(July 3) Visiting wholesalers last week in preparation for writing the Baltimore/Washington, D.C., Know Your Market section, I was impressed with the numerous family businesses on the market.

It must be a heady feeling to have your name on a storefront. I can see it now: The Tom Karst Produce Co. Inc.

I could make my daughter director of marketing and public relations. I would put one son in the role of sales manager and the other son in that of operations manager. How sweet would that be?

In reality, it can be major work to get them to mow the lawn, clean their rooms and take out the trash.

The difference between a suburban household and a bustling produce market must be about expectations. On a farm or at a produce house, there is much work to be done, and everybody pulls together. Period, end of story.

Many of these produce wholesale companies have been in operation for more than 50 years. A patriarch whose picture hangs on the wall laid the foundation for the success of many; the continuity between generations represents the most stable aspect of a rapidly changing industry.

Still, it is free will, not predestination, when the next generation takes up the mantle of the family wholesales produce business. Some wholesalers I talked with were waiting for a son to finish college and make a decision about joining the family firm, holding out hope for their adult child to join the business but by no means assured of it.

Other firms already were being managed by the younger generation, perhaps with the handy presence of their semiretired father.

It is most impressive when the younger generation chooses to make their father’s lifework their own even after they go to college and see other job opportunities with normal hours and less grueling demands.

The fact that sons and daughters would want to come back and work in the family business is a testament to the pride and work ethic that have allowed their family businesses to survive.

“It’s not like I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” one twenty-something wholesaler told me.

All of this is not to sugarcoat or idealize the reality of a family business. No doubt some would confide their operations takes the “fun” out of dysfunctional.

And there will be stiff challenges in the years ahead. Will the firms use outside talent to help them grow? How do companies adapt to changing computer technology and likely demand for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point certification? How will these firms position themselves for growth on and off the market? Will these brutal night hours ever change?

Through it all, we in the produce industry can still marvel at the ongoing success of family businesses through generations past — and their dogged hope to pass it on to generations to come.