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Shortly after a competitive sporting event, an interview is often held with a key player of the winning team. When asked how he or she felt about making a spectacular play to help win the game, the most common response is that the victory was achieved collectively by all teammates. The players were successful through teamwork.

Babe Ruth once said, "The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won’t be worth a dime."

Companies and organizations are really no different than sports teams. The workers and members must have a strong connection with one another in order to be successful. They should interact by sharing ideas, suggestions, information and knowledge through positive communication within the team in order to reach constructive goals. Getting people involved as a team is very motivational.

John Shelford, chief executive officer of Shelford Consulting and a member of FreshXperts in Naples, FL, said, “Teamwork is essential for an organization to thrive, grow and achieve the desired outcomes. A family, company, government, industry or trade organization without teamwork will not be successful.”

Teamwork is important within membership organizations throughout the produce industry. The Produce Marketing Association is a good example of an organization that represents close to 3,000 companies from all over the world. PMA helps gather input from its members and provides solutions to benefit the continued quality and growth of the produce and floral categories. Its mission statement is, “To connect, to inform and to deliver business solutions that enhance members’ prosperity.” Teamwork is a key component of the PMA.

Roger Pepperl, marketing director for Stemilt Growers Inc. in Wenatchee, WA, said of PMA, “Membership gives us an opportunity to team up and learn about the changing produce world from farm to the consumer. The PMA team is reflected in its multigenerational membership made up of fresh new faces with different ideas all the way to veterans with years of experience with much to teach us. Teamwork at the PMA is reflected in our industry’s common goal to feed consumers healthy, diverse and nutritious products. The agricultural land in our industry supports PMA and gives all of us the opportunity to team up and do things in new exciting ways. PMA members can truly make farming sustainable by working together to keep farming and consumers connected.”

Dave Parker, director of marketing for Scattaglia Growers & Shippers LLC in Traver, CA, added, “Teamwork among PMA members is essential to nurture mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body) within our industry. Teamwork enables us as a community to identify and think through the important issues, and teamwork fosters the discipline to speak to those issues with one voice.”

At PMA, the entire association works together by obtaining feedback from its members for the purpose of improving industry sales and growth throughout the system.

Over the years, PMA has created many worthwhile programs that played major roles in advancing the produce industry at all levels. Among them are the Nutrition Task Force to address issues of food and public health, the Produce Electronic Identification Board to administer standardized Product Look-Up codes, and the Produce for Better Health Foundation to focus on increasing the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables for better nutrition and health. Additionally, in conjunction with United Fresh Produce Association and the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, PMA also helped establish the Produce Traceability Initiative.

Assembling all the vital parts in the construction of these and other significant programs requires demanding work by a diverse number of dedicated people. The final successful results are a combined effort of cross- functional groups of people working together.

The many conferences, trade shows and special seminars provided by PMA are all related to teamwork. Industry leaders integrate varying ideas, creative thinking and opinions that fit together and help move the total industry forward.

Mike Aiton, director of marketing for Prime Time International in Coachella, CA, said, “It has been refreshing to watch our industry transform onto a platform of sharing information for the good of all. When we attend the breakout sessions, we should all appreciate the willingness of the speakers to tell us all how they do things and to coach us down many different produce pathways. PMA provides the playing field for the coaches and the players to come together.”

Camaraderie is evident throughout the entire PMA membership organization. Effective communication has long been a positive prime reason for the development of a wide range of quality programs.

Always help your fellow teammates by cooperating with one another. Setting a particular goal and working together to achieve positive results requires a solid alliance as a team.

Thanks to all for building a solid PMA team over the years by rowing in unison.

(Ron Pelger is the owner of RONPROCON, a consulting firm for the produce industry, and a member of the FreshXperts consortium of produce professionals. He can be reached by phone at 775/853-7056, by e-mail at ron@power-produce.com, or check his web site at www.power- produce.com.)