2024 40 Under Forty Winner: Cassidy Baker

Earth Source
Ephrata, PA

Age: 35
Hometown: Strasburg, PA
Hobbies: Indoor Rock Climbing, Aerial Yoga, Reading, Rescue greyhounds
Family/Community: Married, Mentoring through Discovering Paths Program; WISE Co-Chair (Women in Search of Excellence)
Motto in life: “Don’t Panic.” — Douglas Adams

Baker began her produce career as a receptionist at Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative and was later promoted to farmer coordinator. She played a pivotal role in facilitating the integration of new and existing farmers into a more streamlined system of sales. In addition to managing key customer accounts, she spearheaded initiatives to grow the presence of organic produce in local markets and restaurants. Her efforts contributed to the expansion of organic offerings.

In 2021, she moved to Earth Source Trading as market sales representative and was later transitioned into the role of buyer. In the buyer position, she works closely with citrus growers and helps bring their fruit to the East Coast. She is responsible for managing all the inventory for Earth Source. She also works to help growers around the world become GGAP, SMETA, NOP and Fair Trade certified. With the help of a dedicated team, she navigated the complexities of the certification process, ensuring that farm workers received fair compensation in a safe environment. She also led the development and implementation of FSVP standards for Earth Source. Baker also helps with the sale and donation of product that is not usable for retail sale, but is still edible.

Q: How did you begin working in the produce industry?

I grew up in southern Lancaster County, PA, surrounded by farms and agriculture. My nearest neighbors were an Amish family, and I was fascinated by their way of life. As I grew, I realized how important quality, nourishing food is to a healthy life. After college, I was certain that I wanted to give back to the community where I was raised. I started my career in the produce industry at a local farmer’s cooperative, and I’ve been committed to it ever since.

Q: What is the one thing in your business you are most passionate about?

I have a strong passion for fair-trade programs. As a buyer who primarily collaborates with growers outside the United States, I’ve witnessed firsthand the positive impact that fair-trade programs can have on farm workers. Ultimately, produce is all about nourishing people, and Fair Trade ensures that both consumer and producer receive their fair share.

Q: What would you like consumers to know about the industry?

Even imperfect produce deserves appreciation. The truth is, flawless strawberries or kale leaves are rare finds. Embracing the imperfect potato could lead to a significant reduction in food waste. Around 16% of all food waste occurs at the farm level due to strict cosmetic standards. Yet, this “ugly” produce is still perfectly edible.

Q: What do you see as a critical issue facing the industry in the next decade and why?

Climate change poses a significant threat to the produce industry, and urgent action is imperative.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?

I am most proud of my work with a Fair Trade lemon program in Argentina. I worked with a family farm and 2023 was their first year in the program. While I like seeing people enjoy the food I’ve imported into the United States, knowing that it’s done in a humane and ethical manner holds far greater significance to me.