If you’d have asked me when I was a kid what I wanted to do when I grew up, I’d have said I wanted to be a doctor, to take care of people.
It’s a shame science just wasn’t for me.
Then, when studying to be an accountant, I was sure I’d open my own small CPA office and be my own boss. But I had to put myself through college and needed a job, so I started working for a produce company.
And just like that, I was hooked.
I may not be a doctor these days, but when I hear “farm to fork,” I think about all the people we’re able to touch and help as members of the produce industry.
We grow the healthiest product. We nurture the land and the people who cultivate our produce by providing jobs and opportunities. We take care of fellow citizens of the world by offering them nutritious and delicious fresh fruits and vegetables.
What’s not to love about this industry?
To keep myself engaged, though, I take pride in my efforts to give back to the industry that’s given me so much.
I use different channels to make that happen, like volunteering with the industry’s development programs, including the Produce Marketing Association Foundation.
Their mission is to attract, develop and retain people for our industry. I love sharing with people new to this business that the produce industry is more than what’s typically thought.
Yes, it’s farming, but it’s also about growing, shipping and selling products that support a healthier world.
For example, it’s about inspiring kids to eat fresh fruits and vegetables and having a role in fighting obesity and pediatric diabetes. Producing fresh fruits and vegetables is also a science, making sure the product is safe and tastes delicious.
It’s a business with challenges to hold the interests of every good accountant, manager, engineer, HR specialist, scientist and many others in a wide range of disciplines.
It’s also a wonderful industry for women.
Study after study proves women are good for business, and there are simply not enough women in our industry.
I got involved in the PMA Foundation’s Women’s Fresh Perspectives Steering Committee in order to encourage more females in produce to develop, to grow.
If we can attract and mentor more women to understand the true meaning of and opportunities in the produce industry, it will advance the industry and advance women as leaders.
I’m extremely proud to hold a leadership role as a woman in this industry. I’m also extremely lucky the company I work for recognizes the importance of professional development for employees at all levels of our company.
While Naturipe offers a great internal education program — almost like a Naturipe 101 that works on personal training and individual development — our company also looks outside to the industry to help us supplement our programs.
I’ve had the pleasure in the past of attending the PMA Foundation’s Executive Leadership Symposium held in partnership with Cornell University.
The networking at this leadership program, as well as at other PMA Foundation programs, is alone worth every penny.
However, the chance to learn from educational institutions like Cornell and Thunderbird School of Global Management with programs tailored to our industry really makes the investment worthwhile.
For Naturipe, we see our people return to work more confident because they feel that we as a company care for their development and believe in their future. They bring back a greater knowledge and broader view of the industry. We see an immediate return on investment.
Like any other industry, the global produce and floral industry needs great leaders, managers and workers to succeed.
To realize that success, industry members at every stage of their careers, and companies across the supply chain, should strive for continued learning.
Whenever possible, we also should be sowing the seed of sustainability by sharing our passion for produce with young people.
You can be interested in technology, research, marketing or even accounting and find a great job in produce.
And when you think about all that our industry represents and all the people we help, it’s easy to find passion in the bounty of good we have to share and be thankful for.
Aribel Beck is vice president of finance and chief financial officer for Salinas, Calif.-based Naturipe Farms and a member of the Produce Marketing Association Foundation’s board of directors.
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