October, 2015

Fruits of Thought

Indebted To Those Who Stand Up And Speak Out

One score and 10 years ago, we launched PRODUCE BUSINESS at the PMA Convention in San Francisco. A lot can happen in 30 years. I gained a wife and two strong sons, but lost my father. I’ve seen good friends pass, one, literally, in my arms. I learned that time is the medium for the truly important achievements of life. 

My brother and I were always close, I thought, and then when we had to fight desperately to help our father, first with Leukemia and then Pancreatic Cancer, I learned what being close really meant. My old college fraternity brother and I were friends when we began down the path that led to the launch of the magazine you hold in your hands. Three decades of journeying side by side, and you realize that the walk is itself an achievement, one to be as grateful for and proud of as any commercial success.

Our country itself is a different place. Aging is not just a matter of the passing of years. It is the accumulation of experience. After going through 9/11, one tries to remember a time of innocence, when we thought ourselves invulnerable. We were all, as the song says, callow. But the song (“Try to Remember” from the musical, The Fantasticks) says more, it reminds us that “without a hurt, the heart is hollow.”

As a boy, my mother always imbued me with adages. She cautioned that one caught more flies with honey than with vinegar, and so does it sound silly to say we have always tried to be sweet? And a tear comes to my eye when I realize she thought her son worthy of a warning against intellectual arrogance, gently reminding a young boy struggling to find his way that wise men learn more from fools than fools from wise men. And she would urge great effort on small things, on everything, as she pointed out that great oaks from little acorns grow. And, how much wiser than her son she was — and is — for from the launch of a simple magazine to serve the produce trade has grown a trans-continental enterprise serving to elevate the industry in print, online and in person.

My grandfather believed that reputation was everything. So perhaps my greatest pride is not that we have done much, but that what we have done, we have done at a high level. We set upon ourselves a substantial obligation from the beginning: to initiate industry improvement. So it means a great deal that wherever we go, we are pulled aside and asked to do more. 

As we look ahead to the next 30 years, we seek to deconstruct what, precisely, made the industry advance throughout the past 30 years. This is an ongoing project, and, as the case has been since the beginning, we do not do this alone. We fight the good fight with those also seeking to make the future better than the past. In this issue alone, we are joined by a roster of industry luminaries — Tonya Antle, Karen Caplan, Roberta Cook, Greg Drescher, Dennis Gertmenian, Cindy Hanauer, John Pandol, Bruce Peterson, Bryan Silbermann and Tom Stenzel. These friends and supporters have been close to the topics that shaped the industry as it is today. As always, we are in the debt of those willing to stand up and speak out. We have always aligned our operation with the truth and have seen that frankness as the basis for industry improvement.

Past is always prologue, but extrapolation is dangerous. So as we look at the past and the present day, it is important to recognize that things did not work out as they did because they came about naturally. They worked out as they did because individuals asserted leadership. They did this through their companies, they did this through associations, they did this via the media, but they fought to move things to a better place, and we are all in the debt of those who stood up for the right.

We are proud of the role this magazine plays as well. In the course of the past 30 years, we often stood up and said what individuals in the trade did not feel in a position to say. We absorbed blows, as some boycotted advertising or pushed vendors to boycott advertising if we didn’t keep quiet. We did not, and they didn’t advertise — at least for a while. Yet, in an age when print has been supposedly dying for decades, PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine has grown for 30 consecutive years. Plus, we created so many new ways to contribute digitally and in person.

Which might mean this enterprise, dedicated to bringing insight to the trade, can contribute one more service on the occasion of our 30th. Whether industry members agreed or disagreed with our thoughts, we have always been “protected,” because those who know best know that all we produced was with intelligence, with diligence and with love. It is a strong foundation to build on for the next 30 years of service. Many thanks for journeying with us into the future.              pb