(May 6) LAS VEGAS — Even though he has been accused of working twice as hard as he has to, Jim Lemke knows how to recognize opportunities that benefit the produce industry, as well as the company he works for.

Lemke, senior vice president of Eden Prairie, Minn.-based C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc., accepted The Packer’s 2008 Produce Man of the Year award May 5 at the opening breakfast session of the United Fresh Produce Association’s Marketplace.

Presenting the award, Lance Jungmeyer, editor of The Packer, said Lemke has helped the company prosper in a time of economic difficulty. C.H. Robinson did $7.3 billion in business in 2007, Jungmeyer said, a 120% increase over five years earlier.

“That’s a five-year plan we’d all love to embrace,” Jungmeyer said.

Jungmeyer said Lemke has showed his dedication to his company and the industry by serving as an advocate for industry issues on multiple boards, committees and initiatives.

Lemke has served on the Produce for Better Health Foundation board, the United Fresh board, the Produce Traceability Initiative, the Produce Electronic Identification Board and the Packaging Special Interest Group. In 2002, he was named to the first U.S. Department of Agriculture Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee. He was also recently nominated chairman-elect of United Fresh.

Lemke joined C.H. Robinson in 1989, after graduating from the University of Minnesota. He has risen through the company ranks to oversee the company’s produce sales and marketing operations and refrigerated transportation services.

The company is on the cutting edge of information technology services. A $40 million investment five years ago is finally paying off. Lemke said the most important factor in implementing a plan is to overcome the fear of failure.

“No matter how good your plan, don’t underestimate the power of fear,” Lemke said. “Fear will slow the project down — lack of commitment or politics will end it.”

C.H. Robinson VP named Produce Man of the Year
Lance Jungmeyer (right), editor of The Packer, presents the 2008 Produce Man of the Year award to Jim Lemke, senior vice president of C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc., Eden Prairie, Minn.