For Nick Mascari, 32, produce is a family passion, and he’s no stranger to the hard work that success in this industry requires. In fact, since he was a young boy he has witnessed the dedication it took to build Indianapolis Fruit Co. Inc., Indianapolis.

“Just watching my father, uncle and great uncle has been an inspiration,” Mascari said. “When I was young, my dad would take me into work with him at 5 in the morning sometimes.”

It is clear Mascari is proud of the legacy his family started.

“They’d work all hours of the day and night building the company and still have time for family. That has definitely rubbed off on me.”

However, Mascari didn’t immediately join the family business. He spent a few years traveling around the country working for Dole Fresh Fruit, Westlake Village, Calif., and Chiquita Fresh North America, Charlotte, N.C., before returning to his roots as a member of the fourth generation participating in the family company.

Now he’s in charge of new business development and the organic buyer for Indianapolis Fruit. In this role, he’s played an instrumental role in growing the organic side of the business and helping the company continue to see growth and develop new business even during the recession.

He said he’s thankful for the opportunities and experiences he’s been able to learn from so far in his career. He’s also proud that his recognition helps bring attention to the family company.

Some of those experiences include serving as a panelist for the 2011 United Fresh wholesaler-distributor super session and being selected for the United Fresh Leadership Class of 2010-11, as well as the Frieda Rapoport Caplan Family Business Scholarship, which allowed him to attend the Washington Public Policy Conference in 2009.

Lisa Strube, director of finance for Strube Celery & Vegetable Co., Chicago, first met Mascari at that event and was instantly impressed with his knowledge and interest in the industry.

“He thinks outside the box and is always learning and improving himself. He just has a great grasp of the industry, especially with a strong side in marketing,” Strube said.

Mascari is now pursuing his master’s degree in business administration at Ball State University, Muncie, Ind.

He hopes to expand his involvement with industry boards in the coming years.

“I’ve always had a love for politics, and this brings the two together. It’s important because it’s our future,” he said.

Other future plans are to continue to develop as a leader in the industry and within Indianapolis Fruit, eventually stepping into his father’s footsteps as the president of the company.

“I want to work my way up and contribute more. It’s going to be a lot of hard work, but I’m up for the challenge,” he said.