Tom BurfieldRich Van Valkenburg (left), partner in and chief operating officer of Van Valkenburg and Associates, accepts the gavel as 2014 chairman of the Fresh Produce & Floral Council from outgoing chairman Mike Casazza, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Apio Inc., at the council’s annual dinner-dance Jan. 25 at the Langham Huntington hotel in Pasadena.PASADENA, Calif. — Rich Van Valkenburg soon will become a very familiar figure around the offices of the La Mirada-based Fresh Produce & Floral Council. The 2014 council chairman said he plans to attend every one of the council’s committee meetings, lending his support and experience throughout the coming year.
Van Valkenburg, partner in and chief operating officer of Van Valkenburg and Associates LLC, Capistrano Beach, was formally introduced as FPFC’s 2014 chairman at the council’s annual dinner-dance Jan. 25. Brad Martin, president of Perimeter Sales & Merchandising, Los Alamitos, is this year’s chairman-elect, and Marvin Quebec, president of Quebec Distributing Co., Oakland, is treasurer/secretary.
Van Valkenburg said all the council’s events have been extremely successful, but he’s especially passionate about the annual Day at the Races, which he said is a family activity “that has turned out to be one of best events we put on.”
“It’s a perfect social and networking event,” he said.
Outgoing chairman Mike Casazza, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Guadalupe-based Apio Inc., described his year as head of the council as “a wonderful learning experience.”
One of the goals he set for the council for 2013 was to “focus on the next generation.” That already has come about with younger faces turning up as committee members and committee chairmen and co-chairmen, he said.
That objective will be taken one step further with the council’s new Apprentice Program that will pair up younger members of the industry with more experienced mentors.
“We expect to have a very exciting first class of the Apprentice Program,” he said.
Council membership grew 8% over the past year, Casazza said, with the Northern California contingent continuing to expand.
Casazza will remain a member of the board’s executive committee as immediate past chairman, with Rick Cruz, manager of division operations for produce for Santa Fe Springs-based Vons/Safeway serving as past chair representative and Harland Heath of Heath & Lejeune continuing to serve as honorary past chair representative.
Van Valkenburg started his 42-year career in the industry as a box boy for Hughes Markets in Southern California and eventually worked his way into the chain’s buying office. He joined Ralphs in 1998 as a category manager and two years later was promoted to director of produce. After retiring from Ralphs in 2002, he opened a consulting business, and in 2005 he co-founded DVA brokerage, which was restructured in 2013 as Van Valkenburg and Associates LLC.