Greg Johnson, Editor
Greg Johnson, Editor

We’re proud to be half a plate, the produce industry.

Half of every meal Americans eat should be fruits and vegetables. The government says it. The first lady says it. Your doctor, dietitians, even your mom says eat your vegetables. You tell it to your kids.

We have always known it.

But there’s the other half of the plate that we don’t really talk about in business terms very often.

Oh, but we like it. The meat, dairy and grains.

Of course we’re not alone. We knew this during the most recent recession when Americans were forced to spend less on food, but they didn’t really buy less food or less meat.

When we had more money again, we spent it on food again, just better-quality food.

The American food system, including its growing methods, economies of scale, infrastructure and affordability is the envy of the world.

Sure, the foodies, locals, organics and food snobs get more headlines, but as people around the world move from poorer to wealthier classes, they want to eat like it. That means fresh fruits and vegetables.

And meat.

Someone will have to meet that demand.

Produce leaders shine in 40 Under 40The Packer’s owner, Vance Publishing Corporation, also owns other food publications. You’re probably familiar with produce-related ones, such as Produce Retailer, Citrus & Vegetable and The Grower, but I bet you’re less familiar with Drovers, PorkNetwork, Dairy Herd Management and Ag Professional.

Planning for the future

We at Vance Publishing thought that since our food brands cover the whole plate, we could start a program identifying young leaders in all the industries we cover, who will help feed the world’s consumers, a number expected to grow from about 7 billion now to 9 billion by 2050.

If they’re going to make a difference in 40 years, they ought to be young enough now to have a good chance of being around then, so we called it 40 Under 40.

As you would expect, there are several leaders from the produce industry (J Allen Carnes, Emiliano Escobedo, Matt Mandel) and several others associated with it (Patrick Delaney, Adam Putnam, Katie Stagliano).

We’re proud to have started the program, but we didn’t want it to seem like we orchestrated the outcomes, so we put together a list of judges who have had outstanding careers in the produce, grain, beef, pork and dairy industries to choose the honorees.

You will recognize Steve Grinstead and Roberta Cook among these distinguished volunteers.

The special insert is in this week’s edition of The Packer, and the December issues of Citrus & Vegetable and Produce Retailer.

It ran in the November print issues of the protein brands.

We also have an interactive website,, where you can read about this year’s program, see honoree profiles and make nominations for next year.

That’s right — we plan for this to be an annual program, so if you know someone who will be part of the worldwide food solution, and will be 40 or younger by July 30, 2014, please nominate him or her.

And please read the profiles of the young leaders from outside the produce industry.

They may deal with animals or live on ranches, but you will no doubt see that the passion they have for agriculture is so similar to that possessed by produce industry members.

What's your take? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.