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Hathaway named FPAA Pillar of the Industry

RIO RICO, AZ — Robert Hathaway, a former head of the West Mexico Vegetable Distributors organization, was named FPAA Pillar of the Industry Nov. 8 during the 45th annual Fresh Produce Association of the Americas convention, here.

In recognizing Hathaway as a Pillar of the Industry, Alejandro Canelos, chairman of the FPAA, cited Hathaway's ability to open doors for the association with his experience and connections.

Pillar-photoRobert Hathaway (right), a former member of the Arizona House of Representatives and Arizona Senate, as well as former head of the West Mexico Vegetable Distributors, received the 2013 FPAA Pillar of the Industry Award from Alejandro Canelos, chairman of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas Nov. 8 at the closing gala of the 45th annual FPAA convention in Rio Rico, AZ. (Photo by John Groh)Hathaway came from a large ranching family and was very involved in politics, Canelos related in making the presentation during the closing gala of the convention. He was elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in 1955 at the age of 24, making him the youngest representative; in fact, he was below the minimum age of 25 at the time, and was escorted from the chamber by the sergeant-at-arms. His seat was filled with a temporary replacement until he rejoined the House later that year when he turned 25.

Hathaway was named chairman of the Arizona House Appropriations Committee in 1961 and also spent time in the Arizona Senate, where he served as vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

His political connections helped advance the cause of the West Mexico Vegetable Distributors Association (now known as the FPAA). Prior to him joining the association as executive vice president in 1989, the organization had gone through some turbulent times, according to Canelos. Under Hathaway's guidance, strained relationships were mended and a more harmonious atmosphere was created in Nogales and beyond.

"One of the key areas of improvement was to revive relationships with Mexican growers and Mexican grower organizations, as these ties had been faltering," Canelos related. "The West Mexico Vegetable Distributors Association started going to more grower conventions, such as CAADES. After this, the Mexican associations started sending representatives to this association's annual fall convention.

"For helping bridge the gap to the future, and re-establish the association's influence, the FPAA would like to recognize Bob Hathaway as a Pillar of the FPAA," Canelos concluded.

Also at the closing gala, a presentation of a salad bar to the Lincoln Elementary School was made in conjunction with the United Fresh Produce Association's Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative.

Hector Lopez, president of LM Brokerage & Logistics in Nogales, AZ, made a presentation to Alfredo Velasquez, superintendent of the Santa Cruz County School District, who thanked the association and spoke of the importance of healthy eating among school-age students in the state.

The convention kicked off the afternoon of Nov. 7 with educational sessions that covered a variety of topics. Bob Worsley, a co-founder of SkyMall magazine and an Arizona state legislator, spoke of the importance of standing out in a competitive marketplace. Ron Lemaire president of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, discussed the new Canadian food-safety law and how it would apply to Mexican produce that is shipped to Canada. The afternoon was capped off with a presentation about merchandising tips for Mexican produce.

The opening reception the evening of Nov. 7 drew nearly 600 people, making it one of the most well-attended events in FPAA convention history. Attendees were treated to delicious southwestern fare while having the opportunity to reconnect in a festive setting. A two-day golf tournament was held Nov. 8-9 at the Tubac Resort and Kino Springs Country Club.

The 46th annual convention is scheduled for Oct. 30-Nov. 1, 2014, in Tubac, AZ.