(March 1) His interest in agriculture came from his family’s farm north of Boston, his perceptions gleaned in a time when bulk commodities ruled the produce marketplace in a topsy-turvy, weekly upheaval. A bundle could be made as fast as a bundle could be lost.

He had a vision, though. A business model that relied on first serving a consumer need, rather than that of the price-conscious wholesale/retail buyer. It meant providing extra value in the form of ready-to-prepare produce. Precut, they called it.

And when no organization existed to serve this growing segment of the industry, he had vision.

Indeed, vision seems to be the word often used to describe Bill O’Donnell, a figure whose work would eventually transform the industry. O’Donnell died Feb. 22 in Andover, Mass. He was 93. Story, Page A1.

As president of Boston-based Suffolk Farms Packing Co. Inc., O’Donnell introduced a line of precut vegetables in 1936. He relied on developments like modified-atmosphere packaging, with which he shipped Astro Process cauliflower and brussels sprouts, as well as prepeeled butternut squash.

One of his signature items was prepackaged, pre-washed spinach. A product he came out with in 1937 was simply called “Veg-Mix,” a package of a combination of diced vegetables.

O’Donnell also pioneered the use of shrink packs and automated weighing and bagging machines.

By 1949 he realized the need for an industry group to focus on marketing issues, rather than production.

He co-founded the Produce Prepackaging Association, which after several incarnations would eventually become the Produce Marketing Association.

So highly thought of by his peers was O’Donnell that he received The Packer’s first Produce Marketing Man of the Year Award in 1963.

Eventually, O’Donnell merged his firm with the Piazza family’s Community Produce in 1969 to form Community-Suffolk Inc., a wholesale and prepackaging operation in Boston.

Community-Suffolk president Joe Piazza remembers O’Donnell as a futurist. “He saw a lot of trends coming … the real money on packaged salads and value-added.” Perhaps he was too far ahead of his time, Piazza said. “He set the trends, but I don’t think he made the money on it that’s being made nowadays.”

Before fresh-cut was king, O’Donnell gave it a place on the shelf, some room to develop.

For the sake of growing the produce industry, let’s hope there’s another Bill O’Donnell out there, looking forward to rewards not yet reaped.