June 29, 2020

Day in the life of…Food Safety & Operations Manager Tom Stewart

Born and raised in sunny Scotland, Tom Stewart has called Richmond, British Columbia home for the last 20 years.

Tom attended the Morgan Academy in Dundee, Scotland, which graduated other notable alumni including veteran actor Ian McDiarmid, famous for his role in various Star Wars movies. Prior to moving to Canada, Tom worked as a food inspector in his birth country.

His professional experience in Canada is in-depth and varied, encompassing two years with Coca Cola, eight years at Lilydale Poultry, as well as Sun Rich for six years, and others. Before starting with Oppy in November 2015, Tom worked at the West Coast Produce greenhouse. He credits this experience with giving him a solid understanding of greenhouse growing, how it is managed, how to pack and grade as well as other key learnings. All of this made moving to Oppy a natural progression and fit.

Compared to his peers in Oppy’s U.S. locations, Tom’s regular work day is decidedly different. This is because Oppy itself runs the warehouses in Vancouver and Calgary, whereas warehouse operations in the U.S. are contracted out to third parties. Tom is therefore responsible for profitability and efficiency, with a much more hands-on approach to his day as a whole. His new food safety role also means that he is now involved in important food safety and organic audits.  

Like almost everyone else, the current circumstances have significantly changed his daily routine. Although things have begun to go back to a recognizable level of normality, Tom worked hard to ensure that his team never missed a beat during the peak of the pandemic. When a limited outbreak of the virus occurred in the Vancouver warehouse, they went full-throttle to ensure that the packing was done to the level of quality that Oppy is known for, and that all customers remained happy. This was accomplished with little more than a skeleton crew.  

Responsible for applying the COVID-19 mitigation plan, Tom executes various protocols including physical distancing measures, sanitization, Good Manufacturing Practices as well as many others.  The team reacted to these changes very well, Tom said, because they view them not as a way to protect themselves, but as a means to protect each other.

What amazed him throughout the entire journey was how quickly things can go from chaos to calmness. One especially significant lesson that Tom learned was the absolutely essential need to be adaptable, and improvise in the face of unexpected changes.

Married since 1989, Tom is a proud father to two daughters, one of whom graduated from the University of British Columbia last year, with the other matriculating to the same school next year. Tom and his family also had a beloved, grumpy cat named Oscar, who was 22 years old when he passed away last April.

Aware that it’s almost a generic answer, Tom earnestly admits that his favorite thing about working with Oppy is the people. The team works extremely well together, not as a matter of fluff but as a matter of fact, said Tom. Although the days appear similar, every day is different, interesting yet challenging, as Tom and the team work towards fulfilling customers’ new requirements. “I actually enjoy the pressure that comes from high-expectations,” Tom added.

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