LAKEVILLE–MIDDLEBORO, Mass. — Ocean Spray values its deep-rooted legacy of powerful women in the workplace. In 1930, Elizabeth Lee founded Ocean Spray alongside two partners. At a time when the farming industry was predominantly male, Lee trusted her vision and strength to drive Ocean Spray forward. On International Women’s Day, the farmer-owned cooperative is sharing its belief that teams are stronger with a diversified workforce.
Lee’s passion for the cranberry helped establish Ocean Spray, a unique cooperative that has served farmers for nearly a century. In fact, approximately ten years before Rosie the Riveter’s debut, Lee was striving to create her business and bring a tiny superfruit with a bold taste to mainstream America. At that time, the cranberry was an obscure commodity grown by a handful of farmers. With the shared goal of growing the cranberry market, Elizabeth Leejoined forces with two other cranberry titans to create Cranberry Canners, Inc., the agricultural cooperative that would become Ocean Spray. As Vice President of Cranberry Canners, Lee pioneered canned cranberry sauce. Lee was ultimately named “Queen of Cranberries,” recognizing her leadership in making the cranberry industry an important and profitable business for cranberry farmers.
Today, Ocean Spray is on a mission to connect farms to families for a better life. Following Lee’s legacy, women play an important role on Ocean Spray’s farms, generation after generation. Ocean Spray farmer families diligently care for their cranberry farms year-round, growing nutrient-dense cranberries. Whether they are watching frost to ensure the superfruit is protected, or conserving water for re-use on the farm, these farmers are making a powerful impact for all families.
Off the farm, Ocean Spray also values its female leaders. In the last year, Ocean Spray promoted over 70 women in its workforce, representing 67% of all promotions for the farmer-owned cooperative. “Diversity and inclusion—of gender, race, sexual orientation, culture, experience, background, and so much more—is the heart of any successful organization,” said Jane Borkowski, vice president, corporate affairs and chief people officer. “I have had the incredible opportunity to grow my career with Ocean Spray, making it particularly special for me to have a direct role championing our next generation of female leadership to spearhead our cooperative’s future.” Ocean Spray will celebrate its women throughout the month of March with professional development seminars, networking breakfasts, community engagement, and the launch of its women’s empowerment coalition.
On International Women’s Day—a day to reflect on the social, cultural, economic and political achievements of women—it is important to honor women of the past for their foresight and fortitude, as well as the women of the present who continue to shatter glass ceilings with tenacity and intelligence. Each woman’s story today sets an example for all women of the future.