By: Leslie G. Sarasin, President and CEO, FMI
In February, we celebrate Supermarket Employee Day, which recognizes the unsung heroes within our industry who feed and foster communities. Hopefully, some of these amazing people will be inspired to become the next generation of executive leaders, as evidenced by history and how many of our board members started their careers as store associates.
When I visit my local supermarket, I always seek to treat the associate helping me like the next Sidney R. Rabb, the former chief executive of The Stop and Shop Supermarket Company, who was a role model for statesmanship and community service and who recognized the industry's higher purpose in serving society. I'm always inspired by the humility of our great leaders and how they learned to elevate others along the way in their careers. They also never took their eyes off the shopper. Perhaps the most notable figure in helping retailers view their role as that of serving as the purchasing agent of the consumer was Esther Peterson, who served as special assistant for consumer affairs under U.S. Presidents Johnson and Carter and pioneered the role for the food industry as vice president for consumer affairs at Giant Food Inc.
At the Midwinter Executive Conference earlier this month, we honored an incredible slate of Executive Leadership Award winners, and I intentionally saved one recognition for a person who would be far too humble to take away any ray of spotlight from our members. She is truly the embodiment of member service and sacrifice.
I'm referring to Dagmar Farr, FMI's former senior vice president of member relations, who recently retired from our organization after an illustrious, decades-long career.
At the 2024 FMI Board of Directors meeting, Dagmar was surprised with the Esther Peterson Award in front of the very people she most deeply respects and admires. And how appropriate to give her the Esther Peterson award because no one has been a better advocate for the ideals of service and sacrifice that Peterson expressed than Dagmar Farr.
Dagmar has been a loyal disciple of Esther for years and we're all the better for it.
You don't remember things because of the rewards or because someone may remember you after you are gone — the satisfaction is in the doing.
The irony is that Dagmar is a driving force behind FMI's awards programs. As such, she dedicates much of her time helping celebrate the work and accomplishments of others in our industry.
It was my cherished privilege to turn the tables and shine a spotlight on one who is usually working to highlight the significant deeds of others.
After giving us more than 40 years of immeasurable service, Dagmar yet again transitioned her talents at FMI, this time from full-time employment to a consulting role. I am grateful for her willingness to remain attached to FMI so that we can continue to draw upon her wealth of knowledge, experience, and industry insight.
In 2023, she began a more focused approach to a program that she has nurtured and grown, the FMI Share Group model, and today, the program boasts more than 10 share groups and 15+ sub-share groups that allow independent operators and regional chains to assemble and share strategies and tactics with similar companies in a non-competitive format.
Dagmar inspires passion for learning and networking and she helps FMI members solve their greatest business challenges.
To list all of Dagmar's accomplishments and passions would take days, but I wanted to call out two areas in particular that would have made Esther most proud as a dedicated consumer affairs professional.
In 1997, Dagmar helped establish the Partnership for Food Safety Education. She encouraged FMI and 13 other organizations to join together as founding members and sign an MOU to create the framework for collaboration to develop science-based, consumer-oriented messages to promote safe food handling practices and reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Because of that strong foundation, rooted in science and a collaborative framework, for the last two and half decades, the Partnership has led the way in consumer food safety education.
In 2018, Dagmar was honored for her many years of committed and extraordinary service on the board of directors of the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC). FRAC is a national non-profit organization that works to remove stigmas surrounding food assistance programs and restore dignity to those who struggle to put food on the table.
I'm reminded that Esther Peterson said, in part, "You don't remember things because of the rewards or because someone may remember you after you are gone – the satisfaction is in the doing."
And Dagmar does. She does it all.
My thanks to Dagmar for being our friend and a tremendous asset to this organization.