#21: Nina Ortega – Distribution Coordinator at Pederson’s Farms
Nina Ortega Podcast Transcript
Neil Dudley: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Pederson’s Farms podcast. We are so excited you’re here. We appreciate you joining us. And we look forward to sharing these conversations with thought leaders from our industry. They’re going to paint a picture from every perspective – consumer, customer, vendor, employee, and peer – that I think is going to be super valuable, and we’re really excited to share. So, thanks for tuning in. Remember don’t tune out, and grab life by the bacon.
Welcome to the Pederson’s Farms podcast. This is such a fun thing we’re doing these days to tell the story of our industry, our company, through the eyes of the people we work with, not only employees, but also vendors, customers, consumers, and even peers, people in the industry. So, this is Nina Ortega. She works at our distribution facility, and I want everybody to get to hear her story because she’s a really awesome member of our team. She does a lot of things that just keep the product flowing. So, Nina, why don’t you tell everybody where you’re from and just a little bit about where you come from, so everybody can- somebody might say, ooh, I’m a lot like Nina.
Nina Ortega: I’m Nina Ortega. I live here in Arlington, Texas. I moved here from Wisconsin about eight, maybe nine years ago. And I’ve been working here for probably around three and a half, four years.
Neil Dudley: Wow, time flies, doesn’t it?
Nina Ortega: It does.
Neil Dudley: It really does. Okay so, now you’ve been with us for three and a half years. What are some of the different things you’ve done over that time?
Nina Ortega: I used to work in TSG, which is the Simple Grocer. I used to do that. I’ve also-
Neil Dudley: Okay, you’re leaving it real simple, like what did you do for the Simple Grocer?
Nina Ortega: I packaged the orders that were shipped out to people’s houses. So that played a really big role during the pandemic. It was really important to get people’s food out. So, we did that. We shipped them out with dry ice and made sure everything got to them nice and fresh.
Neil Dudley: What did that look like though? Like what was the day in the life of Nina in that time period? When you were playing that role within the company, what did a day in the life of Nina look like?
Nina Ortega: Got here early in the morning, and let’s see, got everything ready to be packaged up, so opening cases and checking all the packages, pulling anything that people ordered, and just kind of making sure they get all of the best things, packing dry ice in boxes, which is freezing cold. So, you kind of feel like a snowman.
Neil Dudley: So maybe, is being from Wisconsin a piece of what makes you successful with this job just from the cold environment, like in that warehouse? Do you spend time in the warehouse much anymore?
Nina Ortega: Not as much anymore. I’m in the office more now. But when I was in there, it did make a difference. I think my body was kind of used to that type of environment. So, it’s pretty cold most of the year over there.
Neil Dudley: Tell us a little bit about the temperature of the rooms. Like what was it? So how cold was it where you worked?
Nina Ortega: Between 34 and like 40 degrees. So, I’d say it’s pretty cold. And then in and out of the freezer, the freezer’s like maybe negative 15 sometimes, negative 8. So somewhere in those, I guess, temperature zones.
Neil Dudley: Those temperatures zones are where Nina lived her early career at Pederson’s, and a lot of people still do. There’s a team out there working each and every day to fulfill orders, make sure shipments go out. Nina was talking specifically about the Simple Grocer, and that’s direct-to-consumer fulfillment that we do, but we also have pallets and truckloads of product that flow through the system, which is probably a good segue into what you deal with more so now. So, tell us a little bit about your role within the company today.
Nina Ortega: Now I kind of just go over everything that consumers order, big box stores, even smaller companies will order, and we just go over pallets and pallets of stuff, making sure everything is dated well so we don’t sell anything that’s out of date or bad product.
Neil Dudley: Yeah, you have to totally keep an eye on what we say left the building is actually what left the building. And sometimes- So what about receiving and that kind of thing? Do you deal with any of that?
Nina Ortega: I don’t receive anything, but I do schedule the trucks coming in to make sure that we do have time to unload everything safely and properly and just make sure that we can check everything before we accept it in the building.
