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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Connie Stukenberg, a fixture on the Southern California produce scene for more than 30 years, is this year’s recipient of the Norman H. “Buz” Bolstad Produce Award, presented by the La Mirada-based Fresh Produce & Floral Council.
The honor was presented by last year’s recipient, Jack Gyben, vice president of marketing for Progressive Produce Corp., Commerce, during the keynote awards breakfast that kicked off the FPFC’s Southern California Expo July 17 at the Disneyland Hotel.
The marketing and sales prowess that Stukenberg developed early in her career served as a strong foundation for her own fresh juice company, Citrus Connection, which she established in 1987, Gyben said.
“After only a year, Citrus Connection was doing $1.5 million in sales,” he said.
Citrus Connection eventually merged with Naked Juice, and Stukenberg stayed on as director of sales and expanded distribution into major national chains.
“She demonstrated just as much creativity and market awareness when she moved to the California Avocado Commission,” Gyben said, where she managed consumer outreach campaigns as retail marketing director.
“In 2009, she stepped out on her own as a consultant, and her talents were quickly retained by major players in the industry,” Gyben said.
As president of CS Sales and Marketing for Results, Irvine, Stukenberg “is known as someone who brings great creativity to the table, and who knows what questions to ask to get the outcomes desired by her customers and clients,” he said.
Stukenberg has been an active member of the FPFC for nearly 20 years, where she served in several positions.
She also volunteers on committees at the Produce Marketing Association, Produce for Better Health Foundation and City of Hope, and she serves on the board of advisers at the Cal Poly Pomona School for Agricultural Business.
Outside of the industry, she has made time to develop and execute outreach and service programs with church missions in Taiwan and Mexico.
With her family, she has helped build homes, provided food and clothing, and taught English and ballroom dancing, Gyben said.
She and her husband, Bob, have three daughters.
The Bolstad Award is named in honor of one of the founders of the FPFC and recognizes distinguished leadership within the organization as well as the produce industry.
As usual, this year’s Expo was a sellout with 171 booths representing more than 200 companies, said Carissa Mace, council president. More than 1,200 people, mostly store-level produce and floral personnel, attended.
The expo added booths this year and saw a higher preregistration count than normal, said Jeffery MeLellan, office manager for QSI LLC, Los Angeles, and this year’s expo chairman.
A highlight of the event is the Produce 101 competition, in which produce employees try to identify a selection of some rather distinctive produce items.
This year’s first-, second- and third-place winners were Pascal Lui, John Fujii and Apolinar Parra respectively, all from Gelson’s Markets.
Keynote breakfast speaker was Purple Heart recipient J.R. Martinez, who went on to become a popular member of the cast of the TV soap opera “All My Children” and won TV’s “Dancing with the Stars” trophy with partner Karina Smirnoff in 2011.
Martinez recounted how his dream of becoming a professional football player was dashed when the Humvee he was driving ran over a land mine in Iraq and he was burned over 40% of his body.
“Don’t be discouraged,” he urged audience members. “Adapt and overcome.”