A personality synonymous with the Ontario greenhouse industry, Don Mastronardi, was honoured at the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) convention with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
At the age of 24, he stepped into the family greenhouse business in Leamington, Ontario with the sudden passing of his father. It was common for him to be up at 4 am to be at the family’s Detroit wholesale market. When the market day was done at noon, he would come home to manage the greenhouse as well as the family’s car dealership. Through the years, he gained a diversity of experience with family and friends, building the business into the largest greenhouse operation in North America.
Don Mastronardi, 68, was unable to attend the event due to recent surgery, however his son, Paul Mastronardi, CEO, accepted the award on his behalf.
In an interview with The Grower, Paul Mastronardi said that his father’s biggest insight was recognizing in the early 1970s that the greenhouse industry needed to be a year-round enterprise. One of his father’s signature achievements was the introduction and branding of the Campari tomato, now one of the most ubiquitous brands in the produce section.
“At the time, greenhouse tomatoes did not have enough flavour,” recalls Paul Mastronardi. “The Campari tomato was a 50-gram golfball size, really an oddball when compared to the cherry, beefsteak and roma tomatoes available at the time. I found the numbered variety from the Enza Zaden seed company on a trip to Holland in 1994. Today, Mastronardi Produce Ltd ships Campari tomatoes by the truckload.”
The CPMA’s Mary Fitzgerald Award is given to an under-40 individual, active in the industry who shows passion for produce. This year’s winner is Houman Madani, a senior producer buyer for Metro Inc. He started in the produce department, working up to more responsible positions as produce manager and eventually senior buyer. He has made his mark in developing relationships with farmers around the world. Examples include carrots from Mexico and fresh dates from Iran. Described as “one of the most genuine, sincere people in the produce industry,” Madani also contributes to his local community and is active in basketball and volleyball sports.
The Packer Person of the Year Award went to Hugh Bowman. For many years, he was vice-president of operations for the Ippolito Group, but more recently started Global Citrus Group. He was cited for a decade of unflagging volunteerism for many committees at the Canadian Produce Marketing Association including electronic tracking, trade, marketing and government relations.