2024 40 Under Forty Winner: Sydney Fairchild

Marketing and Compliance Manager
Bridges Produce, Inc.
Portland, OR

Age: 32
Hometown: Portland, Oregon
Hobbies: Cooking, Baking, Playing with daughter, Gardening, Hiking
Family/Community: Married, 1 daughter
Motto in life: Always try to be one step ahead, but know how to pivot when things go awry.

Fairchild has managed Bridges Produce’s compliance, marketing, and sustainability programs for over 10 years. During this time, she has cultivated growth across all three areas, but the expansion of compliance has been unmatched. She grew up in the retail produce industry, as her father was the buyer and produce director for Nature’s Fresh Northwest and then New Seasons Market in Portland, OR At 18, she had her first foray into the industry, doing demos for Zespri Kiwis and Columbia Gorge Organic Juice. While attending Seattle University, she interned with Oppy’s Seattle office.

In 2013, she took her current position at Bridges Produce. During her tenure at Bridges, she has been involved in committees focusing on sustainability, the OTA produce council, Organic Fraud prevention early adopters, and numerous others. She has also directed Bridges’ Fair Trade program through multiple rounds of expansion, managed Bridges’ PR and media relations, and been responsible for the company’s trade shows and sustainability initiatives. Her understanding and navigating the complex world of Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) has been valuable to the company’s grower-partners.

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

I grew up in the produce industry — my parents even met working at a local natural foods store. As a child, I was mostly exposed to the retail side of the industry, but also spent time at farms, orchards, and produce warehouses. I never pictured myself going into produce, but after my internship, this all changed. Produce felt like such a natural fit.

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

I am passionate about using grower education to address compliance requirements. So many people look at compliance as a necessary evil, but if you change your thinking, it can be a market advantage, and have a positive impact on workers’ lives, the environment, and advancing the industry.

Q: How has the industry changed during your tenure?

Compliance mandated by the FDA/USDA, as well as customer expectations, has changed astronomically over the last 10 years. With heightened attention to food safety, as well as the new Strengthening Organic Enforcement Rule coming into play, having a deep understanding of your supply chain, from field to packing to distribution, is more critical than ever.

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

One of the things I am most proud of is my creation of Bridges’ extensive Food Defense Plan and the subsequent execution of that plan.

Q: What advice would you give someone new to the produce industry?

While produce may have historically been a male-dominated field, that is changing. There are strong women out there, many of whom were pioneers in the industry. Find ways to learn from these women — their insight and perseverance in the trade will show you incredible strength and dedication.