November, 2012

Special Note

Special Note

The year just passed marked, in a business sense, a remarkable achievement. In a tough economy, Produce Business has managed to grow. So, with both pride and humility, we thank the industry for supporting us as we conclude the 27th consecutive year of growth.

In a world where Newsweek has just ceased printing copies, that what began with an idea and a blank sheet of paper 27 years ago has grown to encompass a roster of outreaches in print, online and in-person, now stands as evidence to the power of an idea well executed. It also stands as testimony to the power exerted by a community that supports the entrepreneurial spirit.

As we have grown, we have increasingly come to possess a position in the industry unique to ourselves and thus to provide a unique industry service.

As the industry sought to understand and analyze the collapse of talks between PMA and United, our assessment, written both in the pages of this magazine and at our sister online publication at PerishablePundit.com, was not so much better than anything else previously written as it was on a completely different plane. The influence of this series of articles continues, and the industry will be surprised to see, as the future rolls out, the influence that series will be seen as having.

Our big business initiative this year was serendipitous, following the death of Chandler Copps, scion of the Midwestern supermarketing family and one-time chairman of the Produce Packaging and Marketing Association (now the PMA). Chandler won his fame by establishing industry share groups in which non-competitive retailers, wholesalers, distributors and processors would meet to exchange information, benchmark best practices, assess the future and find paths to greater success for themselves and their organizations.

When Chandler passed, a committee was put together to seek his successor. When the smoke cleared, I was given the extraordinary honor of being selected by my peers to carry on Chandler’s work. I accepted the challenge, and in the past year had the privilege of making new friends and gaining deeper relationships with industry leaders from many sectors. They have entrusted me with privileged information and have allowed me to help their businesses grow and help them, as individuals, flourish professionally and personally.

The data and relationships have, in turn, helped us to be more relevant and more insightful in the pages of Produce Business and online at PerishablePundit.com. The direct link to vital happenings in the trade has made PerishableNews.com, another sister publication, consistently first with important industry news.

Along with the Eastern Produce Council, we launched The New York Produce Show and Conference in 2010. Its growth has been phenomenal as the trade responded to a world-class event in the capital of the world. This year’s event is scheduled for December 4-6, 2012, and will be in a new larger facility to accommodate all the exhibitors on one level and to showcase an expanded media, foodservice and university interchange program.

We must count our blessings...Yet this has been a hard year. Surely the hardest we have ever endured, for my father, Michael Prevor, a longtime wholesaler, importer and exporter based on the Hunts Point Market, died after an extended battle with pancreatic cancer.

That battle was public, and among the many things I am thankful for was the enormous love the industry shared with me as I faced that battle. Some of it came in the form of heartfelt letters and phone calls, some as people went out of their way to attend my father’s funeral or visit our home for the shiva, a Jewish tradition of mourning. And now I still struggle to process what I might have done to inspire so many industry members to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars in honor of my father to the special fund we set up to support immunotherapy cancer research. I look at the list of donors, a not insignificant number of whom contributed five-figure amounts in his honor, and I find I begin to weep. I am not one for being short of words, but I know not how to say thank you to such love and generosity. If there is another scribbler in another industry who brought forth such love, I do not know who this might be.

I continue, of course, fighting the good fight to eliminate cancer. I know my father would want to see such a thing banished from the earth. As a result of my efforts, I was invited to join a special board at the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, and in that capacity I continue this work, as I believe the immunotherapy we discovered in the course of seeking to save my father will, one day, save millions. If you wish to support this work, simply go to PrevorFamilyFund.org and you can make a tax-deductible donation to further this effort.

I have experienced the loss of my father in an unusual way. I am, of course, sad that he is not here to talk to and to hug. I miss his humor and intelligence and love. Yet he must have done a good job of imparting his wisdom, because whenever I am faced with a dilemma — business or personal — the kind of dilemma in which I would have turned to my father for advice, I find that I can still ask my father and, somehow, I seem to always know what his answer would be.

It is as if the values and lessons of a life well-lived carry on. They form some sort of inexhaustible well of wisdom that I can draw on during the course of my life. I can only hope to leave my children an inheritance half as rich as the learning and temperament my father bequeathed to me. Now we struggle to help my mother, a woman wise and vivacious, courageous yet frightened as she lives now in a world torn asunder. There is no cure for her condition, just the hope that in time she will see that her children and grandchildren, her friends and extended family, all love and need her. She will be at The New York Produce Show, so please come and say hello.

In the inaugural issue of Produce Business, I wrote this about my father:

The real genesis of this paper goes back to when I was a boy reading the trade papers which my father, Michael Prevor, brought home. It was through discussing the contents of these papers with my father that I came to know and love this industry. If this paper, or if I, should ever amount to anything, it is surely due to my father’s wisdom, guidance, and encouragement. It is to him that this enterprise is dedicated.

And so, 27 years later, it remains. If I have seen far, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of a giant.

One of the great strengths of this magazine and of this company is that its owners have lived through it all. The same people — my college fraternity brother, Ken Whitacre, and I — who launched this magazine 27 years ago are still here. Present at the creation, we have nurtured it through business wins and losses and through weddings, children, births and funerals. But that is how it must be, for in a business such as produce, the lines between living and working often blur, and the dreams for the future encompass both.

In the year to come and the years beyond that, we rededicate this enterprise to my father and to the idea that achievement is possible, that love and work can mix, and that we should never, ever, give up.

Dad fought to the end and so shall we.