PRODUCE BUSINESS IS SEVEN YEARS OLD WITH THIS ISSUE. We launched the first issue at the PMA convention in San Francisco. I suppose seven is a rather insignificant number, not nice and round to call a big party for and certainly not as old as some organizations that celebrate centennials and bicentennials. But there is something special with every anniversary of a company if its employees have worked through every one of them. After all, knowledge and experience don’t really reside in organizations. It resides in people. And seven years is long enough for an awful lot to have happened, especially when you have the same people at the helm as you had at the start.
We’ve had the pleasure of experiencing enormous growth. The issue you hold in your hands has over 20 times as much advertising as appeared in that first issue in San Francisco. But it certainly hasn’t been straight up, and we’ve known what it is like, as most businesses do, to have bad months and even bad years.
I started PRODUCE BUSINESS with no experience in publishing, but I grew up in the fruit and vegetable business. I still spend most of my time with produce and produce industry people, but over the past seven years, we’ve learned a thing or two about publishing. In fact, PRODUCE BUSINESS has won over three dozen editorial and design awards, and I’m often called to speak at publishing industry functions. And within the produce industry, we’ve worked to make a valuable contribution to the trade. That’s why we started doing workshop programs, consumer and trade research programs and other special products. All this plus a dogged determination to give meaningful and important articles in every issue.
It hasn’t always been easy. I still have out there some people who won’t advertise because they didn’t approve of an opinion I expressed or an article I’ve written. I try to explain that we really care about this industry and so sometimes we have to say things that are difficult for the industry to hear. Sometimes I get through, often I do not. But we bite the bullet and pay the price because whatever success we have had is very much due to our almost obsessive attention to you, our readers.
We changed this magazine, inside out since the first issue, and all those changes were made with readers in mind. Most of our advertisers have understood this and have been enormously supportive. They want the produce industry to have the kind of forum that can raise a controversial question, even when they don’t approve of what we’ve said. And so, to them, I am truly grateful.
So many people have brought us to the success we enjoy today it is impossible to thank them all. But certainly some of the people who’ve been on our team — Dan Ramage, Carolyn Ray, Renee Jaunsem Wong, Chris Luke, Kim More, Marci Lynn Constantino, Fran Gruskin, Diana Levine, Shaunn Alderman and Karen Michals — are the greatest group I could imagine working with.
Jerry Wolfe, Bill Facinelli, Vic Bassi, Jack Schumann, Eliot Schein, Joel Blattstein, Howard Rauch and Bob Farley are just going to be names to those reading this, but to me, they are both suppliers and friends who have been kind enough to give me a most valuable gift as they willingly shared their publishing knowledge with me.
And I can’t even begin to thank everyone in the produce industry who believed in what we were doing enough to give us a shot.
And words also fail this pretty verbose fellow when I want to say thank you to our publisher, Ken Whitacre, whom I have known since college days and has stuck with me since the founding of this magazine in 1985. I can’t imagine our having 2% of the success we’ve had if I didn’t have the benefit of his ideas, his toil, and his friendship.
As with a child, I suppose seven is actually an enormously exciting age for a business to be. In the early years, you concentrate so much on survival that the options are relatively few. It is when you’ve had some success and have grown up a bit that difficult choices must be made. Do we search out new fields? Find new media to communicate in? Do we expand within produce? And how can we best serve industry? Where do the opportunities lie?
I suppose we are working out the answers to these questions every single day. Where we will find the opportunities remains to be seen. I’m old enough now to expect to find pitfalls along the way, to try things that won’t work, to make mistakes that will be costly. But I’m young enough to see that the willingness to try is the prerequisite for growth and that people who don’t make some mistakes probably don’t do much that’s new and important either.
Like kids of seven (or seventy) should, I always want to remember where I came from. So a special word of quiet appreciation to my family, and especially my parents, Mike and Roz, who taught me more than I like to give them credit for. And whose love is the base of self-esteem that makes launching into new careers and new fields seem not that risky at all.
As we go on from today, I want to say thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read PRODUCE BUSINESS. You have made everything worthwhile and everything possible.