Meridian Growers: Bridging the Grower to the Market
In 1996, Jim Zion and Martin Gesell began Meridian Growers (Meridian) in a small office in Clovis. The partners created Meridian to market exclusively for A&P Growers, who continues to be one of the original owners in Horizon Nut Company.
Meridian’s core business as a sales and marketing company has continued to grow over the years. They now represent growers and processors in California, Arizona and New Mexico, marketing almonds, pistachios, pecans and dried fruits to the world’s leading food companies.
While Meridian Growers has expanded from its small beginnings, it remains true to its roots; a grower-owned company. Their grower ownership is made up of a diverse group of growers from California and Arizona. Many of Meridian’s grower owners are pioneers and leaders in the California and Arizona pistachio and almond industry.
Meridian represents and works with growers throughout California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. “Our Growers are our partners and we work together to provide the world with the best dried fruit and tree nuts,” said Managing Partner Jim Zion. “We try to go above and beyond what is expected because we feel a strong connection with everyone we work with. Our growers are families, and in turn we treat them like family. Our business is transparent to our growers. We share industry news, potential issues, as well as struggles, working together to provide a safe and quality product to our customers with long-term returns for our growers.
“We are the growers’ innovative link to the world’s leading food companies,” continued Zion. “Our growers are essential in our business and remain the center of our business. Our job is to maximize their returns over the life of their investment in their orchards. With Meridian focusing on the sales and marketing functions, our growers are able to concentrate on the day-to-day farming activities. It is a true partnership.”
While Meridian’s main products are grown in the Western United States, at times, a wide range of products are procured to fulfill all the needs of clients. The procurement business began with large clients who were looking for a one-stop-shop. “When a large retailer asks for something, we make it happen,” said Zion. “We are able to meet our customers’ supply needs. We have our main office in Clovis, along with a team in Virginia who handles our export logistics. With our Virginia office, we have the advantage of having experts in logistic and documentation issues all over the world.”
Meridian also collaborates with customers to determine the best solution for the customers’ needs. “We often work with our customers assisting and advising on product development,” said Zion. “Pistachios are a long term investment for our growers, taking seven years to produce once planted. We want to make sure we have buyers for our growers’ investment for years to come.” added Zion.
Food safety is a top priority at Meridian. Employees, as well as growers, are well versed on the topic and today’s rapidly changing regulatory environment. “We want to make sure we’re delivering a safe quality product,” said Zion. “We take additional steps to ensure safe products not only for our customers, but to protect our growers from a potential food safety issue.” Meridian is well versed in the requirements to ship product domestically, as well as to over 40 countries overseas.
“We know the importance of industry and community involvement. We are invested in industries we represent and the community we live in,” said Zion. “Our participation in industry organizations is driven by the power of a collective voice. We want our industries to grow, thrive, and remain relevant well in to the future.” Many from Meridian’s team serve on industry committees across all commodities.
Jim Zion is currently a member of the Agricultural Trade Advisory Committee that advises United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United States Trade Representative (USTR) on trade issues affecting our industry. He works with other industry leaders to open up trade in other countries through tariff reductions and lifting restrictions. He is also Chairman of the Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo Food and Nutritional Advisory Council and a member of the Board of Directors for the Specialty Crop Council. Lastly, he served for many years as a board member for the American Pistachio Growers and as Chairman of the grower based organization.
Kristi Robinson, grower relations at Meridian, is very active with American Pistachio Growers. She is a member of the Board of Directors and the chairwoman for the organization’s leadership program, LeadON. She also serves on several committees. “Meridian understands the importance of the younger generation of growers. We need to invest in the future of the industry through leadership,” said Robinson.
Meridian Growers became a Friends of the Family Farm premium member because they believe in the Farm Bureau’s mission to promote and protect agriculture. Meridian wants to help move FCFB’s vision forward to lead the agricultural industry and the community in addressing issues that result in long-term economic viability for agriculture and promoting the economic vitality of the region.
Learn more about Meridian Growers grower programs at www.meridiangrowers.com.
To become a Friends of the Family Farm premium member, contact FCFB at 559-237-0263 or visit www.fcfb.org.
Friends of the Family Farm Spotlight Profile: Ag Today, March 16
By: Katie Rodgers