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Love of music leads to career in produce

For Patrick Delaney, a love of music led to a career in radio that ultimately led to a job at the United Fresh Produce Association.

Mr. Delaney, communications manager for United Fresh, grew up in Kansas City, a mecca for music lovers and a hub for the meat industry.

On a ski trip last year to Beaver Creek Resort in Colorado, Patrick Delaney conquered the Everkrisp trail, named for a brand of lettuce grown in Bachelor Gulch during the lettuce boom of the 1920s and 1930s. (Photo courtesy of P. Delaney)

“Your food groups [in Kansas City] are for the most part your meats,” he joked.

After working on a campus radio station at Baker University, a small Kansas school, Mr. Delaney decided college could wait and he landed jobs in radio stations in several cities, including a four-year stint on the overnight shift at a classic rock station in Washington.

“While I like being on air, I liked being behind the scenes,” he said, adding that he enjoyed working on the promotional and marketing side of the business.

After returning to school and graduating from George Mason University in 2007, Mr. Delaney tapped his radio experience when he worked for a small Bethesda, MD, public relations firm with diverse clients that ranged from Procter & Gamble to Arco Petroleum.

“One of the neat promotions was in Atlanta for A&P,” he said, explaining that his company was tasked with driving business to the supermarket chain. “We set up Guitar Hero kiosks for a citywide tournament.” The winners got to open up for a band in a live music venue in Atlanta.

“That firm is how I got to United,” he said.

During the 2008 Salmonella outbreak associated with Jalapeño peppers, Mr. Delaney called produce trade associations offering his company’s expertise to develop radio spots to get the message out that tomatoes were safe to eat.

He called United Fresh and spoke with then-Vice President of Communications Amy Philpott, who gave him the green-light months later. Mr. Delaney started at United Fresh in September 2008, the day before United Fresh’s Washington Public Policy Conference.

“I think that helped establish what my favorite thing is about the job: face time with the members,” he said.

Mr. Delaney feels that the industry’s different players, commodities and regional variations keep the job unique and fun. “For someone who doesn’t come from an agricultural background, it gives me a better base.”

His passion for radio also introduced him to his wife, Katie, who worked for another radio venue in Washington.

The two have been married for less than a year and Katie has since returned to graduate school and is working with developmentally disabled kids.

“It’s a labor of love,” he said, referring to her dedication to her new career. “She’s exhausted in the best sense of the word.”

When not developing promotional campaigns and managing communications for United Fresh, Mr. Delaney enjoys playing baseball, soccer and skiing.

“I had a job as a ski instructor in Colorado,” he said. “My wife and I love to ski.”

But Mr. Delaney has been focused in recent weeks on the run-up to United’s annual convention in New Orleans, a city known for its dining and its music.

He’s been working on the restaurant-a-week giveaway for attendees to dine at some of the best restaurants in the city.

Another good thing about the United Fresh meeting, he said, is that it is sandwiched between two weekends when the city hosts the best music acts during the legendary Jazz Fest.