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People, week of December 12, 2011

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Tony Haile

TONY HAILE’s first day with New Era Produce LLC in Estero, FL, was Nov. 1. He will be handling sales in the Estero branch until the end of the year, at which time the company will open an office in Miami, “which I’ll be heading up,” he said. He will continue to perform his sales duties while he manages the new branch.

Mr. Haile handles various commodities, including honeydew, cantaloupe, tomatoes and grapes from Mexico.

With 37 years of experience in the produce industry, he said, “Your newspaper isn’t big enough to list everybody I’ve worked with,” but some of the companies include Williams Farms, where he handled sales for a full line and helped to increase distribution; Del Monte’s distribution center in Fort Lauderdale, where he was general manager; Plantain World; International AG; and Twin Packing, where he got his start in shipping and receiving.

Mr. Haile joined the industry after becoming disenchanted with his studies to become a respiratory therapist. “Maurice Essforms of Twin Packing was my mentor,” he said.

In his free time, Mr. Haile enjoys bicycling and taking part in charity rides. When he isn’t riding or working, he enjoys spending time with his family. He has a son, Adam, 36, who has married recently, and a daughter, April, 26, who recently graduated from law school.

 

After eight years with Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball teams affiliated with the Chicago White Sox, DONNY LUCY is trading in his catcher’s mitt for the family business.

As of October, Mr. Lucy has joined Fallbrook, CA-based Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc. on a full-time basis.

He is a sales associate focused on the Northeast and East Coast.

Drafted out of Stanford in 2003, Mr. Lucy was focused on baseball until an injury in 2008 “made me plan for my future,” he said. “I had a bad knee injury and had to miss the whole season. That was when I first started talking about the idea of getting into avocados.”

Because of its growth, Del Rey, owned by his father, Bob Lucy, as well as Bob Siemer and Rueben Hofshi, happened to need help in the sales office. And so Mr. Lucy started working for the company on a part-time basis, which he continued during the past two off seasons.

In his free time, he enjoys surfing, snowboarding and playing golf with his brother, Patrick, who also works at Del Rey. Mr. Lucy and his wife, Courtney, have a 2-year-old son, Teague.

 

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Steve Johnston

In early November, STEVE JOHNSTON joined the Colorful Harvest LLC sales staff. Mr. Johnston deals primarily in strawberries for the Salinas, CA-based company. He also is the business development manager, charged with finding new customers and reinforcing relationships with old ones.

A member of the produce industry since 1973, Mr. Johnson has been involved with several companies, including sales at A&P and sales manager positions with J.R. Norton and Pacific Gold.

Mr. Johnston has handled strawberries since 1982, “when strawberries really took off,” he said. “In the early 80s, strawberry acreage took off in California and there was a lot of opportunity.”

A fifth-generation resident of Monterey County, Mr. Johnston was the first family member to join the produce industry. He said that living in the region had a strong influence on his decision to pursue produce.

In his free time, Mr. Johnston enjoys playing golf.

 

MARK MORALES joined Alamo, TX-based RJ Produce Inc. in the beginning of November. In his current position, Mr. Morales handles the purchasing and selling of Mexican produce, including Jalepenos, Poblanos, tomatillos and cactus leaf.

Half of his career in the produce industry was spent at Loera’s Fresh Produce, where he handled buying and selling; however, that position also included managerial duties that focused him on the total operation as opposed to his procurement position with RJ Produce, which allows him to direct his full attention toward purchasing and selling.

Mr. Morales first joined the industry eight years ago when he was looking for an accounting job. His first position was as a bookkeeper, but soon he started talking to customers and his career changed paths from there. “I started doing a little bit of collections and bookkeeping [at Comex]. One thing led to another and I started buying and selling for other companies, and that led to Loera’s and that led to RJ Produce,” he said.

In his free time, Mr. Morales enjoys camping and spending time with his family. He and his wife of 15 years have three children.