Cat Gipe-Stewart can’t get enough superfresh fruit

Creating fruit and friends is Cat Gipe-Stewart's daily bread.

Gourmands have long held that chocolate and fruit pair together well. That may explain some of the success that Catherine “Cat” Gipe-Stewart has enjoyed as communications manager for Domex Superfresh Growers. She came to them three years ago from the marketing department at Theo Chocolate, where she was the marketing events manager. Cat has learned a new appreciation for apples, pears, cherries, and apricots, the main fruits that Superfresh Growers grow and distribute nationwide.

Cat has a few things to confess when it comes to produce. She grew up sneaking all of the fresh tomatoes she could from the kitchen counter. Her mother took to hiding them to assure there were enough for dinner.

“I love to eat!” the 2010 Seattle Pacific University graduate freely admits. And the fresher the food the better. Her mom was raised on an Iowa farm and grew up in soybean, corn, cattle, and hog country. Midwest. Big tractors. Agriculture as far as the eye could see.

Cat Gipe-Stewart
Cat Gipe-Stewart

Cat picked blueberries at age 14 and later worked in restaurants and food service. Today she drives to work every morning through Yakima Valley’s Cowiche Canyon. She watches the sun rise over the orchards, hop fields, and vineyards on her way to an office surrounded by orchards.

“Being that close to the source of my work is truly special,” says Cat. “I have a direct pipeline to our growers, workers, and the nature that provides our orchards the nutrients needed, including snow melt for irrigation, 300 days of sunshine, and rich volcanic soil.”

Domex Superfresh Growers is a fifth-generation company that has farmed the land for more than 125 years. One of Cat’s great pleasures has been to tell the story of the Autumn Glory apple, a variety exclusive to the company. In 2015, when she first started at Superfresh Growers, the company barely harvested enough of the apple variety to sell. This year, the Autumn Glory was ranked one of the Top 20 U.S. apples. In telling the story of the apple’s meteoric rise in popularity, Cat has devoted countless hours and considerable energy on social media campaigns, blogger relations, and meeting with customers nationwide.

“Consumers demand high flavor when it comes to produce, and I love unique and delicious things. Autumn Glory checks all those boxes.”

She explains her passion for the new apple. “Consumers demand high flavor when it comes to produce, and I love unique and delicious things. Autumn Glory checks all those boxes.” Then, like a connoisseur of fine wine, she describes the apple’s flavor profile as “natural caramel and cinnamon notes, with a juicy, sweet, and crunchy bite.”

One of her favorite involvements is being a board member of Produce for Better Health Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to achieving increased daily consumption of fruits and vegetables. “PBH has an ambitious goal of doubling fruit and vegetable consumption,” she says. “Most Americans don’t eat the recommended daily amount. I was amazed to learn from PBH that the main vegetable our nation’s toddlers consume is potatoes in the form of French fries.”

honey crisp salsa tacos

She further notes that eating habits established in childhood determine our lifestyle habits as adults. Most 2- to 4-year-old children don’t receive sufficient potassium, fiber, Vitamin D, or healthy fats — all things with which produce is richly endowed. Instead, those same children have diets high in destructive solid fats, sodium, and added sugars.

… eating habits established in childhood determine our lifestyle habits as adults.

Also active in Women’s Fresh Perspectives events sponsored by the Produce Marketing Association, Cat traces her well-developed social conscience to her formative years at Seattle Pacific, where she first majored in international business. She found an academic climate that heavily emphasized social justice.

She switched to the new global development studies major and was a member of that discipline’s first graduating class. She learned about empowering people, especially women, and building an economy from the ground up. That inspired Cat to take women’s studies courses. She thrived in the required theology classes, such as Women in Christianity, and saw the great good that could come from women of faith as change-makers in their communities. She examined the benefits of Fair Trade principles and, while yet a student, worked summers as a tour guide at Theo Chocolate. That combination of study and experience in social business, and her post-graduation job at Theo, set the direction for her life’s work.

Now her days are full of press releases, media relations, recipe formation, trade shows, marketing and company growth strategy, food safety communication, customer development, migrant labor issues, and lots of fruit.

And don’t forget those orchards at sunrise.

video courtesy Superfresh Growers

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