:: Articles ::

Ethics, values come to the foreground
May 25, 2003
Group puts industry’s core principles into words

Staff report

Clearly, the success of the Salinas Valley produce industry has been cultivated by more than just fertile soil, a gentle climate, hard work and human know-how – though those haven’t hurt.

Company leaders are quick to point out that what they and their forebears achieved was built on a foundation of trust, honesty, fairness and stewardship.

Its essence: the idea of a “verbal hand-shake agreement” and a generous commitment to community. Now a group of local ag leaders are involved in the difficult task of putting into words the industry’s core values, ethics and principles so they can be passed onto a new generation of leadership.

The idea to create a working group to preserve and promote the elements in the future came out of discussions between Basil Mills, president of Mills Inc., and Jim Bracher, founder of the Bracher Center for Integrity in Leadership.

In January, Mills and Bracher began conversations on how a value-based approach could help ensure successful succession of ag leadership.

“I looked at it as a great way not only to honor the early leaders of this business but also to show the next generation the importance of integrity,” Mills said. “The other thing the founders did is they gave back to the community. Those of us who learned from them have recognized the importance of doing this.”

Their talks were against the backdrop of news stories about companies – Enron and WorldCom among them – whose leaders failed to uphold basic ethics, often at tragic cost to employees, stockholders and communities.

Mills invited 17 stakeholders to discuss foundation values that date back to the launching of the modern produce era, in the 1920s and ‘30s.

Over the course of several meetings in April and May, the stakeholders and Bracher’s firm worked toward a document that identified the core principles and their components.

The final document is still taking shape. One likely result is some form of ag-values presentation in the new Ag Wing at the National Steinbeck Center, scheduled to open Sept. 1.

Home Page | About Us | Ask Bracher | Services | Resources | Contact Us