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Nov. 14 was Michael Hively’s last day with Bland Farms LLC. “It was an amicable split,” Mr. Hively told The Produce News.

He joined the company in January 2002 as general manager, “and then he evolved into [chief operating officer] and [chief financial officer] for several years. He ran the operations and took care of the money, too,” said Delbert Bland, owner and president of Bland Farms.

2011-11-16-Michael_Hively
Michael Hively

Organizational changes in the company that Mr. Bland made in the summer prior to the hiring of Bruce Peterson as chief executive officer modified Mr. Hively’s role with the sweet onion company. “I moved Michael from COO and CFO back to being director of operations. And at that time, I set the company up to where we had seven directors, and that is the way it stands now.” Each of the seven directors oversees one department: operations, finance, sales, information technology, administration and human resources, field operations and Vidalia Brands. The directors report directly to Mr. Peterson.

Before the changes, everything “was running through one person” -- Mr. Hively -- Mr. Bland said. “And it got too big and too much, and so I changed it around.” After the changes, Mr. Hively’s role was director of operations.

The goal was to “try to get more mid-level management people involved with making decisions in how we operate the business. So the company is run now day to day by these seven directors. And those seven directors have responsibilities and a budget and operations that they run individually as well as collectively.”

Mr. Bland added, “I like the fact that we have a lot more structure in this company than we used to have. And we have more input from different [individuals] because the company has grown a good bit over the years and it is getting fairly diverse when you have operations in New York and Utah and Idaho and we have a distribution center down in Texas -- and that is a lot by itself. So we have to involve a lot more people. So we have some very good employees and it works for us.”

Mr. Hively said, “Both Delbert and I parted wishing each other success and happiness in the future, and ended on a good relationship.”

After nearly 11 years with Bland Farms, Mr. Hively said his greatest accomplishment during his tenure “was turning the company around [in 2002] and bringing it from a company that was in bankruptcy back to a viable industry leader.”

Mr. Bland noted, “We are still friends and he did a tremendous job for this company. While he was here, the company has grown tremendously.”

Looking ahead, Mr. Hively said, “I’m staying in produce, in the agriculture industry. I haven’t decided yet [what to do next]. I’ve got time to decide, so I’m not going to rush into anything.”