J&J Family of Farms has hired industry veteran Chris Coffman to serve as its president and chief operating officer. In this new position Coffman will be leading the day-to-day operations for the company.
Coffman, who has 24 years of experience in the produce industry, will be responsible for overseeing all J&J operation locations in Florida, Georgia, Arizona, Tennessee, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.Additionally, he will be responsible for executing the organizational vision to continue to grow and expand J&J Family of Farms as a premier grower-shipper of peppers, cucumbers, squash and a variety of mixed vegetables for foodservice and retail operators nationwide.
“We have reached a critical time in the growth of organization that required regular operational oversight and we are excited to have Chris on board,” Chris Erneston, chief executive officer of J&J Family of Farms, said in a press release. “Chris’ previous experience helps him understand the challenges and opportunities of our business model and with him at the helm, I can focus my energies on business development and the continued strategic relationship building that will propel our farming operations.”
Coffman previously served as the president of Los Angeles-based Harvest Sensations. Earlier in his career he held positions at Del Monte and Apio Inc.
“I am humbled by the opportunity to lead the team at J&J Family of Farms," Coffman said in the release. "The Erneston family has assembled some of the best professionals in the industry and they are committed to growing a business rooted in their values of integrity, quality and service. It is those values that drew me to this company and will set the pace for our future success that will be a measure of greatness beyond that of the industry standard.”
adidas Group North America President Mark King will share insights on leadership during his upcoming session at the 2015 PMA Foundation Executive Leadership Symposium Jan. 21-23 Dallas. The program, held in partnership with Cornell University, offers senior executives the chance to harness new strategies and ideas to position their company for success in 2015. King will share how he applied his existing sales leadership skills to successfully re-energize TaylorMade Golf Co. and turn it into a No. 1 selling brand.
Now president of adidas Group North America and chairman of TaylorMade Golf Co., King will use his session “Why Do CEO’s and Organizations Fail?” to help attending executives intensify their strategy and vision. He’ll share how relinquishing power and allowing his employees to interject their own creativity and chart their own course transformed TaylorMade from a $300 million in 1999 to $1.7 billion in 2012, despite a flat industry and a challenging world economy. He’ll also explain how produce executives can instill the belief that everyone can make a difference and how they too can gain results by setting outrageous goals and changing energy and behavior.
This will be King’s second Executive Leadership Symposium appearance, having first addressed produce executives at the 2011 symposium. Attendees’ overwhelmingly positive feedback on King’s compelling presentation is in part responsible for his return. King’s lessons on leadership also speak directly to the PMA Foundation’s efforts to establish a workforce with the diverse skills necessary to meet the complex demands of the global produce marketplace.
“Mark King reminded me just how much an executive’s leadership style reflects a company’s success,” Vic Smith, CEO-owner of JV Smith Cos. and regular PMA Foundation Executive Leadership Symposium attendee, said in a press release. “The lessons he shared from his own experiences impressed upon me how an executive’s being open to learning new skills, even while at the top of one’s career leading a global company, is critical in challenging people to excel beyond expectations. Mark is a commanding speaker, and his story has left a lasting impression on my own approach to leadership.”
“I’m excited to return to the PMA Foundation Executive Leadership Symposium and the fresh produce and floral industries in January,” King said in the release. “I’m inspired by the commitment these industry leaders make to continued learning and improving their strategic direction.”
King is one of four influential speakers scheduled on the 2015 Executive Leadership Symposium program. Visit pmafoundation.com/leadership-symposium/ for complete details and to apply online.
EMPALME, SONORA — “Perfect Produce” is gracefully emblazoned on a towering black marble foyer wall at SunFed’s headquarters. The company’s stylish new black consumer packaging and corresponding industry t-shirts promote “Perfect Produce.” And promotions and packaging push “Perfect Cucumbers,” “Perfect Squash” or “Perfect Melons.”
Matt Mandel, SunFed’s vice president of sales and marketing, recognizes this “Perfect” approach is rather forward. Brett Burdsal, SunFed’s new director of marketing, is unabashed in his artistic “Perfect” approach from the firm’s headquarters in Rio Rico, AZ.
The company’s premiere brand is “SunFed,” and Mandel said everything to be packed in that brand is top quality. The firm has two other brands: “SunOne” and “Almost Famous.”
