Food In Canada

Who’s Who 2024: John MacQuarrie, director of environmental sustainability operations, Cavendish Farms

By Jack Kazmierski   

Food In Canada Fruit & Vegetables Cavendish Farms Editor pick

John MacQuarrie is delighted to work for an organization that shares his values

Photo © Cavendish Farms

John MacQuarrie, director of environmental sustainability operations, Cavendish Farms, is one of those rare individuals whose career path has allowed him to follow his passions: agriculture and the environment.

Growing up, he remembers spending the summers working on his grandfather’s farm. Later on, he pursued a master’s degree in agricultural science from McGill University in Montreal. After graduating, he worked in the PEI Department of Agriculture and eventually he became the deputy minister for the department. And for the past seven years, he’s been the director of environmental sustainability operations at Cavendish Farms.

A changing industry

Over his many decades in the industry, MacQuarrie has seen agriculture change and evolve. One of the biggest changes, he says, is today’s focus on sustainability.


“Historically, we were focused on production,” he explains. “It was all about how much can we produce per square acre. But today, our customers want to know how the food was grown. They’re as concerned about sustainability as they are about the quality of the product.”

MacQuarrie says that the industry’s focus on sustainable food production is the reason he joined Cavendish Farms. In fact, he was hired to fill a newly created position dedicated to the environment and sustainability.

Cavendish Farms has customers all over the globe, and MacQuarrie says that a growing number of these customers are looking at the bigger picture.

“They want to know how we are engaging with farmers to help them farm more sustainably, what we’re doing to measure our own greenhouse gas emissions, and how we plan to reduce those emissions,” he says.

Two decades ago customers weren’t asking these questions. “Today they are, and that’s why Cavendish Farms needed to have someone who can stay focused on the matter,” MacQuarrie says.

ESG reports

Running a successful food production operation today is about more than simply offering the best price for a pound of produce. It’s also about explaining how that produce was grown and harvested.

“One of our challenges is simply keeping up with our customers’ demands for more and more information,” MacQuarrie explains. “Our ESG [environment social governance] reports cover all aspects of our business, and one of our goals is to package this information in an efficient manner that answers our customers’ questions and concerns.”

Economic benefits

Sustainability and economic benefits go hand-in-hand, MacQuarrie says, which is why he’s determined to help farmers see the economic benefits of managing their crops responsibly.

What’s good for farmers, is good for Cavendish Farms, and MacQuarrie argues that sustainability can benefit companies financially.

“When we use our resources, like water and fuel more responsibly, and we reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we see an economic benefit,” he adds.

One of the reasons MacQuarrie was first attracted to Cavendish Farms, he says, is that their commitment to the environment and to sustainability is real.

“Some workplaces talk a lot about  values,” he says, “but at Cavendish Farms, it’s more than just a poster on a wall. That’s why I feel so lucky to work for an organization like this.” 

This article was originally published in the April/May 2024 issue of Food in Canada.

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