Neil Dudley: You’re so awesome. You’re just unassuming. Like you act like that’s nothing, but it’s a lot. I promise you deal with so much every day in the form of emails, forms to fill out, software on the computer to make sure stuff’s entered right. I mean, you really just do a huge job, and you talk about it a little bit like, oh, well, I kind of make sure we have time to unload stuff, but that’s a complicated role you play, and I appreciate it. I know our customers appreciate it because the truth is the product they need for the consumers that shop at their stores, or even the people need it at their home for the meals they’re planning, it doesn’t get there without Nina. Oh, and by the way, hi everybody out on YouTube. Thanks for watching if you happen to be paying attention on that platform because it’s just our desire to get these conversations out to as many people as possible. So, we’re filming this, we’ll put it on YouTube. We’re also putting it on all of the podcast platforms that are out there so people can get to know Pederson’s and the people that work at Pederson’s and the people Pederson’s works with, which I’ve already said all that. I don’t know why I’m saying that a second time. All right, Nina, so let’s talk a little bit about you just as a person. Like where does your skill set come from or what makes you good at doing what you do? I’m afraid you’re going to have a hard time answering this because probably don’t give yourself enough credit, but let’s just explore it a little bit. Like how did you learn to be so good?
Nina Ortega: I think maybe with being younger, my mom was sick for a long time, so I helped her with a lot of things like that, and it kind of, I guess, gave me the confidence to just be able to multitask and do things like that. So that definitely helped.
Neil Dudley: Did you have to take care of your mom through an illness or something? Is she still with us? I mean, some of this is good for me because I get to learn some things about you that I wouldn’t. Like you and I don’t work together on a daily basis. We work together in the same company, but we don’t talk very often. I see you a few times when I come up to the DC, but other than that– So, I’m interested. And it’s kind of shame on me that I haven’t asked you these questions before, right?
Nina Ortega: Well, and you were busy.
Neil Dudley: Well, that’s right. So, this even gives us a chance to slow down and learn some stuff about each other. And you feel free to ask me anything too. I think this conversation’s insight for consumers or anybody to say, hey, these are also real people that work within a company that tries to just do the right thing and provide me with things that I need. So, tell me a little bit about your mom because I bet she was a cool gal.
Nina Ortega: Oh, she was, she was actually born here in Texas. She’s a Texas native.
Neil Dudley: So, how’d she end up in Wisconsin? Or was she there with you in Wisconsin? Okay.
Nina Ortega: So, we lived there for 20 years, so most of my childhood. We moved here from Texas to Wisconsin. My dad got a job up there, and then we spent most of our lives there. She passed over there, and then we moved here because she wanted to be buried here in Texas with her family.
Neil Dudley: You still have some family here? Are you close to them? Do you know them?
Nina Ortega: Not really. Mainly I think just because we all grew up differently, so we’re not super close, but I do still see them on holidays and stuff.
Neil Dudley: Well, it’s nice just to even think you’re close to family, even if you don’t know them that well. Sometimes just that proximity is a comforting thing.
Nina Ortega: It was just nice to come down here and actually meet them and get to know them.
Neil Dudley: We’re going to explore something here I’m hoping you’re okay sharing, but you battle some health issues too, right? And then you- like, that’s what’s so impressive about you. That’s one reason I want to tell your story so much because in just your life outside of Pederson’s, you have to work hard. Let’s share that a little bit with everybody. So what’s going on? And how do you find that I guess I want to call it strength really to deal with personal life outside of work and then still come to work and perform so well and be so focused?
Nina Ortega: I guess I was 28, and I was diagnosed with kidney failure. So, my kidneys don’t work, like very low percentage. So, I’m on dialysis now. And I’ve been on dialysis for just about four years, and I’m now working on the process of getting on the transplant list.
Neil Dudley: Wow, what’s that like?
Nina Ortega: It just started, it’s a pretty long process. It’s like six to eight months of testing and stuff. But once I get through that, I’ll be on the transplant list, which, because I’m still so young, they said that I have a higher average of getting a kidney, within the first two or three years of being on the list. So, I’m kind of just trying to hurry up and get that done.
Neil Dudley: Right. Are you really excited about that? See now I have no clue what you go through. Like I don’t know what the dialysis entails or how often you have to do it. Like is this an everyday thing for you? Is it painful?
Nina Ortega: When I first started, it was an everyday thing, because there’s a few different types of dialysis, and I used to do one at home that was an everyday thing. And that was a little too time consuming for my life. And I went through a very depressive state for a while because of it. And then I moved on to a different type that’s a little easier on my life. It’s only three days a week. So, I leave work here, and then I go there, and then I come home.
