2020 Produce Business 40 Under Forty Award Winner: Nathalie Marin-Gest

Age: 37
Head of Fresh Goods
Fair Trade USA
Oakland, CA

Marin-Gest is considered a trailblazer and has worked tirelessly to elevate and grow the Fair Trade movement in produce through building strong partnerships with brands and retailers. Her work has impacted many throughout the world during years of ongoing travel to farms, participation in focus groups, workforce trainings, meetings and speaking engagements.
She began her role at Fair Trade USA as an intern in the coffee department, during the summer of 2012 while working on her grad degrees. In 2013, she was hired full-time as the first supply chain manager for the produce and floral team. In 2015, she became senior supply chain manager, produce and floral. She led strategy for the supply chain team where she developed and launched Fair Trade Certification in U.S. production – a first in the Fair Trade history.

In 2017, Marin-Gest was promoted to director, produce and floral, where she led Business Development and Supply Chain teams through strategy refresh. The team generated $8 million in Fair Trade premiums for growers and workers. In 2018, she became senior director, produce and floral and led the team through restructuring, developing sales and business operations and program expansion to achieve $9 million in Fair Trade premiums. In 2019, she took on her current role where she oversees the strategic expansion of the Fair Trade Certified produce, floral and seafood categories, while also supporting the award-winning Fresh Goods business development, grower support teams, and the Supply Chain team. Marin-Gest has helped expand the produce and floral category to represent more than 1.5 billion pounds of product sold on Fair Trade terms (during the past decade), representing more than $30 million in impact from Fair Trade premiums going back to growers and workers.

Hobbies: Traveling, Hiking, Philosophy, Physics

Personal/Community: Married

Motto in life: “Seek to understand, whether you agree or disagree.”

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?
Within my work in the produce industry with Fair Trade USA, I am proud of having led the development and launch of the domestic Fair Trade Certification program. Prior to September 2016, Fair Trade Certifications could only be granted in countries outside of the U.S. In order to open the doors to Fair Trade Certifications in the “global north,” I conducted extensive research on domestic labor laws, what other organizations were already doing to support brands, farmers, workers in the U.S., and how Fair Trade could have impact here as well. I led the integration of the feedback from experts, government agencies and other varied stakeholders into the updated Agricultural Production Standard, allowing for a new Fair Trade Certification program to now be offered to all countries and geographies.

Q: What was the “aha” moment when you knew the produce industry was the best choice for you?
The “aha” moment for me was when I realized how many people touch one tomato before I purchase it at the store. More than a dozen people, their families and their communities go into producing one tomato. At every step of its production, so much care and details are invested into that one tomato that at the end of the supply chain results in joy and nutrition to consumers. In understanding that, I could see how produce is an essential part of our physical health and our connection as humans, which goes back to the beginning of agriculture.

Q: What do you see as the most critical “hot button” issue facing the industry in the next decade?
The social and environmental sustainability of the produce industry is the most critical hot button issue. The environmental impact of production and packaging has become a hotter topic during the past decade or so, and only now is the topic of social responsibility really starting to take off.