Seniors in a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo seminar saw another side of the produce industry when Tonya Antle, recently retired Earthbound Farm vice president for organic sales, took them on a tour of the Los Angeles Terminal Market and nearby distribution centers.

Antle volunteers as an adjunct professor in agricultural business marketing at the California university. Her seminar is Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Marketing. Twenty-five students from the course and the department, plus four faculty members, took the tour April 20.

Chris Puentes, president of Interfresh, was the host for the day.

"Often, students think the only option is production or f.o.b. selling,” Antle said. “I feel my charge in this class is to expose them to all the possibilities our incredible industry has to offer.”

Arriving in Los Angeles a few hours after a 2 a.m. departure — due to the industry’s early-morning activity — the group started with a day-in-the-life view of terminal market jobbers.

Along the way they met with John Corsaro, executive vice president of Giumarra Cos.

From the terminal market they proceeded to two distributors: Westlake Produce Co. and Interfresh. At Westlake Produce, partners Jeff Miller and Bill Brooks met with students. At Interfresh, Puentes spoke on the importance of product knowledge and long-term business relationships.

The tour’s retail component was Northgate Markets, a 32-store Hispanic chain. Alfonso Cano, assistant director of produce, led a tour of the store and then — in Anaheim — a tour of Northgate Markets’ new distribution center. Buyers there talked with students about their career paths, Antle said.

After lunch, the group returned to campus.

Some of the students will seek internships or entry-level jobs at the various organizations, said Antle, an advocate of produce companies offering such tours to college classes.

“This is my way of giving back to the industry,” she said of her role at Cal Poly.

Cal Poly class tours L.A. produce sites

Courtesy Tonya Antle

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo adjunct professor Tonya Antle, fifth from left, took 25 university students on a tour of the Los Angeles Terminal Market and nearby distribution and retail sites April 20. Here they visit Giumarra Companies.