(Jan. 11) Produce industry veteran Leonard Batti has joined executive search company The Mixtec Group, opening an office in the Salinas, Calif., area — the employment hotbed of the industry.

Batti, a managing and senior partner in the Pasadena, Calif.-based company, had been vice president of production and and processing for NewStar Fresh Foods LLC, Salinas. He is The Mixtec Group’s third partner, joining Chris Nelson, president and chief executive officer, and Jerry Butt, vice president.

“Chris and I have been talking for years about this,” Batti said. “The timing was just right at this point.”

Batti will be in charge of the company’s new office between Monterey and Salinas, Calif. He will begin working out of a temporary office in the area by the end of January, but the new building will not be finished until mid-February.

Nelson commented in a news release that opening a recruiting office in the heart of the largest growing area is something he’s always wanted to do.

Nelson and Batti have known each other for more than 15 years. They were competitors when Nelson worked for Ready Pac Foods Inc., Irwindale, Calif., and Batti was a candidate and client of Nelson’s when he came to Mixtec.

Batti has worked in the produce industry for 30 years and has held senior management positions since 1989. He was with NewStar for five years. Before that, he was senior vice president of operations for Apio Inc., Guadalupe, Calif., and chief operating officer of e-commerce company Produceonline.com. He spent eight years as vice president of operations for Tanimura & Antle, Salinas, running the company’s salad program. He got his start in senior management as vice president of operations for Dole Food Co. Inc., Westlake Village, Calif., working with the vegetable side of the business.

“I’ve experienced Mixtec from both the client and candidate perspective, and I understand the contrast between the two,” Batti said. “If I’m going to be part of a business, this is what I want to do.”

Batti said what really attracted him is that Mixtec works with all areas of the industry. “I really love that challenge,” he said.

The Mixtec group was founded in 1984. Butt joined the company in 2002, and was its first vice president. The company provides professional services in the areas of executive search, strategic planning and management consulting for the fresh produce industry.