94-Year-Old Family Produce Biz Andy Boy Gives Millions To Charity

By Kim Hughes 5/28/14 | www.samaritanmag.com

The Andy Boy pink ribbon logo found on packages of their romaine hearts.
Making a salad or stir fry can do more good than just good for your body, if you’re a customer of D’Arrigo Bros of California. Their bags of romaine hearts, for example, have the pink ribbon symbol for breast cancer, one of many charities the 94-year-old company supports.  The privately held, family-run growers and distributors of produce marketed under the familiar Andy Boy brand — launched in 1927 — is hugely philanthropic, annually giving between $250,000 and $1 million in private donations to myriad benefactors.

In addition to advocating on behalf of its agricultural workforce while serving as environmental stewards to the land they farm, the D’Arrigo Bros. actively fund the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the United Way, the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, Meals on Wheels, the Kinship Center and Rancho Cielo Youth Campus, plus countless other charities via one-off and multi-year pledges.

Ask third generation company head John D’Arrigo — grandson of co-founder Stefano and son of Andy Boy namesake Andrew D’Arrigo, whose childhood picture graces the packaging — why the company supports the groups it supports and he says evenly, “Well, we are just real big believers in paying it forward,” he tells Samaritanmag from his California office.

“Breast cancer seemed obvious. It’s such a prevalent problem and it has affected lots of people in our orbit such as workers, growers, peers and people we know at alarmingly early rates. Plus it also seemed like a great way of connecting with the consumers across the country primarily buying our products: the female in the home. I mean we are a big agricultural company but we are also a family company so we get it.”

Company head John D'Arrigo at Natividad Medical Center — photo courtesy of D'Arrigo Bros. of California.
And then there is the Agricultural Leadership Council (TALC), created in 2010 by company president John D’Arrigo along with other California growing families to fund the Natividad Medical Center, a so-called “safety net hospital” that provides health care access to patients — including the migrant farm workers harvesting the romaine lettuce, cauliflower and broccoli Andy Boy sells — regardless of their ability to pay.

TALC has not only succeeded in its mission “to improve the health status of farm workers and their families by providing Natividad with medical equipment, diagnostic tools and services” to the tune of $1.1 million since inception.

It has spun off a profitable side business, Indigenous Interpreting, which helps other social services providers, researchers and the like to communicate in arcane and highly localized dialects such as Mixteco, Zapotec and Triqui (all from Mexico and currently spoken at Natividad) via highly trained interpreters.

“We have these languages that are up to 4,000 years old that pre-date Latin-based languages,” D’Arrrigo explains. “Doctors could not communicate with patients who spoke these languages. It was so frustrating.

“We identified this need and we’ve funded 68 interpreters through this Indigenous Interpreter program and it’s gone viral. People all over the country are calling us in need of this service which they can subscribe to. So what began as a heartfelt philanthropic effort to solve a serious problem actually turned into a profit-generating center for the hospital.”

Andrew Andy Boy D'Arrigo inspired the logo.
But that’s only part of the equation. The D’Arrigo Bros. company — and by extension, the D’Arrigo family, which has owned and operated it since 1920, with the Andy Boy trademark in place since 1927 — are also heavily invested in cancer research, environmental health, and “We also try and focus on youth,” D’Arrigo adds.

“The Kinship Center in California helps kids that don’t really have homes for whatever reason. We helped to build the D’Arrigo Family Mental Health Clinic in 2004. We spent $500,000 on that one, to service kids with mental health issues related to adoption.

“The idea of getting kids stabilized was behind Rancho Cielo which helps kids in trouble and on probation. So there we funded the D’Arrigo Family Technical Services Education Center to teach kids a skill that will help them get a job and not feel the need to join a gang. The gang problem here is tremendous. We committed to them in 2006 through 2009 — we often do multi-year pledges. Everyone has operational expenses, so we often circle back around.”

As D’Arrigo explains, his company’s philanthropy isn’t a cut-and-dried matter of percentage of sales directed to charity. “We really don’t tie it to proceeds or profits and loss or so much a package,” he says. “We just feel giving money is the right thing to do and we do it regardless of financial situation. And we’ve been blessed that giving hasn’t really been an issue for us.

“Our annual donations range but typically it’s a $250,000 to $1 million a year. And there are scores of other things we participate in that are relatively small dollars compared to some other ventures. And we are never short of causes — we get requests every day.”

1960 United Convetion, Chicago Left to right: Andy D’Arrigo, Steve D’Arrigo, John Antognoni, Andrew D’Arrigo, Peter D’Arrigo, Steve D’Arrigo — photo courtesy of D'Arrigo Bros of California.
The D’Arrigo family is also heavily involved in sustainable agriculture. As outlined on the website, “Conserving energy and protecting natural resources for future generations is a core value held at D’Arrigo Bros. of California, from field to executive offices,” the website states.

“D’Arrigo Bros. of California grows, harvests, packs, cools and ships all of its own products, which affords the company a high degree of control over its operations. With the goal to ensure product safety and integrity while minimizing energy and fuel use, D’Arrigo Bros. of California decided to consolidate its packing and shipping facilities near the heart of its fields.”

This it did via a state-of-the-art facility launched in 2008. The laundry-list of achievements attached to this is impressive: 593 metric tons of C02 per year prevented (“Since relocating and consolidating its cooler facilities closer to its farm fields the company has prevented more than 4,000 metric tons of CO2emissions”); 84 trips around the earth eliminated (“D’Arrigo Bros. Co., of California saves an estimated 300,000 truck-miles annually, enough to make 12 trips around the earth every year”) and so forth.

Yet ask D’Arrigo if the average Andy Boy consumer knows about his company’s sprawling philanthropy and he admits, “Probably not.”

“The Breast Cancer Research Foundation symbol is on the packaging so we have people who connect through that and maybe look up our website,” D’Arrigo says. “But with the millions of packages we send out, most consumers have no idea about the scope at which this family is dedicated to giving back.

“But I figure good deeds just need to be done. If it gets out, great and if it doesn’t well, that wasn’t the purpose for doing it anyway.”

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* Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.