MODESTO — AgSafe was born out of a need for statewide and federal compliance in the agriculture industry. Since its formation in 1991, the 501c3 nonprofit has been at the forefront of safety, regulation and compliance.
Due to growth within the organization — the staff has grown from three to 21 — AgSafe is moving out of its current building on Motor City Court to new headquarters in downtown Modesto.
“We’ve definitely grown and evolved,” said AgSafe President and CEO Amy Wolfe.
In the new building, AgSafe will continue its mission advancing the food and farming industries’ commitment to a safe, sustainable workforce and food supply, by providing practical education and resources.
The company that once only served California now provides services to states across the nation, and Wolfe attributes its growth to the staff’s inability to say no.
“By the time growers, packers or shippers reach out to us and say, ‘I need some help,’ we never want to turn them away,” she explained.
The move to its new location was made possible thanks to a property donation by Atherton & Associates. The new workspace is located on the corner of G Street and La Loma Avenue and includes a 10,000-square-foot building and adjacent parking lot.
“We hope to be breaking ground, doing a complete makeover (at the) end of April or beginning of May,” Wolfe said.
AgSafe was recently in the news for its plan to raffle off its Motor City Court building in Modesto, but the sale was halted early. On the first day the raffle was open, a buyer stepped forward. The money made from the sale of the building will be used to cover renovation costs at AgSafe’s new home.
The renovation aims to bring the building into the 21st century and will be available for other local nonprofits to use as well.
“We were once a tiny nonprofit that needed to beg, borrow and steal from our other nonprofits,” Wolfe said. “We very much have a pay-it-forward mantra.”
After gutting the building, plans include creating designated spaces for education and meetings, a simultaneous translation booth in English, Spanish and other languages and a full kitchen. A mural will be painted outside, and the parking lot will increase accessibility.
Wolfe expects renovations to be finished by October at the latest.
AgSafe isn’t the only expert in the field of farm safety, but the company created a niche working with mom-and-pop shops and family-owned farms that don’t have human resources departments built in.
“We farm about 1,000 acres, and we grow about 40 different vegetables. To do that we have quite a few people,” said Anthony Ratto, operations manager at Ratto Brothers in Modesto, one of AgSafe’s clients. He estimates the company has 220 employees. “We have a lot of people who need different kinds of training.”
Ratto said the costs for training have varied based on subject, frequency and number of people.
Wolfe said AgSafe does not charge for explaining laws. There are, however, training costs for CPR, safety and other educational classes and materials. Donor support helps to keep those costs low and gives AgSafe the ability to provide general information for free.
In addition to helping facilitate necessary training for equipment, safe handling of chemicals and more, AgSafe helps Ratto Brothers stay compliant. That includes ensuring all necessary paperwork is on file, and the company is meeting state and federal regulations for operations.
“In general I think we have a pretty good attitude about safety here, and AgSafe has kind of helped push that mentality on employees,” Ratto said. “The list gets longer every year as far as what we need to do to be compliant.”
AgSafe works with 14 agencies, at both the state and federal level, that dictate how those in the agricultural industry, including farming and food processing, operate from a legal standpoint.
The Stanislaus County Farm Bureau, a resource for farmers, said its partnership with AgSafe has tremendous value. The nonprofit is responsible for representing farmers and ranchers politically, providing “Ag in the Classroom” type programs to teach children the importance of agriculture, educating the general public on the value of the agricultural industry and more.
“(AgSafe) provides expertise in farm safety, and I think that has been more of a focus over the last several years,” said Farm Bureau Executive Director Wayne Zipser. “Making sure the farm workers are safe in their environment… that the business owners have an avenue for compliance; they are fulfilling their obligations to farm safety.”
“We’ve got a great recipe for the secret sauce,” Wolfe said. “The secret sauce is knowing how to take that info and present it in a way that is practical, useful and connects to the needs of not only the owner but the workers as well.”