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Catherine Gipe-Stewart takes Domex Superfresh Growers to new heights

As an avid hiker who is always on the search for the next mountain to climb, 29-year-old Catherine Gipe-Stewart is constantly soaring to new heights — both in her personal and professional life.

“We’re in the wonderful Yakima Valley, which is right next to the Cascade Mountains,” Gipe-Stewart told The Produce News. “I try to get out to the mountains as much as possible, which is never as much as I want,” she laughed.October-2017-in-Goat-RocksCatherine Gipe-Stewart, with husband, John Stewart, during the first mountain snow in Oct. 2017.

Gipe-Stewart’s latest feat was climbing Hawkeye Point in the Goat Rocks at 7,400 feet, which she said both she and her husband, John, were pretty excited about.

“John grew up in England and Scotland where the highest mountain was around 4,000 feet,” she said. “So it was fun for him to climb higher than he’s ever been!”

Even when Gipe-Stewart is not physically climbing a mountain, she’s still using that same motivation and stamina to reach new heights as the communications manager for Yakima, WA-based Domex Superfresh Growers, a leading supplier of high-quality apples, pears, cherries and apricots.

“Being in a position where I’m tested and given the ability to grow is what I love so much about working here,” she revealed. “The sky’s the limit and I really believe it.”

Coming from a previous eight-year career in the organic chocolate industry, Gipe-Stewart said one major difference in the produce industry is people’s willingness to take younger members under their wings and mentor them.

“All you have to do is be hungry and want it and speak up for yourself, and you’ll be supported along the way,” she said. “I know that’s not commonplace in a lot of other industries. Overall, that’s one of my favorite parts about working at Superfresh Growers — having that team of support and continuing to challenge myself every day.”

One team member that has played a pivotal role in Gipe-Stewart’s relatively short, but wildly successful two-year produce career is Mike Preacher, director of marketing at Domex Superfresh Growers.

“He’s really creative and really big in believing in the team — saying ‘we’ statements and not ‘I’ statements and making sure everyone feels like they are a part of it,” Gipe-Stewart said. “He’s taught me to be a teammate and makes sure everyone is valued and has a chance to shine together in projects.”

A big part of Gipe-Stewart’s job as communications manager is to make sure that consumers are truly connecting with Superfresh Growers’ products — and one way she loves to do that is through the use of social media.

“I like the relationship part of social media,” she said. “To be the one who gets to respond to people as they comment on our Instagram and Facebook posts, and see the passion they have for our products, is a fun part of my daily grind.”

A Passion for Produce
Speaking of passion for produce, Gipe-Stewart recently got together with a group of social media influencers and bloggers in New York City for an apple pie workshop, featuring Superfresh Growers’ Autumn Glory apples.

“It was cool to meet all these social media influencers in person and get more of a feel for their real experiences with our Autumn Glory apple, and how much they love it,” she said. “To see they are truly passionate about it was really neat.”

Another perk of her job is being able to live and work near the company’s orchards.

“On lunch breaks, I’ll go walking through the orchards and I’ll always run into one of our pickers and I’ll have a little side chat with him about whatever’s going on,” Gipe-Stewart said. “To have that interaction and to really be in touch with what I’m marketing and selling is incredibly important and vital to me, and something that I think is really special.”

As far as challenges go, Gipe-Stewart said there would always be difficult parts about her job and working in the produce industry, but the good far outweighs the bad.

“We work really well together as a team to get through the difficult aspects,” she added.

Looking toward the future, Gipe-Stewart said she sees herself continuing to learn, grow and of course, climb.

“I like to go as projects come and opportunity arises,” she said. “I know that Domex is growing, and the produce industry is growing, and I feel like I’ll just keep growing with it.”