Neil Dudley: Do you have to recover from that or is it-?
Nina Ortega: It’s not too bad. I think when I first started, it was a little rough because my body wasn’t used to it. But now that I’m kind of used to it, it’s not as bad. Some days are better than others. Some days I might go home feeling like I got hit by a truck. Some days I might go home feeling like a million bucks. It’s just kind of iffy, here and there.
Neil Dudley: See, and you just- I think that’s such a great story. Like you have a thing, it’s not optional. Can you choose which days you go or is it like these three days?
Nina Ortega: You get like a schedule. So, there’s two different schedules. You could go Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, which I used to do. But I don’t like giving up my Saturdays. So, I go Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and I do evenings. So that way I can come to work, and I can work a full-time job. because before, when I was doing Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, it was really hard for me to work full time. It would kind of cut into my day.
Neil Dudley: Why was that? Because the timing of the Tuesday and Thursday wasn’t an evening?
Nina Ortega: It wasn’t evening, it was midday. And so, it takes about four hours for you to do your whole process. And then it takes like 30 minutes before getting prepared and then getting disconnected. So, all in all it’s around five hours that you’re at that clinic.
Neil Dudley: I just want to say I love you. I mean, seriously, you’re just a beautiful person, and nobody would even know some of the stuff you go through. And I just called it stuff, I don’t even know if that’s fair. But you keep a good attitude about it and you share. I mean, I’m proud of you for being willing to share, because I mean, you probably see other people that are in this clinic that are going through the same thing. So, there’s going to be listeners, it could be even people that eat our products that wow, Nina’s the person making sure this product gets to the Whole Foods where I buy it. And that’s just kind of a cool thing. I like sharing so people can make those connections and have real understanding of the humans that make Pederson’s what it is.
Nina Ortega: I think it’s important because like I’m the youngest person at my clinic. Most of the people are older people, but there’s a few younger people. And I feel like when I first started, I kind of felt alone. So, it’s nice to share and know that I’m not the only person going through it.
Neil Dudley: Anybody, if you’d like to reach out and just show Nina some support, please do that. Hit us up on the website, our social media, anything, Nina Ortega, the rockstar in the distribution center. We certainly appreciate her. And if you guys want to show her support, man, we’ll pass that along to her too. Okay, let’s see, I’m thinking- now I’m just like stuck on this kidney. Are you going to get one easy do you think? Do you have an easy match? Or how does that work?
Nina Ortega: I’m not sure yet. I haven’t gotten to that part yet. So, I don’t know. But being that I’m young, my body may accept it a little easier than some of the older people. So, I don’t think I’ll have too much of a hard time finding one.
Neil Dudley: I’m going to be praying for the list to move quickly and that match to be found.
Nina Ortega: We can only hope so.
Neil Dudley: That’s right. And that’s such a good illustration of a good attitude. Like you understand it will be on the right timing and it might not be tomorrow. So, I think, man, I’m learning from you right now. Just I get impatient about stuff, business or whatever might be going on. Your patience and your attitude is a good I guess thing for me to experience because I need a little more of it.
Nina Ortega: I feel like emotions play a good part also in your body being able to accept an organ. Because if you’re in a bad place, I think that your body will kind of just be so distracted by being depressed or having a crazy state of mind that it won’t be able to focus on what’s important. So, it’s important to stay focused with a good attitude.
Neil Dudley: All right. So now on to some other things about this distribution center you work in each and every day. You come early. So you can- What time do you show up typically?
Nina Ortega: Between 7 and 7:30.
Neil Dudley: So, you get started early in the day. And what would you say is the most dynamic thing right now in this world? Like in this time, it seems to me like a lot of things are crazy. Is there a specific, anything that seems to be the most- It needs the most of your attention? Well, I just want to put that question out there and see, do you have something in your mind? Seems to be crazy.
Nina Ortega: I think everything is important here. Everything.
Neil Dudley: So, would you say, I don’t even know how involved you are in it, but we’ll explore it. So supply, okay, so we’re doing direct fulfillment. I know we run out of boxes sometimes and dry ice sometimes. Is that one of the toughest things to answer now? Is it labor?
Nina Ortega: It is kind of hard actually, the supply. Because I mean, we ran out of coolers, and it took us weeks to get coolers because their suppliers and the people that make them are having problems getting what they need to make the products, too. So, it’s kind of like everything’s a little on back order.
