FPFC Apprentices Participate in Industry Leadership Panel and Virtually Tour Raley’s Supermarkets and Duda Farm Fresh Foods

ANAHEIM, CA – The Fresh Produce & Floral Council (FPFC) Apprentice Program continued its year of educational programming with a series of panels and virtual tours, aimed at broadening the class’ scope of the industry.

On Wednesday, May 26th, Kristen Reid of MIXTEC Group served as moderator for a Leadership panel, featuring industry leaders with a wide range of experience and tenure. Andrew Bivens of Westlake Produce Company; Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli of Center for Produce Safety; and Dwight Ferguson of Agricultural Leadership Foundation; Alexis Hartman of Tosca Ltd. offered leadership advice from lessons learned throughout their career to the Apprentice class.

As Kristen introduced the panel, she noted, “These are the very best individuals in the industry on a daily basis.” Panelists fielded questions from the Apprentices, focusing on common themes, such as how to effectively manage a team, and the importance of finding a mentor to guide those who are newer in the industry. Bonnie stated, “you should never take yourself too seriously – there is a human element to every conversation you have.”

Next, on Wednesday, June 2nd, the class attended a virtual Tour of Raley’s Supermarkets and Duda Farm Fresh Foods. The tour started with Michael Schutt of Raley’s walking the Apprentice group through a virtual tour of the company’s warehouse and distribution center in Sacramento, California. Michael educated the apprentices that Raley’s manages their own avocado and banana conditioning, how the company analyzes all produce when it enters the warehouse to ensure optimal quality, and spoke Raleys’ longstanding partnership with UC Davis where organic material is sent to an anaerobic digester to fuel a portion of the university. Myisha Nathaniel, past FPFC Apprentice Program participant, offered leadership advice to the class “Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and be willing to learn all facets of the industry; don’t be afraid to ask questions. Step out on faith and be willing to learn with an open heart and canvas.”

Following the Raley’s tour, the Apprentice class virtually toured Duda Farm Fresh Foods field with Susan Kavanagh, Regional Sales Manager and Brad Stinson, QC Field Supervisor and 5th generation Duda family member. Brad hosted a live tour from a celery field in Salinas where he showed Apprentices how Duda’s celery is grown, cut, and packaged. He also educated the class about Duda’s process for planting seeds and food safety in the field. The Apprentice class also viewed a video demonstrating Duda’s fresh cut facility, where value-added products are processed. The facility boasts a robust food safety program, sustainability initiatives such as solar panels in the parking lot, and employee safety during COVID-19 with proper protective equipment and distancing on the lines. “Duda was thrilled to return a second year to host a FPFC Apprentice class with a virtual tour of our celery field and a walk thru our Oxnard fresh cut operations,” stated Susan Kavanagh. “This is a great program to introduce, educate, and retain young professionals within our industry.  Relationships are key in our industry and even though it was a virtual gathering it is a special way to show the class how we get it started.  We wish this year’s class the best as they continue along their produce journey.”

The FPFC Apprentice Class programming continues into the summer with more educational sessions and tours. The FPFC is grateful to our partners and members that make this program possible, including sponsors Dennis Gertmenian and Grimmway Farms.

For information on The FPFC Apprentice program, please contact the FPFC office.