What are ‘common’ careers in produce today?
That is the first unique thing about the produce industry. It is a large, globally connected, intricate industry that brings together a very wide range of skill sets and people. Common career categories include:
Building relationships with various customers along the supply chain, all with unique needs (retail, wholesale, foodservice, importer, exporter, production, and more). Understanding product categories and seasonal flow of product. Contributing to customers’ strategic planning in an effort to maximize monetization of their produce category.
No longer just the person who orders the pens and the hats! Marketing should be collecting and analyzing the data that drives the business along the various supply chains. Working alongside the sales team to deliver insightful and relevant information that can enhance customer service capabilities. Branding, public relations, branding, and messaging are all vital marketing roles.
Growers are the bedrock of the industry – it is their stewardship of the earth that allow us to bring fresh produce to market. Maintaining clear lines of communication and support of the growers is mission critical. Demonstrating a prioritization of the growers’ best interests builds a foundation of trust that ensures strong collaboration and precise execution, placing their fruit in the most promising markets around the world.
Accounting and Finance
Managing AR/AP with multiple partners, managing cash flow in a fast-paced environment. Every customer (retail, wholesale, food service) has different needs that today includes leaning heavily into tech. This tech expedites the processing of payments and information, assisting in the maintenance of real-time financial information that management requires to make decisions. Financial forecasting, modeling, and analysis are more important than ever in today’s hyper competitive environment.
Operations & Logistics
Getting fresh produce to the customer on time. We have certainly seen with the global pandemic just how fragile and important operations and logistics are to meet customers’ expectations. Managing relationships with truckers, steamship lines, airlines, and freight forwarders in a fast-paced global business is essential.
IT & Grower Technology
As we have leaned into technology even more since Covid, we have learned how important it is that we have the best and safest way to connect both internally and externally. System security continues to be a growing priority as greater amounts of confidential data are transitioning from physical documents to cloud storage.
Quality Control & Food Safety
Our consumers demand the best in freshness, taste, and safety. There are multiple food safety requirements, protocols, and certifications that must be constantly maintained and must be updated every year in a timely manner or business will be lost.
What is the typical education and career path taken for people entering the produce industry?
In many cases, a person is first introduced to the industry through an internship. In the USA there are several universities that focus on agriculture including Cal Poly and Texas U to name a few. Cornell University also offers an Agricultural Sciences Major that is a great program for those considering the produce industry as a career path.
Through the International Fresh Produce Association there is a program called the Center for Growing Talent that fosters up-and-coming talent to the industry. IFPA also works with Cornell to provide ongoing education www.dyson.Cornell.edu
How has the education path to a career in produce changed in the past decade?
An interest in the field of agriculture may come from post-secondary education, but these days the greatest learning and recruitment comes from working within a company in the business.
How does a produce internship work?
Many produce organizations use internships to attract new talent. A few years back, Frieda’s profiled their internship program and intern Rumbidzai Hove to show some of the responsibilities an intern takes on. Internships run from 4 months (typical) but can last up to one year. The longer the program, the greater range of real-life experience these individuals gain.
What are the most common misconceptions by people new to the produce industry?
That the “sales route” is the only route to success. Take technology for example, this is a booming part of our industry – whether growing practices or developing a more sustainable packaging solution. There are many new roles and sectors in the industry with major potential.
There is a general lack of understanding of the sales department. A typical sales role in produce is one that is very much 24/7 to meet the global demands and timelines. There are incredible, and yes, very successful sales leaders in the industry, but stay tuned for our part 2 of this series where we dive into more detail of what exactly a day in the life of the sales team looks like.
What are the top traits someone needs to possess to be successful in the industry?
Attention to detail. It’s a must.
The ability to deal with change – daily, even hourly. Accept that predictive analysis is different when dealing with fresh produce.
Emotional intelligence to collaborate with a diverse range of personalities. Produce is a global industry spanning all cultures, so you must be able to adapt to different expectations and preferences.
Travel is a big piece of certain roles in produce. What does a typical travel cadence look like in produce?
Travel amounts will vary a great deal dependent on if a company is focused on domestic production, imports, or exports. Regardless, one in this industry can expect to travel.
What is one thing most people don’t know about a career in produce?
How truly addictive this industry is. You will see lifelong resumes of people in agriculture and produce. With the global scale the industry operates within, it leaves no shortage of new challenges, growth, and opportunities. The people are also a very fun group which makes it hard to leave the industry once you are in it.
Stay tuned for our continued series taking a closer look at the produce industry.