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New generation at Dandrea Produce sheparding organics division

At Dandrea Produce Inc. in Landisville, NJ, the next generation has arrived, and the newest member of the family-run operation is bringing energy and enthusiasm to its recently launched line of organic items.

"My official title is sales assistant of the organic category," said 24-year-old Jana Dandrea, daughter of company President Frank Dandrea. "I graduated from Rowan University last year with a degree in mathematics. It's something I've always been good at, and although I have planned for many years to join the family business, I wanted math as a backup. It is also a big help in the business. There is a lot of repacking involved, for example, so I have to know how to convert bulk to trays and then back to bulk in order for the system to run efficiently and to know how to plan for future packs."

The firm celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2007. The anniversary, the launch of a new organics division and Ms. Dandrea joining the staff last August are all contributing to the milestone era the company is experiencing in its 10th decade in business.

"I oversee the organics program, monitor sales, movement, accounts and customer service," said Ms. Dandrea. "I report to my Uncle Steven Dandrea. My Uncle Ron, who is also dad's brother, oversees sales for the company. We launched the organic line this spring with about 100 SKUs. It is sold under the 'Dandrea Organic' label, and we also private label for customers. Our division also handles some specialty items, such as dried beans, dried peppers and coconut. I collaborate with our buyer, Author Smaniotto, on procuring the organic line."

Ms. Dandrea has been honing her produce industry skills for a long time. She started working in the company part time when she was a high school freshman, and said that she always enjoyed helping her Uncle Steven in his tasks of selling blueberries and clementines. But her history with the company goes back even further.

"When I was a little girl, I frequently came to the office to spend the day with family members who worked here, including my grandfather Peter, who is since deceased, my mother, Donna, dad and my uncles. I have always been fascinated with how the system works, and I even loved to load trucks with my uncles. I grew up in the business and knew I would someday make it my career."

Outside the produce industry, Ms. Dandrea's life is full of social activities. She loves to cook and often hosts dinner parties with her roommate. She also enjoys scrapbooking, and she takes advantage of every opportunity she can to go to the theater in nearby Philadelphia.

"In the winter, I love to ski and snowboard," she added. "The Pocono Mountains are four hours away, and I generally go about four times each winter.

"During the summer, I spend a lot of time on the beach at our home in Longport [NJ]," she continued. "And I love to swim. It's a perfect mix of winter and summer outdoor sports for me. The Dandrea family is also notorious for family get-togethers. We normally have summer Sundays where we all meet at the shore, play in the pool and enjoy great meals together. I have six cousins on the Dandrea side, and four on my mother's side, and we are as close as sisters and brothers. The Dandreas have high family values that have always bonded us together tightly."

Ms. Dandrea also likes to write. She authored a children's book in college that she hopes to get published. And she plans to research her family history and gather stories from her older relatives, including those about her grandfather Peter Dandrea, who immigrated to the United States from Italy, and incorporate them into a book.

A full school schedule has prevented Ms. Dandrea from traveling as much as she would have liked. Her father often travels internationally, and she feels that learning about the produce industry in countries like Spain, Italy and Chile is a perfect way to see the world. She hopes to join him in his business travels when possible in the future.

In the meantime, she is very content in what she calls the "farm community" in which she lives.

"I went to school with most of the people my age who live in our area," she said. "And the majority are in the farming business today. We are very close, and I find it extremely comforting to know that I will be in the same industry as my dearest friends."