This year marks SunFed's 20th anniversary. “In 18 of the 20 years we focused exclusively on the production side," Mandel said. "Now we focus on the tag line ‘Perfect Produce,’ which requires doing everything as well as you possibly can. Brett is here to help us reinvent ourselves. He is very much outside the box. I’m not sure he knows there is a box. I think that is a good thing — to have fresh ideas and fresh ways to be looking to improve the company, our processes and protocols. We built the company based on being conservative. So we are not getting too far out. We are going forward in metered steps.”
To assure quality and management control of its new packaging, SunFed has slowed rolling out the “Perfect Produce” consumer campaign introduced in October at the PMA Fresh Summit in Anaheim, CA.
Burdsal said his job “is to expand on a phenomenal brand.”
Offering perfect produce is quite a challenge for a shipper-distributor that is intimately involved with 51 growers scattered along Mexico’s west coast.
To demonstrate the quality of programs shipping perfect produce to the Rio Rico distribution center, Mandel and Burdsal escorted The Produce News to Empalme, Sonora, Dec. 10-11. Empalme is a scenic Gulf of California commercial fishing port located about four hours south of Nogales. The farming area visited by The Produce News is cultivated from seemingly virgin desert land to the east and south of Empalme. Empalme is across a small blue bay from the better-known commercial seaport of Guaymas. The region is in Yaqui Valley, which is fed by rich rivers and good wells.
This tour involved two growers: Agricola Bay Hermanos and Agroproductos San Rafael, S.A. de C.V., Empalme, Sonora. Santiago Zaragoza owns the San Rafael operation.
Agricola Bay Hermanos is owned by three brothers. Lorenzo Bay operates the Empalme farm. His brothers, Fausto Bay and Bernardo Bay, operate two separate farms to the north of Hermosillo. Collectively, the Bay brothers produce more than 2,500 acres of vegetables.
“They started with 30 hectares (90 acres) almost 10 years ago,” Mandel said. “They have very sophisticated operations. They exemplify the concept that we don’t work with farmers, but with businessmen who are in the agricultural industry. They invest in their operations, including their people. That is what made them successful, their attention to detail. A lot of what they do mirrors the SunFed mentality.”
Squash varieties — notably zucchini, yellow, straight neck and Mexican grey squash — are the primary crop for Bay brothers. Mandel said the grey squash has grown so much in demand that it surpasses yellow squash in production on the Bay farms. Grey squash has long been popular in Mexico, but consumers north of the border and gaining an appreciation for its good taste. Bay grows about 90 acres of organic vegetables at any given time.
The Bays are increasing their production of conventional and seedless watermelons, as well as cantaloupe.
At Agroproductos San Rafael, Zaragoza produces about a thousand acres of cucumbers, squash, cantaloupe, watermelon, mini-watermelons, green and colored Bell peppers and jalapenos.
Empalme production is timed to generally, but not absolutely, precede and succeed vegetable production in Culiacan, which is a few hours to the south. Culiacan production runs from mid-November until March.
Vision Produce Co. has expanded its chili pepper program and announced the debut of its own grower direct deals that encompasses a year-round program with fields in Sinaloa, Sonora and Baja Mexico in addition to Southern California.
The first harvest was shipped the week of Dec. 8 and included Jalapeños, Pasilla, Serrano, Caribe and Tomatillo. In the spring, Vision will be adding Habanero and Manzanos to complete the full line offering. All varieties will be packaged under the "California Chile Co." and the "Rodriguera Farms" labels.
"This was the next natural evolution in our ongoing goal to get closer to the source," Donald Souther, vice president of marketing and sales development, said in a press release. "With the growing popularity of chili peppers, it was important for us to have our own product controlled from seed to distribution.”
"This will allow us to have complete control over quality and availability to best service our growing customer base," he said. "Certified Food Safety will accompany both labels as an additional feature."
NOGALES, AZ — A year ago in December there were plenty of watermelons to ship from northern Mexico. But the fall 2014 crop has run short because two August hurricanes struck Mexico’s west coast.
“There will be a gap from now until the deal begins in Jalisco. This is projected for January,” said Chuy Lopez, president of Big Chuy Distributors & Sons Inc.
“I wish we had them now,” he added in a Dec. 9 interview. There was very little watermelon volume available from Hermosillo and Guaymas in December.
Lopez expected that the states of Jalisco and Colima will have reduced watermelon production this winter. The watermelon business has not been very good for the last couple of years, he explained.
“In the spring — in mid-March — we will start with decent volume, running through April and May,” he said. By March 1, watermelon production will have moved back to northern Mexico.
Late this year, Big Chuy is marketing Mexican hard squash and yellow and white sweet corn. “We will be busy with those for the next couple of months," he said. "The markets are holding right now.”