How do you get into the produce industry? It takes a certain individual who craves a fast pace and the risks inherent in handling living, breathing products.
That’s why the Passion for Produce program is so important at the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) convention and trade show in Calgary. The program provides an opportunity to accelerate professional development through a unique mentoring experience.
“It’s always a pleasure to meet the rising stars in our industry who join us for the Passion for Produce Program,” said Ron Lemaire, president, CPMA. “Passion for Produce takes place in a fun and relaxed setting where participants receive mentoring, meet produce industry leaders through networking events, and increase the scope of their knowledge by meeting different exhibitors on the trade show floor. We’re thrilled to have 15 participants joining us in Calgary.”
One of them is Matthew Towe. He is the distribution manager for the Calgary office of Peak of the Market. With a background in non-perishable distribution, he joined Peak of the Market in October 2015.
“I have always heard that if I wanted to improve my skills that the produce industry was the place to be,” says Towe. “We handle more than 100 varieties of vegetables from broccoli to potatoes. How to handle the produce items properly isimportant for quality.”
Several months in the position, Towe understands that efficiency is important but “don’t start change for the sake of change, until you understand the whole system. It’s a process and we work together.”
He’s joined by another westerner: Eric Niu, a buyer for Fresh Direct Produce in Vancouver. Previously he was a produce manager for one of the city’s national retailers, but left for the opportunity to become a wholesale produce buyer.
“I am so energized by produce,” Niu says. “Produce is changing all the time, with the seasons, with quality and pricing. Now I feel more like a supplier, making sure that what I buy is good for the company and good for the consumer.”
As an immigrant to Canada from Taiwan in 1996, Niu represents the growing demographic of new Canadians. His unique background gives him insight into what to buy. Chinese vegetables represent the biggest commodity in his category. He’s also noticing an uptick in exotic fruits such as figs, mangoes, papaya and passion fruit.
He expects that his trip to CPMA’s Passion for Produce program will open his eyes to a diverse group in the value chain, from retailers to wholesalers to growers.
Other participants include:
• Adrianna Herrera, The Oppenheimer Group
• Ashley Beck, Krown Produce
• Cameron Sungail, The Guimarra Companies
• Carsten Hickey, Thomas Fresh Inc.
• Chris Moore, Loblaw Companies
• Don Han, Star Produce Ltd
• Jessica Elenko, Bolthouse Farms Inc.
• Josh Mastronardi, Red Sun Farms
• Julie Lefort, Quebec Produce Marketing Association/Les Serres Lefort
• Kristina Goodall, NFI Canada
• Melissa Mossuto, Walmart Canada Corp.
• Michael Hiltz, Sliced FC Ltd.
• Tim Carruesco, Markon Cooperative Inc.