(Feb. 27) Here’s hoping that Tim Vaux’s leadership legacy lasts beyond the 27 years he has been at DuPont.

That means not only hoping that Vaux’s memory will be honored, but also that he will find another job related to the produce industry and that the leadership program for produce that had become Vaux’s pet project marches on for longer than just the foreseeable future.

The United Fresh Produce Association’s Produce Industry Leadership Program needs to continue regardless of the leadership changes at DuPont, meaning that United Fresh should ensure that DuPont or some other partner is going to keep this program going for the long term.

Vaux, who has also served as president of the Ag One Foundation, helping to raise scholarship money for Fresno State University students, and has served on the board of directors of United Way of Fresno County, told The Packer in the past that the thing he is most proud of is his role in the leadership program.

“I think that’s DuPont’s legacy — and maybe my legacy — to the produce industry,” he said.

DuPont has gone well above and beyond the call of duty on this project, and while the company has confirmed it plans to sponsor the 2007-08 class of the leadership program, it’s important that United Fresh remains committed to the program well beyond 2008.

At a time when the produce industry and the nation in general needs leadership more than ever, we can’t afford to not provide proper leadership training to promising individuals every year.

If DuPont ever would decide to eliminate the leadership program, it would be fitting if the company Vaux lands with would pick it up.

Before the program would ever approach the cutting blocks, industry leaders involved in the decision-making process should ask themselves a few of vital questions: “How many of the more than 100 leadership program graduates have gone on or will go on to become industry innovators?”

“How many of the more than 100 would-be leadership program graduates over the next decade or so wouldn’t get that chance?” and, most importantly, “Could we afford to find out?”