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Created by the Canadian Produce Marketing Association as a pilot program, the Passion for Produce program provides rising stars within the produce industry the opportunity to expand their knowledge of the supply chain through mentorship and participation in various events.

Passion for Produce is meant as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for participants to learn about the produce industry in an interactive setting while receiving an education on key aspects of the produce supply chain from field to fork.

As part of their ongoing commitment to the produce industry in Canada, the association launched this brand new mentor-driven pilot project at its 85th annual convention and trade show, held in May in Vancouver, BC.

Eleven candidates were nominated by members of the CPMA's directorship and participated in the inaugural Passion for Produce experience: Ryan Fisher and Gord Morrison of B.C. Tree Fruit Ltd.; Kiran Parghi of The Oppenheimer Group; Jeff Phung of Loblaws Cos. Ltd.; Matthew MacEwan of The Ippolito Group; Vaughn Smith of Thomas Fresh Inc.; Kyle Moynahan of J-D Marketing (Leamington) Inc.; Melissa Vaughan of King's Produce Ltd.; Shaun Doo of Walmart Canada Corp.; Nikki McKnight of C.H. Robinson Co. (Canada) Ltd.; and Alex Monette of Courchesne Larose Ltd.

During their three days together, the candidates, led by Bev Appleby, the association's manager of standardization and government relations, attended CPMA's trade show and spent time with industry leading volunteer mentors, including Eric Biddiscombe and Larry Kieswetter of Loblaw Cos.; Ron Turner of Nova Agri; Ghislain Perron of Metro Inc.; and Wayne McKnight of McKnight's Insights & Solutions Inc.

The program also gave the candidates the opportunity to attend various related events, such as CPMA's Awards Brunch and entertainment events, a retail tour and guided tours of the Windset Farms, and Loblaw's distribution center facilities near Vancouver.

These off-site visits offered a great opportunity to experience the field-to- fork theme of the Passion for Produce program.

As a pilot project, the Passion for Produce program has been very successful.

The candidates who participated in the program are expected to receive recognition of service from the employers, positive motivation that is leadership based, increased produce industry knowledge within and outside the scope of their current role, and personal development opportunities that build on current leadership skill sets.

The CPMA is now gathering information about the pilot and feedback from its participants to determine the next steps for the Passion for Produce program.

"We are looking forward to what the Passion for Produce program might have in store for the next generation of our industry," said Mr. Biddiscombe, who is also the CPMA's education committee chair and PFP mentor.