On the first workday of the new year, James (Jim) Bair will step into his newly appointed position as president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Apple Association, headquartered in Vienna, VA.
“I love the food industry,” Bair told The Produce News Dec. 12. “I believe it is nothing short of a miracle that we can get fresh food to consumers in such a short amount of time, using the sustainable and food-safety practices that are at our disposal today.I think it’s ridiculous when people complain about the price of food when you think about what it takes to get that apple from the tree to someone’s kitchen.”
Bair said he grew up on a farm in Iowa, and he remembers that the only fruit that was available in his family’s kitchen in the winter came out of a can.
“Today I can walk into any grocery store and see numerous varieties of apples and other fresh produce,” he said. “This is truly a miracle.”
In a press release dated Dec. 11, Chris Britton, chairman of USApple, and who served on the selection committee, said Bair stood out because of his leadership ability and communication skills.
“USApple has a uniquely talented and capable staff, and we feel like we found a person who can lead the association for many years to come,” said Britton.
Bair comes to the association from the North American Millers Association, commonly referred to as NAMA, where he worked for almost 25 years, first as director of government relations and then most of those years as vice president.
Bair said that he was encouraged to make himself available to the association by people he knows in coalition partnering organizations that work with USApple.
“The timing worked out perfectly for both the organization and for me,” he said. “I have worked with pesticide and environmental crop protection coalitions, and I am a big believer in coalition building. It’s a reality that most associations, including USApple, have somewhat limited resources. In order to maximize our impact we must increase our resources by working with other like-minded groups.
“There will always be issues that are apple-specific, but in general it’s just smart business to work in coalition,” Bair noted.
He said that he is eager to get started, noting that there are three specific priorities on his agenda when he starts work in January.
“The first is to meet with the association members and listen to them describe their priorities,” he said. “The second is to strengthen our relationships with coalition partners and the third is to make sure that our office environment is healthy, and that every team member feels valued and respected.”
He said that this is an exciting time to be in food industry, and that it’s the first time that consumers want to know more about where their food comes from and where and how it was produced.
“This is a fabulous story from the apply industry’s viewpoint,” he said. “Apples are healthy and wholesome, and the parallels — ‘An apple a day,’ ‘You’re the apple of my eye’ — all help us to tell the wonderful apple story.”