacy skills.
If new individuals wish to enroll in the program, they are currently put on a waiting list until a spot opens. Right now, the program is capped at 25 students!
Q: What are some of the major components of the program?
A: One major component of the program is the ESL classes for individuals whose native language is not English. In ESL classes, English reading, writing, pronunciation, and listening are all taught. Many individuals who have taken the ESL classes have been looking to attain their Canadian citizenship and permanent residency status, so we often use Canadian citizenship materials as classroom content to prepare students for the process of being granted citizenship. This can be very dense material, so we do our best in these classes to break down the complex vocabulary and make it into more digestible content.
Another strain of the program involves GED classes – these are for individuals looking to attain their High School Equivalency Certificate. In GED classes, we cover writing, reading, math, science, and social studies. Regularly attending GED classes is a big commitment, but for all the individuals who have attained their GED by participating in them, it has been an incredibly rewarding experience.
In addition to ESL and GED classes, we also help individuals prepare for English standardized testing, as well as develop English literacy skills that will directly benefit them in the workplace. We believe in teaching our students content that has as many practical applications as possible!
Q: What are some of the program’s major milestones?
A: We have had close to 100 team members participate in this program, all in varying capacities, over the past 3 years. About 6 of those 100 have been long-term students who have been participating since the beginning of the program. It has been an especially rewarding experience for many of these long-term students – some of them started out with very minimal English proficiency, and now, not only has their literacy advanced, but they have also been benefited in their roles and on a personal level.
We have also had 3 people participate in the GED strain of the program and successfully attain their High school Equivalency Certificate! We have more individuals currently participating and showing interest in this part of the program all the time, so I am looking forward to seeing more team members graduate soon enough.
Testimonials from our Team
While close to 100 NatureFresh Farms team members have participated in the program over the past 3 years, we collected testimonials from 4 individuals who have benefited from the program and are continuing to grow within the company!
A Company Culture Like No Other
NatureFresh Farms is truly a unique place to work – our leaders are passionate about developing their teams.
Whether it’s an Education Program that makes it easier for our team to develop themselves professionally, or a Lunch Program that provides our team with greater access to healthy and affordable meal options at work, our company culture is all about growing and giving back to the incredible Grow-To People who help us succeed every single day!