LONG BEACH, Calif. — Jeff Miller, president of Los Angeles-based Westlake Produce Co. and 2011 chairman of the Fresh Produce & Floral Council, says he hopes to see the La Mirada, Calif.-based organization continue to expand under his leadership.

FPFC welcomes 2011 board, officers

Tom Burfield

Jeff Miller, president of Los Angeles-based Westlake Produce Co. and 2011 chairman of the La Mirada, Calif.-based Fresh Produce & Floral Council, accepts the gavel from outgoing chairwoman Patty Knoll, Diamond Bar, Calif.-based sales manager for produce and floral for Temkin International, Payson, Utah, at the council’s annual dinner dance Jan. 29 at the Westin hotel.


Miller accepted the gavel from outgoing chairwoman Patty Knoll, Diamond Bar, Calif.-based sales manager for produce and floral for Temkin International, Payson, Utah, during the council’s annual dinner dance Jan. 29 at the Westin hotel.

Miller launched his produce career at Eagle Produce on the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market while still a high school student.

In 1978, he went to work full time at his father’s produce firm, the Ed Miller Co., also in Los Angeles. He bought the firm when his father retired in 1996.

Miller remains a partner in the firm, which became Westlake Produce Co., along with Bill Brooks, chief financial officer Kent Pomeroy and Wayne Giddings, who runs the company’s Florida operation.

Despite his responsibilities as an owner of the company, Miller said he enjoys remaining active on the sales desk.

“I have a lot of long-term relationships with different growers and shippers that want to talk to me,” he said. And besides, “That’s all I’ve ever done my whole life, so I figure I’m pretty good at it.”

The shipper handles dozens of fruits and vegetables but specializes in citrus, strawberries, watermelons, apples, blueberries and tropical fruit. Miller said the company also has gotten into the importing and growing side of the business.

He said he accepted the FPFC chairmanship because, “It’s a worthwhile thing to do,” and because it will be a grow-ing experience that is good for himself and his company.

His main goals will be to “continue to grow the council and to look for better ways to serve the Western region produce industry.”

Miller and his wife, Candice, have three teenage children.

Outgoing chairwoman Knoll characterized her year at the helm of the council as a good one, despite the economic hard times.

“We actually maintained our membership base, which is really good,” she said.

Revamping the council’s website was one of the council’s major accomplishments during 2010.

“The website was our biggest challenge and opportunity,” she said. “We got that up and running and it’s going really well.”

The council also continued to make an impact in Northern California and plans to launch at least one more event in that part of the state this year.

“The Northern California folks have been really supportive,” Knoll said. “They are on board and willing to speak their minds.”

Other 2011 FPFC officers include chairman-elect Rick Cruz, manager of division operations for produce at the Santa Fe Springs, Calif., office of Vons supermarkets; and treasurer Mike Casazza, executive vice president sales and marketing at Apio Inc., Guadalupe, Calif.

The council also introduced members of the new board of directors during the dinner dance. Theme of the occasion was An Evening at Le Moulin Rouge.