When she’s not at the motorcycle race track, she’s probably promoting Texas citrus.
Paula Fouchek, marketing director for Edinburg (Texas) Citrus Association, got into produce by happenstance, and stayed because of passion.
It all started in the 1980s, when Paula found herself living in Dallas, looking for a job in the public relations and marketing fields. A friend suggested looking at Mission-based TexaSweet Citrus Marketing Inc.. She did, and landed a job as public relations and merchandising coordinator.
“I worked there until the first major freeze in 1983, which was a devastating freeze,” Fouchek said. “That’s when I went over to the vegetable side.”
For the next 10 years, Fouchek’s work focused on the vegetable side of the Texas agriculture industry. She helped found the Texas Fresh Promotional Board, which was funded through a marketing order to represent the sweet onion and melon industries, and served as executive director.
Ten years later, in 1994, Fouchek was back working with citrus after starting her own consulting business, and took on Edinburg Citrus as a major account.
“She’s one of the more perceptive and original marketers that I know of in south Texas,” said John McClung, president of the Texas Produce Association, Mission.
“There’s no question that her accomplishments are considerable. She has been very active in this organization and in other promotional organizations and she’s just a great asset for the industry.”
When she started out in the industry, Fouchek said, there weren’t many women in her type of position, going out and doing merchandising, working with produce companies and calling on people.
“But certainly there was ground broken before me,” Fouchek said.
“There weren’t too many, and that certainly has evolved, and that’s exciting, to see so many (women) involved and passionate about it now.”
As her involvement in the produce industry grew, Paula found herself, during many years, sitting on the boards of other produce associations.
She has been a member of the Produce Marketing Association’s board of directors, its retail division board, the Texas Produce Association board of directors, as well as its shipper division, and the Texas A&M Vegetable & Fruit Improvement Center industry advisory committee.
“She’s a very diligent worker who’s been involved in many different positions, so she has perspective from many viewpoints,” McClung said.
“Paula has the ability to recognize early on what needs to be done and to bring other people along so that whatever it is that needs to be addressed is properly addressed early on.”
McClung said Paula’s experience and confidence have helped her.
“She knows the major players, she is not intimidated by them, and she therefore is more effective in working with them,” McClung said. John Wessel, fresh fruit sales for Edinburg Citrus, has worked with Paula for more than a decade, since he was a buyer at Jewell Cos.
“She does our merchandising program with retail outlets and just does an outstanding job,” he said.
In whatever time that left her, Paula and her husband, Kip, raised their son Shea and supported his pursuit of the motorcycle racing sport. Shea is now a 23-year-old professional road racer.
“A lot of what we’ve done over the years is working with him on his motorcycle career,” Fouchek said. “It keeps life interesting for sure.”