CHICAGO – The Packer has named Castellini Group CEO Brian Kocher as its 2017 Produce Man of the Year.

Editor Greg Johnson presented the award to Kocher at the United Fresh Produce Association general session June 15.

Kocher joined Castellini in 2015 after climbing the ranks at Chiquita, from controller to president of North America to chief operating officer to CEO.

He has long been involved in advocating for the industry, including serving as chairman of the United Fresh board of directors. He currently co-chairs a labor taskforce with a representative from the Produce Marketing Association.

In his introduction of the award, Johnson relayed high praise from various customers who have worked with Kocher.

One called him one of the most significant leaders in the industry, and another said he is very approachable, particularly for someone of his stature. Peers also described him a consensus builder, someone who wants to hear the opinions of others before he makes a final decision, Johnson said.

Kocher said he was humbled to receive the award.

“I think about some of the past award winners, and I was sitting next to Paul (Mastronardi) when he was honored, and Tony (Freytag), Jim Lemke several years ago, and thinking about what they add, and I get a little bit confused because at my heart I’m basically an accountant that tells a couple of jokes every now and then, and some of them aren’t very good,” Kocher said with a laugh.

He thanked his current and former colleagues and said he wanted to accept the award on their behalf.

“You all will never know how much I learned from you as we’ve had the chance to interact, and I just thank the board and the time that we’ve had to work together, again, learning so much.

“I’m very humbled,” Kocher said. “Thank you as part of the industry for allowing me to play a role.”