Getting to know Denise, behind the produce
4 October 2021

Behind the Produce: Denise Smith

Denise Smith is the Manager – Sales Support for Vanguard Direct in Bakersfield, California.  An all encompassing role Denise is “ the fixer “ — if there is a challenge or issue to be addressed call Denise!   Denise was part of the inaugural team to lead the Vanguard Direct set up to manage the sales and marketing of Vanguard’s owned grape production in Peru.   

She is a true grape industry devotee and her Mom credits grapes as the only thing that “little Denise“ would eat!  

Let’s get to know Denise a little more!  

VG:  Has Bakersfield California always been home or did you relocate for work?  

Denise:  After graduating from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, I moved straight to Bermuda Dunes, California to work for Sun World at their Cochellaoffice.  I stayed there 1 year then was relocated home to work from the Sun World Bakerfield office.  However, I continued to travel back and forth to Coachella for the Coachella grape season for the following 3 years.    

VG: Have you always been destined for fresh produce?  How did your career begin?  

Denise:  My interest in agriculture stems from my grandfather who grew cotton, almonds, and carrots.  My sick love for the produce industry began with my internship at Sun World while I was attending college at Cal Poly. 

VG: We are well into managing a global pandemic – what have been the greatest challenges?  Any positive outcomes of a change in SOP?  

Denise: The greatest challenges have been adjusting processes to deal with shipping and container clearance delays.  Trying to collect the most up to date info and deliver accurate information to our sales team and customers has been a new challenge each and every day.Another challenge this past year was working from home during the first couple of weeks of the Covid shut down, which happened to be at our peak arrival period.   

Positive changes in SOP:  Although I prefer to be in the office, I think working from home can be just as efficient now that we have all gotten used to it 

VG: Whose day do you impact on a regular basis? Who hears from you the most?   

Denise: Whether they like it or not, our sales team hears from me constantly.  I try to keep meaningful and accurate information readily available for our sales team so that they can efficiently perform their jobs through reports, organization, and continuous process improvement. 

 VG: What has been a memorable moment of your time with Vanguard?   

Denise: This past season was definitely my most memorable moment.  The year was full of adjustments.  The main reason I have always stated I love produce is because no one season is ever like another and there is always something new to learn every day.  This last season truly proved this point!  

VG: What does your free time look like! Spending time with family, friends?  

Denise:  Spending time with family.  Supporting my boys in their sport activities (water polo, swimming, wrestling, football, and track).   

Traveling, one day hoping to complete my USA National Part Passport by visting all 63 national parks. 

VG: Do you have a favourite produce item? If yes how do you prefer to eat it (Snack? Signature Recipe?)  

Denise: Grapes of course, but I also love cherries and ANY berry.  I can snack on fruit all day, and get excited when an inspector brings fresh grapes from the field into the office.  My husband does not like to go the produce department with me because he says it takes me too long since I have to inspect the grapes and the produce department in general.  When it comes to veggies I love zucchini, broccoli, bell peppers, and onions.  Our favorite recipe at home is Stuffed Bell Peppers, which is perfect for a hectic schedule