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Meet John & Leann Saunders of Where Food Comes From in Castle Rock

Today we’d like to introduce you to John & Leann Saunders.

After graduating from college, John moved to Colorado and immediately founded the company (originally as IMI Global) to provide livestock producers with traceability and source verification services to meet export market opportunities. It has been his only job for more than 20 years.

Today, Where Food Comes From, Inc. (along with its subsidiaries IMI Global, International Certification Services, Sterling Solutions, SureHarvest, and Validus Verification Services) is a publically traded company under the ticker symbol WFCF and audits to more than 30 independent standards for 12,000 plus farm and ranch customers. The company also works with some of the largest and most prestigious food companies in the world including Tyson Foods, Whole Foods Markets and McDonald’s. John is married to Leann Saunders, the co-founder and President of WFCF. Leann worked full time the first seven years John was starting the business so they could keep the dream alive. In 2003, she joined the WFCF team!

Prior to her time at Where Food Comes From, Leann worked for PM Beef Holdings, where she developed the first-ever USDA Process Verified Program for beef in the U.S. Leann also worked for McDonald’s Corporation and Hudson Foods Corporation.

Leann currently sits on several boards, which all show her passion for programs that support education and opportunities for those interested in agriculture. In 2015, she was the Chair of the United States Meat Export Federation, a culmination of her four years on the board of directors, and only one of two women to have served in this position. Leann also remains involved with her family’s ranching and stocker operations and is part-owner of the Mayfield Ranches near Playas, New Mexico.

Has it been a smooth road?
It definitely hasn’t been a smooth road. I think as entrepreneurs you have to have a certain “stick-to-it-ness”, meaning this ability to hear “no” thousands of times, but just not give up. When John started the business in 1996, they didn’t have any money and they were still paying off student loans, so Leann continued to work outside of the business so that they could survive. There were years of hardwork without pay, just trying to build the business, every ounce of revenue had to go back into the business. But we made it through and in 2003 we had a catalyst that really helped get the business to the next level, and at that time, Leann was able to join full time as well. As you work to grow a business, there are constantly ups and downs, and when you start from scratch, you still wake up everyday, knowing it could all go away tomorrow. Working together, side-by-side has its amazing advantages. Because we are very different people, we can take those complimentary skills and focus on different areas of the business. But the downside is that it makes for a different type of marriage. We are both business partners, co-leaders of the company and we are married and have three kids together. We try our best to find a balance in life, but there is no such thing as leaving your work at work. We live our work, and our kids have grown up in an environment where they think this weird situation is normal!

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Where Food Comes From – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Where Food Comes From does just that….it tells people where their food comes from and the stories behind their food. We work with many different standard setting bodies and brands to help them authentically verify attributes in their supply chains, whether it be animal welfare practices used in the beef industry, to Gluten Free certification, to organic certification, the list goes on and on. We started in the beef industry, helping ranchers identify cattle, and verify them to certain program requirements (like animal health and welfare requirements, feeding practices, etc…), and today we verify all types of foods today and even flowers! We feel strongly that we help farmers and ranchers access value-added markets and provide authenticity and transparency to consumers.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
What we love:
— We love the climate in this area, you can’t beat it.
— We love the outdoor activities.
— We love in Castle Rock, the access to a small town feel.
— We love how it incentivizes us and our employees to stay active and healthy.

What we like least:
— The cost of living is high.
— It’s a challenge to find access to reasonably priced housing compared to other cities.
— Too many people are learning about how awesome it is to live here and are moving in😊

Contact Info:

  • Website: wherefoodcomesfrom.com
  • Phone: 303-895-3002
  • Email: info@wherefoodcomesfrom.com
  • Instagram: @VerifyYourFood
  • Facebook: @WhereFoodComesFrom1
  • Twitter: @VerifyYourFood

Getting in touch: VoyageDenver is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

2 Comments

  1. Jim Whitt

    April 30, 2019 at 2:12 pm

    A great story about great people who dared to do something great! Thanks John and Leann for being an entrepreneurial inspiration.

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