ANAHEIM, Calif. – The La Mirada, Calif.-based Fresh Produce & Floral Council honored another produce organization rather than an individual with its annual Norman H. “Buz” Bolstad Award this year.

FPFC honors United Fresh during expo

Tom Burfield

Alex Sanchez (left), buyer/produce manager for Moore’s Markets Inc., Palos Verdes Estates, Calif., checks out some Popeye brand baby spinach with Mark Haun, regional business manager for Salinas, Calif.-based River Ranch Fresh Foods LLC.

The Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association received this year’s award during the keynote breakfast that kicked off the council’s Southern California Fresh Produce & Floral Expo at the Disneyland Hotel July 20.

Tom Stenzel, United Fresh president and chief executive officer, was on hand to accept the award, which is named in honor of one of the founders of the FPFC and recognizes distinguished voluntary leadership within the organization and the produce industry.

About 1,200 primarily store-level produce and floral workers attended this year’s expo, and 215 companies exhibited produce- and floral-related products at 164 booths, said expo chairman Brian Cook, key account sales representative at San Miguel Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif.

The event is a great opportunity for produce employees to gather insight into their industry, Cook said.

“The FPFC Expo is a great venue for retailers of all levels and foodservice operators to come out and meet and greet with all their suppliers and to get educated about on some of these items that they may not know too much about, and how (they’re) grown,” he said.

Again this year, a floral design competition and a Produce 101 contest to see who could identify the greatest number of unique produce commodities were expo highlights.

Enrique Meza, produce clerk at a Vons store in Glendale, Calif., was this year’s Produce 101 winner.

United Fresh was chosen to receive this year’s produce award because the organization reflects ideals that were dear to Bolstad — increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, making them available to everyone and getting children to consume produce at a young age to ensure an ongoing flow of consumers, said Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission and chairwoman of the award’s nominating committee.

“For decades, the United Fresh Produce Association has spearheaded efforts across the country to encourage increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially in children,” she said in announcing the winner.

“Their collaborative style of working with other industry organizations has led to achievements that are beneficial to all,” she added.

United Fresh and the FPFC have a long history of working together to promote the produce industry in the West, said Carissa Mace, FPFC president, who helped present the award.

“United is a valuable resource for the FPFC and its membership during those times when accurate, reliable information is needed in a hurry,” she said. “We depend on their expertise during food recalls, natural disasters and labor disputes that affect the produce business.”

United Fresh president Tom Stenzel is “a knowledgeable resource and always one of our most popular luncheon speakers,” she added.

Stenzel said the award was a “very special honor” and added that he expected to see more cooperation among produce associations.

“Collaboration is really the key to our success in the future,” he said.

Baseball legend Steve Garvey, author of “My Bat Boy Days: Lessons I Learned from the Boys of Summer,” was keynote speaker at the breakfast.

The former player for the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres told audience members of the importance of having passion for what they want, which he maintained from the time he became a bat boy for the old Brooklyn Dodgers and held onto throughout his major league career.