Melanie LaPerriere, President and CEO has brought a refreshingly new way of thinking to Cherry Central by creating a culture, vision, and mission for the organization through strategic planning efforts. Melanie has done a phenomenal job promoting an open and collaborative work environment. She makes herself available for her team to brainstorm new ideas and processes. If it aligns with Cherry Central’s branding, vision, and organizational goals, she allows her employee's creative freedom with projects and lets them be the decision-makers.  

She encourages out-of-the-box thinking. Although things may have worked in the past, she recognizes process inefficiencies. If there is a more efficient and effective way of doing things, Melanie will allow and promote that process to be implemented. Driving brand recognition is vital to a sales and marketing organization. Since she is holding her team accountable to keep things consistent, it has led to many doors being opened for not just her organization but for her employees too.

Melanie trusts her team members and empowers them to do their job. She does not micro-manage; instead, she encourages and motivates them through constructive criticism. Communication is critical for her; where she asks for input and ideas from team members before making decisions; she reinforces positive feedback and has an open door policy. She strongly believes in a balance between personal and work life. Melanie inspires her employees on a personal and professional level every day. It can be challenging to collaborate with others to accommodate a group of members' wants and needs. Melanie often acknowledges that and is vocal about her appreciation for her team’s dedication and hard work. She also recognizes the importance of celebrating her team’s milestones and encourages the team to commemorate any professional and personal achievement in the office as a group.

“There is a fine line you must balance regarding your relationships with your employees as a boss. You want to get along well and be friendly with team members, but you must get through difficult conversations when needed,” says Melanie. She works to build relationships with every one of her colleagues but has all their utmost respect. Melanie is patient and handles difficult situations with grace. Her team would never know when she is having a bad day. No job is beneath her, and she would never ask someone to do something she would not be willing to do herself.

 

Cherry Central is a farmer-owned cooperative that believes we are stronger when we work together. Today, Cherry Central comprises hundreds of small family farms. Just as our farmers have been innovating for generations, so is Cherry Central. Cherry Central is committed to the power of good.

 

“Melanie is knowledgeable in many areas, teaches us daily, and supports any opportunity employees may have to grow. Melanie is strong, kind, and effective in everything she does. Her team feels lucky to have her,” states one of Cherry Central’s employees.

It is pertinent to mention that Melanie works very hard to support the system to business leaders willing to be transparent and vulnerable regarding their needs and wants. “I’m not great at reading tea leaves, but I work very hard to be a servant leader. Local to where I live, a young family has established a business post COVID. They had been traveling through North America showcasing their work at high-end flower shows,” elucidates Melanie. “In March of 2020, they were attending the Boston Flower show when it was shut down mid-show. For the next 18 months, they looked for ways to continue their livelihood. In May of 2021, they leased out a storefront and took their work into a shop. They are thriving! This had nothing to do with me but because of their willingness to assess the situation, create a risk assessment, and develop a business plan incorporating their work and long-term goals for their business. Over the past year, I have worked to provide support, coaching and just plain help to them as they navigate their future business plans.”

In 2023, Cherry Central will celebrate its 50th anniversary. The company is a vertically integrated agricultural cooperative, and its strategic approach has been to develop long-term relationships across multiple geographic regions. “We have remained unwavering in our commitment to develop new markets throughout the time that the world has been shut down. This is a risk as the expense continues to outpace the return,” says the steadfast leader. “We believe we are investing in our owners’ futures. Our goals include worldwide growth and consumption of our product offerings, increased brand recognition, and leading efforts through the USDA school lunch programs. Ultimately, we want to expand in all market channels and walks of life for generations to come.”