Ten Years Of Progress

There is no better way to start off the New Year than with a bit of gratitude for the blessings that we enjoy. Everyone reading this has life, and that itself is a blessing. Many of us also enjoy the blessings of a loving family and good friends; if we also are lucky enough to have our health, then we have blessings indeed.

It is important to count our blessings in business too. The year that just ended reminded us, once again, that even the mighty can stumble. The world has changed and, to many, bankruptcy is just another business strategy, but still, my heart goes out to a man such as Howard Marguleas, a true visionary, and a man, though still young, old enough to feel a broken heart when Sun World had to file for Chapter 11 this past year.

Business is never easy. My father was an entrepreneur, and I remember how he always kept perspective. After all, he would remind me back in the days when Chrysler was hemorrhaging money, “We made more than the Chrysler Corporation did last year.”

On the cover of this issue, you’ll see a small logo that reads: “PRODUCE BUSINESS 1985-1995 Ten Years of Progress.” It’s a bit premature – our 10th anniversary will be celebrated in October of this year at the PMA’s convention in San Diego – but worthy achievements are rare enough in life that it makes sense to make the most of those that come by. So we are going to use this whole year to celebrate.

Some of the memories are bittersweet. We started out working hard to get ads from Tenneco and Superior and Mendelson-Zeller, but those produce operations are long since gone. In time, we would woo Polly-Peck and Dalgety, but there is no one to call at those companies anymore.

Up to this year, we wooed South Bay and were pursuing a Mexican financier who had bought Del Monte Fresh and was working on buying the canned company. South Bay is just a government subsidized sugar cane field now, and that Mexican financier is a fugitive abroad.

And those are just a few of the big ones. Since the first issue of PRODUCE BUSINESS rolled off the presses, we’ve seen many a business simply disappear. There was Glee Farms up in the South Bronx in New York growing miniature vegetables and herbs in an inner-city greenhouse. Gone. There was ICN, the super project to import Chilean fruit through Houston. History. La Mantia, the wholesaler who was going to bring financial sophistication to produce. Bankrupt.

And so, forgive a bit of hubris if those of us who have toiled to build this magazine look around and take a little pride in the simple fact that we are still here. Many a business launched 10 years ago is not. Sometimes it is the very smallest and most mundane accomplishments that are deserving of the greatest accolades. Billy Joel said it in a song that I still enjoy very much: “I’ve found that just surviving is a noble fight.”

Survival is an achievement and not just as a symbol that you endured the trials of the past. Survival is what makes it possible to capitalize on the future.

Opportunity is for the living and we start this year by looking not at the past but toward the future. The PRODUCE BUSINESS you hold in your hand today is a very different magazine than the one we first published back in 1985. That is because we all learn as we go along, and everyone here at PRODUCE BUSINESS has worked hard to put what we’ve learned into the magazine.

In part, our evolution was shaped by things we learned about the produce industry, but PRODUCE BUSINESS also has been really pivotal in helping shape industry debate on issues from 5 a Day to the genetic engineering of produce. In addition, we utilize things we’ve learned in building a business, and I think the entrepreneurial tie between the building of PRODUCE BUSINESS and the building of businesses throughout the produce industry is a special strength.

Big publishing companies can launch a magazine, but the editors don’t know what it is like to sweat out a payroll or how it feels to risk so much on the hope that someone else will value what you are doing enough to pay you back.

Capitalism is often equated with selfishness. But the people who think that way don’t really understand capitalism. For, fundamentally, all enterprise is based on a giant leap of faith: “Build it and they will come.” Nobody knows this better than people in produce. You plant a seed and count on the fact that the world will want the fruit of that seed. You build a warehouse and count on the fact that the warehouse will teem with product. You build a store and envision the aisles filled with consumers.

So, in building PRODUCE BUSINESS, we take blank pages and fill them with ideas and have faith enough to believe that industry members will seek out these pages, read them and that many will advertise and support these same pages.

In this sense, we here at PRODUCE BUSINESS are tied directly into the same dream that animates the tens of thousands who toil so hard to build a produce business. That is probably why we are here to put our 10th-anniversary logo on the cover.

But dreams are wondrous things, for no matter how much you achieve, one never runs out of dreams. So, as we celebrate this year and all the years to come, we’ll dream of grander tomorrows for this industry and for PRODUCE BUSINESS, and of making progress together.