Inaugural Foundational Excellence Program Educates Leaders Of Tomorrow At New York Produce Show And Conference

The attendees in today’s classroom may become the trailblazers for tomorrow’s produce industry. To kick-off this week’s sixth New York Produce Show and Conference (Dec. 1-3), PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine (Perishable News’ sister publication) along with Cornell University and the Eastern Produce Council, presented the inaugural Foundational Excellence program. The session, “Future Leaders in Produce,” was designed to educate those in the industry with less than five years’ experience or executives who transferred from another industry or country.

Although Tom Finkbiner has been in the refrigeration business 40 years, he is somewhat new to the produce industry. The chief executive of Overland Park, KS-based Tiger Cool Express came to the program to learn about the industry. “It’s always good to check the general academic knowledge in the industry,” he said. “I always learn something this way. I also wanted to personally see how valuable the program is to know whether or not to send entry-level people in the future.”

Sam Bartley, 24, did not see himself in the produce industry, but then an internship turned into full-time job as a merchandising analyst at Iselin, NJ-based Allegiance Retail Services. “The program was a great generalization of all aspects of the industry,” he said. “It was so informative to see how all the parts [of the industry] work together and to learn about all the variables, such as weather, that keep the business exciting and ever-changing.”

The new program allowed participants — the majority age 40 and younger — to network with industry leaders, soak up the professional wisdom, and gain a full day’s worth of an Ivy League education. This career-building program featured six faculty members from Cornell University’s Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. Most teach and research as part of the Food Industry Management team.

The professors who presented were: William Drake, Miguel Gomez, Rod Hawkes, Tim McLaughlin, Kristen Park and Bradley Rickard. They spoke about the structure and operation of the produce industry.

The program is the brainchild of Jim Prevor, PRODUCE BUSINESS’s editor-in-chief and an alumnus of Cornell University.

At the working lunch, Prevor led a panel discussion in which the cream of the crop across the industry gave the novices advice on everything from establishing a solid reputation to always looking for innovative ways to do business.

The diverse panel was comprised of veteran industry professionals such as Bruce Peterson of Peterson Insights; Tim York of Markon; Andreas Schindler of Don Limon; and Reggie Griffin of Reggie Griffin Strategies LLC, as well as next-generation leaders such as Tenley Allen of FreshDirect and Stefanie Katzman of S. Katzman Produce on the Hunts Point Produce Market.