For the Canadian Produce Marketing Association’s incoming chairwoman Bernadette Hamel, produce isn’t a job — it’s a daily adventure, full of surprises that she shares with equally passionate people.

Hamel, vice president of national procurement for produce for Montreal-based Metro Inc., is only the second woman to lead the Canadian Produce Marketing Association in its 89-year history, following Beth Pattillo in 2008.

She’s the fifth leader from Metro Inc., Canada’s third-largest retail chain, with Quebec industry pillars Jacques Obry, Robert Sawyer, Christian Bourbonniere and Ghislain Perron.

“All of these chairs brought their own unique style of leadership and vision to the association,” she said. “It will be an honor and a pleasure to pursue further what they have accomplished.”

Born in Montreal, the youngest of eight, Hamel spent her teens working at the farmers market at the Marche Central. At the age of 20, she co-owned a fruit and vegetable store, and she began her Metro career as a junior buyer.

During the next year she’ll work with CPMA to implement the consumer program being launched at the convention, advocate on the industry’s behalf with all levels of government, build partnerships, prepare the association’s next five-year plan and much more.

The programs closest to her heart, she said, deal with education.

“Our new partnership with PMA via the Career Pathways program to bring Canadian university students and their professors to the convention to experience our dynamic industry first-hand is something I really cherish,” she said.  

CPMA also has research to share with all sectors of the industry, she said, from traceability and food safety to the importance of a healthy diet.

Though more women are taking up senior positions as the “old boy’s club” fades, she said it’s still a challenge to help women understand the diverse opportunities available within the produce industry and how well-suited their skills are. 

“Women are accustomed to multi-tasking and that leads to the ability to accomplish a great deal,” she said. “I also feel that women bring a different point of view than men. The mix when both visions meet can be very powerful in creativity.”

At the same time, she said it’s important to bring new people into the industry whether they’re male or female.

“I support the Passion for Produce program and other efforts to guide these relative newcomers and help them develop to take on leadership roles.”