Brooks Haag
Brooks Haag

For Nina Brooks Haag, the produce business is in her blood. A fourth generation in the company, she is no stranger to the relationship between business and produce. Her great-grandfather started H. Brooks & Co. in 1905.

Family ties aside, Brooks Haag knows hard work is necessary and her “high sense of curiosity” has helped her learn the ins and outs of this industry.

Armond Schwandt, field sales manager, has been with New Brighton, Minn.-based H. Brooks & Co. fulltime for 47 years and knows how much there is to learn in the industry. He has worked with Brooks Haag on a number of shared accounts.

“The produce industry is ever-changing. There is always something new to learn. What is so amazing about Nina,” Schwandt said, “is how much she has learned in a relatively short time. She handles so much for the company and does it all very well.”

Brooks Haag focuses on sales and marketing but she said she is “specifically committed to the overall vision of the company and its growth.”

It seems Brooks Haag does do it all. She has been with the company full time for eight years and has evolved to leadership a position, but she is not pigeon-holed.

Sales, marketing, product development, strategic planning, customer relations, foodservice — you name it, she does it.

She is involved in product development, strategic planning, customer relations and foodservice.

Among her biggest accomplishments, Brooks Haag led a companywide rebranding project and marketing campaign including logo design, a weekly newsletter, a sales kit and other marketing material.

“We also launched a new website this past year,” she said.

Brooks Haag has focused much of her efforts recently on product development for her company’s fresh-cut division and she helped the company launch a vintage redesign of its Carnival Caramel apples last season.

“I have taken on a role as an active learner and participant in our industry, which includes learning the management and financial areas of our company. I lobbied on Capitol Hill in 2010, and would like to play a more active role in supporting issues pertaining to our industry,” she said.

One new challenge she especially loves being part of is serving new items in schools. H. Brooks & Co. strives to keep ahead of food safety issues and wants to exceed nutrition guidelines for schoolchildren.

“We have helped implement fruit variety on school menus,” Brooks Haag said. “A nectarine may be a common fruit to some people, but many kids have never had them. We want to continue introducing new items to schools.”

Brooks Haag sees a challenge for the produce industry beyond the challenges of her own job.

“I want to help see this industry grow to future generations. The industry is faced with succession, and our real challenge is longevity,” she said.

When she is not learning new roles or conquering challenges in the produce business, Brooks Haag loves to travel, exercise and inline skate with her husband. They just returned from their honeymoon in Hawaii but she hopes to visit Europe and Australia too.

But, for Brooks Haag, travel is not all for fun. Some of her dream trips are work-related too.

“I would love to do a produce trip to see the bananas in Costa Rica,” she said