Neil Dudley: And it puts a heightened importance on planning, communication, all these things that in Pederson’s we need to get a little better at, I mean, some of that stuff. And I think it’s parallel to lots of companies are experiencing that similar thing right now. You’re learning the importance of communication within the company is so big because you guys need to know we’re planning promotions that’s going to increase the movement of some item. And if we don’t pass that along, then, uh-oh, that’s a surprise for you. You used to, kind of prior to some of this pandemic fallout, which is shortages in supply chains or even just finding weaknesses in supply chains, you could scramble and solve those problems. Like, hey, Mr. Vendor, please, bring it tomorrow, and they’d be like, okay, cool, we’ll fit you in. Now, they just can’t.
Nina Ortega: They are really trying so hard. Kind of like you said, it’s a scramble for sure. I mean, it took us, for ice packs, it took weeks of us not having them. So, it does. And you kind of have to just call around to everybody you can think of and hope for the best.
Neil Dudley: And then that’s added work on you on top of all the other things that still have to be done. So, it just paints a really vivid picture of the importance of people on your team, within your team, working together, also those vendors that you work with being willing to help. What about the people? How many people work here? And has that been dynamic?
Nina Ortega: I think there’s, let’s see, maybe six people besides myself, and we work pretty well together. Everybody gets along. And I think that’s important too.
Neil Dudley: Do you ever feel like there’s not enough people?
Nina Ortega: Some weeks. Some weeks it feels like there’s so much going on. And then some weeks it’s like there’s too many of us. What do we do? It kind of week to week changes.
Neil Dudley: That’s such a great truth. And I’m not even scared to- somebody might say, well, uh-oh, like what are you saying? You’re just putting it out there you sometimes aren’t busy? Well, yeah, but sometimes you are, and you have to work overtime and scramble and all those things. So, it just is such I think a good insight for everybody listening, just to know. By the way, if you’re looking for work, hit us up because we’re looking for help. I think that’s also true in the world right now. A lot of businesses are trying to find people who are interested to come help and be a part of the team. What’s your favorite thing to do here?
Nina Ortega: Probably planning out. I like scheduling things. I actually do like doing that. I think my favorite thing is when we have birthdays or holidays. I like getting ready for those things. I don’t know, I kind of like a little bit of chaos; it keeps me busy.
Neil Dudley: It’s kind of a good distraction. So, why did you say- I don’t know. Tell me about the holidays and birthdays. Like, why did you say that? Do y’all do something?
Nina Ortega: Here, we like to bake each other cakes, sing happy birthday, play pranks on each other sometimes, goofy little things just to kind of make everybody’s day a little better.
Neil Dudley: Birthdays are a great excuse to celebrate somebody.
Nina Ortega: And then, if you’re having a bad week, it gives you a nice pick me up.
Neil Dudley: All right, now then, the million-dollar question, what’s your least favorite thing that you’ve got to do?
Nina Ortega: Dot boxes.
Neil Dudley: So y’all do a little production up there.
Nina Ortega: We do small production.
Neil Dudley: That’s insight for everybody, this facility’s actually under USDA inspection, so y’all can do some production up here. Why do you think that is the least favorite thing? Is it just- well, just tell me.
Nina Ortega: It’s more like because they take so many different items, I’m the person that plans out what lot numbers, what dates they’re taking, how many cases they have to take. I have to do all the math on that. So, I have to plan out that and then plan out what day are we going to get it done, and kind of keep on them.
Neil Dudley: And I’m always saying we need it now.
Nina Ortega: If we need 450 cases of something, I’ve got to plan that out for them and get it ready so that someone out there, one of our team members can start working on it.
Neil Dudley: Sure. I thought you said a great thing too, is you keep up with the lots, which is the traceability. See, that’s just beautiful. We have people here, at the plant, all over our company, who are paying attention so our products can be traced all the way back to production and the farm, and that kind of transparency is really important to our consumers. It’s important to our company. Like if we didn’t have that, if we didn’t have you paying attention to that, we couldn’t deliver that when it was needed. And well, it’s even a testament to the government. Like the USDA requires us to be able to do that in case there is something that comes up and there was a problem with our product, we can trace it and get it all back.
Nina Ortega: And we have a cool USDA guy. He’s very awesome.
