Mark was Vanguard’s FIRST hire back in 1991! He is the consummate “fruit professional”. From citrus, to stone fruit, to cherries, to grapes, to apples and to every other fruit you enjoy – Mark knows the variety and when it is right to ship to our customers. He holds the position of Quality Assurance & Grower Relations Manager for Vanguard. Our grower partners in the USA will call him directly for review and advice on their crops, and of course, Vanguard’s various markets. Mark will hop on a plane to have his feet on the ground in any market that needs him quicker than the drop of a hat, acting as a consistent and positive force for Vanguard. He is a devoted baseball fan, making it his mission to visit every major league ballpark across the country. We have no doubt he’ll accomplish this (COVID-19 permitting).
Let’s get to know Mark a little more!
VG: Has California always been home or did you re-locate for work?
Mark: California has always been my home of choice with the exception of a few years when I lived and worked in south Florida in the late 1980’s for a major North American retailer as a Buyer/Inspector.
VG: Vanguard’s first employee is quite the title! Have you always been destined for produce? Where did your career start?
Mark: You could say I was always destined for produce, considering I grew up in a farming family. My first job opportunity off the farm was working with the Department of Agriculture for over a decade that included time on the Los Angeles Produce Market being trained for Federal Market and Institutional inspections. The training and experience I received over those early years have been immeasurable in performing some of my duties with our Vanguard team.
VG: While we’re sure there have been many memorable moments for you, what might be one that stands out during your time working for Vanguard?
Mark: With almost 30 years working at Vanguard, there are almost too many memorable and rewarding moments to mention. One thing I do always like to talk about though is how much change has happened over more than a quarter century in the industry. When Craig and Guy started it all, it was in a time of bulky bag phones, unreliable floppy disk cameras, thermal paper fax machines, mobile pagers, and desktop computers that literally took up an entire desk top. All of these items have now been replaced by my iPhone. Change is good!
VG: Who’s day do you impact on a regular basis? Who hears from you the most?
Mark: Considering the length of the citrus season and the many packing facilities we visit on a daily basis, I probably communicate with Kent Kuntz the most. Kent has been managing Vanguard’s orange and lemon procurement for decades and uses our (Darrell Franklin and me) real time field and packing observations throughout the day to navigate the complexities of identifying, selecting, and shipping the right fruit to our customers around the world – it’s a large program that runs seamlessly.
VG: What does your free time look like? Spending time with family, friends? Hobbies?
Mark: My wife, Judy, and I are (finally) empty nesters and enjoying our newfound freedom by taking short trips along the coast and going on early morning hikes and walks. We used to follow our walks by finding a great local restaurant for lunch, but that will have to wait till Covid-19 wanes.
VG: Do you have a favourite produce item? If so, how do you prefer to eat it?
Mark: My favorite fruits are navel oranges and lemons. I typically enjoy a cold orange by the slice. Ahead of navels, I believe that lemons may be the single greatest citrus fruit due to the many foods they can add flavor to, and they are a perfect pairing with hot tea or iced water.
Every day is different at Vanguard; with new growers joining our community, new crops and fresh varieties being introduced, and new markets opening. Keep up to date with what’s happening in our expanding world.