October, 2008

Special Note

For Industry And Country

It was in October 1985, when Produce Business was launched at the PMA convention in San Francisco. So with this current issue, we celebrate our 23rd birthday. Ever since that first issue, we’ve set aside one page each year, this page, to update you on our progress and to thank you for your readership.

The relationship between a reader and a magazine is an unusual one. Technically, the reader is a minor customer and not a shareholder at all. But to us, the reader is everything. The very existence of a magazine is meaningless save for dedicated readers who take the content and use it to enrich their businesses and their lives.

Thus it has always struck us as crucial to show a decent respect to you, as a reader, by sharing our thoughts on the current state of things.

The year past has been a challenging one for the industry and the country, and we empathize with those — such as tomato and chili pepper farmers — who have been hurt. We also take some satisfaction that we have played a constructive role in helping our industry and our country make progress on some issues.

Produce Business and its online sister publication, PerishablePundit.com, have become known as sources for thoughtful and insightful analysis of the situations that affect the trade. This reputation has led to an opportunity to access a broader audience and thus present a nuanced understanding of the intersection between the produce industry and issues such as food safety, food-price inflation or deflation and retail format changes.

Through frequent appearances on CNN, Fox Business Channel, PBS, the BBC and many network affiliates across the country, plus timely interviews with newspapers and their associated Web sites, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, The Times of London and many other publications, we help create a more educated citizenry, a community less likely to jump to conclusions and more open to policy propositions that may serve to actually promote progress in resolving policy dilemmas.

We’ve been honored to be asked to help congressional staffers and officials in executive agencies with public policy issues. Thinking through the development of food-safety guidelines and suggesting presenters for hearings, we are working to ensure informed intelligence and rational approaches that lead to a policy framework within which consumers can find safe food while production agriculture thrives.

We have been blessed with the opportunity to teach. In the year to come, we will be lecturing at Cornell, UCDavis, Michigan State and other universities. We do this work on a pro bono basis to help people find more satisfying careers and to help the industry advance as it accesses such talent.

We’ve consulted with many firms on Wall Street and The City in London, helping financial institutions to better understand the state of the trade. For Citicorp, we’ve both presented conference calls and made presentations at its annual retail conference in London.

This doesn’t count the tireless efforts we’ve made to reach out to different sectors of the produce industry. In the last year, we have presented at PMA, United Fresh, the National Potato Council, the board of directors of the National Watermelon Promotion Board, the U.S. Apple Association, the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, the Eastern Produce Council, the Society of American Florists and many other groups — all on a pro bono basis as part of our effort to help industry members thrive by assisting them to understand the challenges of issues such as sustainability, alternative retail formats and food safety.

Yet whatever we may do in person or online, we never forget that it all began with this magazine you hold in your hands. It is this publication that pays the bills and that allows for our least time-pressured and thus most thoughtful analysis of industry issues.

Our success with Produce Business would not have been possible without the fantastic team of people who work with me to put it all together. My old fraternity brother Ken Whitacre has been with me from the start, and it is inconceivable we could have achieved half of what we have without his vision and dedication. Diana Levine typeset the first issue of Produce Business with her own hands, and her rigorous insistence on the finest in typographical standards still reigns over our design and production today.

Eric Nieman and Ellen Rosenthal are now, themselves, institutions in the produce industry, as is my executive assistant, Fran Gruskin, and our special projects editor on both Produce Business and the Pundit, Mira Slott. Not as public but no less important, Jan Fialkow, Amy Shannon, Shaunn Alderman, Jennifer Jordan, Bill Martin, Sandy Lee, Jaclyn LoMonte, Kelly Roskin, Jim DeLeguardia, James Elmer, Matt Winans, Jackie Tucker, Freddy Pulido and Joanna Armstrong all do the heavy lifting that actually produces this magazine month after month.

With a troubled economy on the horizon, it is worth remembering the preeminent role our families play in enabling our success. My wife Debbie manages to keep home and hearth together when I’m off in South Africa or London or the Red River Valley trying to do some good. My children William and Matthew provide a purpose that justifies all this very hard work, and their joyful spirits lift mine when the obstacles to success seem great.

None of what we have accomplished would have been possible without the love and support of my parents, Mike and Roz Prevor, who believed in and supported their eldest son and this venture when there was no real reason to believe in either.

Whatever good we may do stands as testimony to their vision and foresight. Whatever errors we may make, those are mine alone.  pb