Neil Dudley: And they’re helpful. They’re knowledgeable. They’re helpful. Like a lot of times, sometimes, it can feel a little bit burdensome. I want to say this. It might not be actually true, but I always felt, man, I don’t want anybody watching over me because that means I could get in trouble. Well, no, actually it’s not about getting in trouble, it’s about helping, making sure you’re being the best you can be. And that’s awesome. That’s an awesome resource to have. Okay so, outside of work, what’s your hobby, favorite thing to do? Do you have time for that?
Nina Ortega: Since I do a lot of sitting, I like to knit, which is kind of an old lady thing to do, but I really love it.
Neil Dudley: So, what’s some of the things you’ve knitted? Are there different ways of knitting or is it just-?
Nina Ortega: Yeah, there’s a lot of different stuff. There’s a lot. I kind of like to learn all the new ways of doing things. I like to knit hats. That’s probably my favorite. And mittens, I really like those.
Neil Dudley: Well, see, I learned something else about you. Do you just do- so I imagine if you’re sitting a lot, you’ve knitted a lot of things. Where is all that stuff?
Nina Ortega: I usually give them away. I kind of do it just for the relaxation of it. I do give a lot of them away to a lot of the ladies at my dialysis. Because it’s very cold in there. And since they’re pulling the blood out of your body, your body temperature drops, so it gets very cold in there. So, I like to share my stuff with everybody.
Neil Dudley: That’s just awesome. I love that story. Like you’re going through it, but you’re also knitting and giving to others who are there going through the same thing. Nina, you are just awesome. You really are. I don’t have any other questions prepared. I feel like we’ve covered a lot of really fun stuff. Is there anything you would say to somebody that might someday think about being an employee of Pederson’s that like, hey, good, bad or otherwise, I mean, there’s no pressure.
Nina Ortega: I mean, if you like the cold, we’re here for you. If you don’t like working in the heat, it stays nice and chilly in here. So, I definitely think that’s one thing to think about if you want to work here.
Neil Dudley: And if you have a forklift license or if you like planning, any of those kinds of like skill sets.
Nina Ortega: Yes, if you’re good at math, we love that too.
Neil Dudley: That’s right. If you just like processes and making processes and following processes, that’s the kind of people that are successful in a warehouse environment, especially at this warehouse. Ladies and gentlemen-
Nina Ortega: And we have a great boss here.
Neil Dudley: Oh, there you go. We’ll plug Steven Fackler a little bit. He’s an Englishman. One of these days we’ll have to have him on here just so everybody can hear his accent. But he is a great guy. He’s really enjoyable to build a thing with. And that’s the truth of it – we’re all building a thing. It’s this Pederson’s brand, it’s this Pederson’s company, and we’re doing it together. Each and every person plays a role in that. So, thanks for listening. I got all tongue tied there, but what I want to say is, Nina, thank you so much for joining the show, being a part of this conversation, being a part of this company and doing the great things you do for us each and every day. I hope you know you’re appreciated. I feel certain Steven tells you that. If he doesn’t, he should. And I certainly want to from my seat and the things that I do each and every day, I take for granted a lot of times how great we are at stuff because it just doesn’t even occur to me because it always happens right, and it is good. So sometimes being unnoticed is one of the greatest compliments because you just are always on the ball doing the great thing. I don’t mean to not notice you, but sometimes it happens, and I’m taking this chance to say I see you now, and I appreciate you so much. Thanks for listening, everybody. I promise if you come back for the next episode, we’ll have some more great conversation with somebody you’ll learn something from. Talk to you later.
Hey, everybody. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Pederson’s Farms Podcast. It’s been a blast bringing this to you, and I sure hope you enjoyed it and found value. If you did, tell a friend, share it out on social media, hit that subscribe button or go check us out at pedersonsfarms.com. We sure hope you do. And thanks for being here.
Visit us online at www.PedersonsFarms.com
(0:52) – Introducing Nina Ortega & her role at Pederson’s
(6:11) – Nina & her relationship with her mother
(8:42) – Battling health issues
(15:12) – Supply chain issues
(18:19) – The Pederson’s workplace dynamic
(22:50) – Hobbies outside of work
(24:10) – A message to anyone interested in working at Pederson’s!
The Pederson’s Farms Podcast is produced by Straight Up Podcasts & Root and Roam.