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Carkoski ready to serve and inspireDuring his turn at the helm of the United Fresh Produce Association, chairman Ron Carkoski hopes to wrap up a few ongoing conversations and initiate others, all from the perspective of leading in the spirit of service.

When Carkoski steps up to the microphone at Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center for the association’s annual conference and tradeshow, the president and CEO of Four Seasons Family of Cos., Ephrata, Pa., will have already been leading the group for almost two months. Outgoing chairman Ron Midyett passed the gavel to Carkoski April 22.

“The changing of the guard is not difficult because of the continuity of Tom Stenzel and the rest of the association staff,” Carkoski said. “I approach this as an opportunity to serve the industry that I have been part of all my life.”

Carkoski said to prepare for his role as chairman of the United Fresh board he made sure he was up to speed on all sides of the issues important to the industry. And he bought a bunch of copies of the book “The Go-Giver” by Bob Burg and John David Mann.

“When we transferred the chair, I gave all the board members a copy of the book. It’s five laws for success have been very helpful to me and I believe they can help everyone.”

The successes Carkoski is hoping for during his term include continued dialogue with the federal government on the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act and immigration reform. He said it is crucial for the industry to continue to speak with one voice on those issues.

“I want to continue to build a culture of inclusiveness in our industry and speak on behalf of all of us in the supply chain,” Carkoski said. “”I’d like to bring members from all sectors of the supply chain together. Our whole is truly greater than the sum of our parts.”

New challenges Carkoski sees for the association include identifying emerging leaders to ensure the industry will be in good hands as the generations advance.

“We do a good job of involving top leaders from companies, but we need to get more people who are coming up through the ranks involved now,” Carkoski said.

As for new challenges for the industry, Carkoski is ready to tackle the 800-pound gorilla in the room.

“We need to begin to talk about the GMO (genetically modified organism) situation,” Carkoski said. “There a lot of work to do on understanding what is the appropriate thing to do as an industry. It’s not something that we can get done in one year, but we need to start the conversation.”