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April a lucky month for Andrew Pandol

Andrew J. Pandol, crew supervisor at family-owned Pandol Bros. Inc. in Delano, CA, has a deep dedication to farm and family that is clearly evident.

"The business has been family owned and operated since my great- grandfather Steve Pandol started it in the early 1940s," said Mr. Pandol. "The business has evolved over the years as it has passed hands from him to my grandparents and then to my father's generation. My grandfather Jack Pandol is 85 years old. He's still involved in the business and comes to the office every day. He's a reminder of the past, and he helps to keep us rooted in the family."

Pandol Bros. produces grapes in Delano and also imports them from Chile, Peru and Brazil. Additionally, it handles some tree fruit from Chile. Besides Delano, the company maintains an office in Wenatchee, WA, that handles apples and cherries produced in that state.

All of the Pandol family members take part in ownership of the company, and they contribute to the family group that oversees its vision. But they do not all work in the company.

"My uncle Jack Pandol is a grape producer," said Mr. Pandol. "He serves as a director of Pandol Brothers, but he is not salaried in the company. My dad, Stephen Pandol, is a medical doctor by trade."

Four of Mr. Pandol's cousins do work for Pandol Bros. Andrew S. Pandol is a grower and a ranch manager. Matt Pandol is also a ranch manager. John Pandol has various functions in the company, including involvement with Pandol Bros.' Mexican grape program, logistics, grower relations and marketing. Louis Pandol also works in numerous job tasks.

Andrew Pandol attended the University of Colorado, where computer science was his original focus. But after two years, he transferred to the Agricultural Resource & Managerial Economics program at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. He graduated with a bachelor of science degree in agriculture business management and marketing in 1999.

"After college, I interviewed at a few places, but I found I wasn't excited about other opportunities," said Mr. Pandol. "Then one day, during a visit with my grandparents, they asked if I had ever considered working in the company. That conversation started me thinking about how proud of and attached to my family I am. It also reminded me of how enthusiastic I was when I worked at the company during high school. I also find the people in the produce industry uplifting, and I admire the dedication they bring to their work."

Since joining the company in 2000, Mr. Pandol has worked at numerous functions, including on the shipping docks and in the sales office. His combined experience has led him to his current position of crew supervisor.

"My work involves coordinating crews with areas of production," said Mr. Pandol. "Crews are divided into groups of 50 people, and there are as many as 12 crews working at one time, depending on the time of year. We use a lot of immigrant workers, and we work with contractors to secure our teams. In years past, it was a challenge to get the number of workers we needed each year because agriculture competes with construction industries for workers. But with the poor economic climate this year and construction dropping strongly, it has not been as difficult because workers are looking for jobs in agriculture. These are very hard workers, and they are extremely valuable to our company."

Mr. Pandol also travels to Philadelphia to work on the docks during Pandol Bros. Chilean import deal.

In April, Mr. Pandol's life took a dramatic turn when he became engaged to Erin Parker, a physical therapist in Bakersfield, CA.

"We are looking for locations for the wedding and for a date that coordinates with the company's schedule," said Mr. Pandol. "We have to plan these events around product movement. There is a period of time each year that I do not do much outside of work."

Fortunately, one of Mr. Pandol's favorite hobbies -- cooking -- takes as much or as little time as he has to dedicate to it.

"What I cook depends on my mood," he said. "Currently, I have a taste for spicy food, so I've been cooking a lot of Mexican food. It also depends on the time of year and what products are in season. And sometimes Erin tells me what she wants me to cook."

Outside work, Mr. Pandol jogs for fitness, and he aspires to be a golfer. He also loves to travel.

"I was recently in Japan, which was a wonderful experience," he said. "I have also traveled to Mexico, Europe, the Netherlands, Greece and Italy. Erin plays soccer, and her love for the sport may take us to other places in the future. I also plan to travel to Vietnam and to Thailand to learn about the cuisine. My love for cooking and travel go hand-in-hand. Wherever I go, I want to learn about the traditional recipes."

Mr. Pandol also maintains a garden that provides him with seasonal herbs to use in what he calls his "seat-of-the-pants" recipes.

Another exciting turn of events also occurred in April when Mr. Pandol learned that he was accepted into the United Fresh Produce Association's Industry Leadership program.

The program is exclusive to United members and is designed for produce industry professionals who are ready to take the next step in their leadership journey. The program focuses on developing four core areas: leadership development, business relationships, government and public affairs, and media and public communication. The program involves some travel to production fields, laboratories and other agricultural-related venues.

"I am excited about the opportunities this program will present and about meeting and working with others in the group," said Mr. Pandol. "I'm looking forward to a really exciting and busy year with a great group of people."