Eric Schwartz has been named chief executive officer at United Vegetable Growers Cooperative.

It’s the first time the Salinas, Calif.-based cooperative has had a full-time chief executive officer. The nonprofit focuses on leafy greens and row crop vegetable production in the Western states, both conventional and organic.

Schwartz has more than 30 years of experience with fresh, processed and frozen produce, plus experience with frozen meals.

He was previously chief executive officer of Patterson Vegetable Co. for three years. Past roles included president of Salyer American Fresh Foods and president of Dole Fresh Vegetables.

Tony Alameda, board president for United Vegetable Growers Cooperative, said in a news release that the time has come for a full-time chief executive officer.

“In the past we had success with various members managing our strategic direction in addition to managing their own business,” he said.

Growth in membership and in the complexity of issues facing vegetable producers prompted the move, Alameda said.

“Eric provides insight and the bridge we need between growing, processing and the end users in retail and foodservice,” he said.