Volunteer leaders are the heart and soul of many causes, and the mission to secure a thriving produce industry is no exception.
From around the globe, throughout the produce and floral supply chains, across companies of all sizes and expertise, there’s a treasure trove of insight and experience being graciously donated in the name of advancing the produce trade.
While our industry’s volunteers are diverse and unique, these leaders unite under the common goal of delivering solutions to increase consumption of fresh produce. In other words, we’re stronger together as industry than we are alone.
The greatest achievements are accomplished when diverse viewpoints, opinions, ideas and talents merge to form a more educated community.
The greater number of industry members participating in that community, sharing information and building relationships, the greater the chance its decisions will enhance the power and performance of the industry.
In the process, volunteers and the companies they represent gain satisfaction from having an impact and benefit by having a say.
These dedicated men and women have defined the Produce Marketing Association’s success for more than 60 years. I have the privilege of working with PMA’s community of volunteer leaders.
These people not only contribute to industry, but through their donation of time and energy they also serve as mentors, setting an example for all of us about what leadership means.
I’ve asked four volunteer leaders that demonstrate these leadership characteristics to share, in their own words, thoughts about what they get when they give back through volunteering.
Joel Bedol, chief operating officer, Sy Katz Produce Inc., Boone, N.C.
“For me, giving back is important. Within the produce industry, I could not think of a better way to do this than to volunteer. It’s a natural way for me to become involved. What I’ve found is that the more I learn through participation, the more I can contribute, as my understanding of the various issues up and down the supply chain expands. The takeaway in terms of industry contacts are a great plus as well. Participation is a totally invaluable experience.”
Kim St. George, director of marketing, River Ranch Fresh Foods LLC, Salinas, Calif.
“Volunteering over the past decade has been extremely valuable for me, both professionally and personally. Not only have I been able to use my experiences to contribute to important issues, but I have also connected with bright, inspiring and talented people throughout the industry. The produce industry is constantly changing, and the contributions made by companies throughout the many facets of the supply chain only make our industry stronger.”
Tara Vighetti, director of marketing, H. Smith Packing Corp., Presque Isle, Maine
“I’ve been a volunteer now for a number of years, and first offered my participation so that I could become more involved with our trade, something our company believes is important to leadership. It is valuable to me as marketing director for the sales arm of my family’s produce business to stay connected to what is going on in the industry at large. Businesses within our industry share many common challenges even across commodities and categories. Our company has made great strides on issues like food safety and traceability, market awareness, packaging innovations and strategic regional partnerships as a direct result of information and personal connections gained from my involvement.”
Felicity Robson-Rous, general manager, OneHarvest, Wacol, Australia
“Participating as a voluntary leader is part of our commitment as a family business to growing a viable and sustainable produce industry. I have witnessed the personal and business growth that my father and his peers have achieved in their time in leadership positions and firmly believe this has steered our organization and our industry on a trajectory worth pursuing. My involvement as a volunteer is part of our succession plan to ensure that as a business, and as a family, we continue to expose ourselves to broader thinking and experiences.”
Let’s see — giving back, expanding connections, personal and professional growth, broader industry knowledge, moving our industry on a forward trajectory — it appears the benefits of involvement elevate the trade and the tradesperson.
I urge you to ask yourself: What am I doing to reap both rewards?
Julie Koch is vice president of member relations for the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del.
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