Produce events that changed history - The Packer

Produce events that changed history

09/16/2013 12:51:00 PM
Tom Karst

Tom Karst I checked out an e-book from the library the other day (my first e-book checkout!) titled the100 Most Significant Events in American Business.” It has been an interesting read.

It made me ponder the overlap between Quentin Skrabec’s book and the “100 most significant events for the American produce business.”

There will be many events that overlap between general business and the produce business. Here are a few that caught my eye from Skracbec’s book:

Revolution, famine and immigration (1848)

Western Union Telegraph Company (1851)

Transatlantic cable (1857)

Transcontinental railroad completed (1869)

First commercial telephone (1877)

Henry Ford wins race of the century (1901)

Income tax (1913)

Panama Canal opens (1914)

Hoover Dam (1931)

First Credit Card (1950)

First Walmart and Kmart open (1962)

First customer scan of a bar code (1977)



For the produce industry, transportation and growing/handling/packing technology have got to figure heavily in any "most significant" list.

From The Packer’s Century of Produce publication, here are just a few selected personalities among the “100 who made a difference” between 1893 and 1993:

Harvey A. Baum: As an executive with The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., Harvey Baum introduced fresh fruits and vegetables -- and also packaged produce -- to the chain-store system. And he used his influence to encourage the growth of large scale agriculture production through cooperatives. He is credited as being the first to use refrigerated cases and mirrored displays in stores. In the 1920s,

Baum expanded the offerings through 17,000 A&P Red Front stores beyond hardware items like potatoes and onions and, for the next 30 years, supervised the annual sale of more than 100,000 carlot equivalents of fresh fruits and vegetables. In 1927, Baum worked with Florida shippers and packaged oranges in 8-pound bags for A&P. The bagging of apples and other Florida citrus followed soon after. He supervised the openings of packaging plants in Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida. In order to create suppliers to handle A&P's large volume, Baum formed grower cooperatives. He began his career with A&P as a produce buyer in 1920. By 1925 he had organized the Atlantic Commission Co. Baum worked his way up from general manager to president and finally to an executive position with A&P until his retirement in 1954. That same year, the 65-year-old Baum became president of Consolidated Growers Exchange, a position he held into the 1960s.

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AZ  |  September, 16, 2013 at 11:54 PM

Difficult question for a top 3. The produce industry can change history and just as often, it is changed by history. Assuming farmers are usually the lowest men on the totem pole, I'll try going for the demand side. 1. The rise of fast-food and continuing trend for convenience and eating out of the home (many reasons for that). 2. The growth of mega-retailers like Walmart and accompanying buy side consolidation and quest for supply-side efficiency. 3. GATT,later WTO and widespread trade liberalization offering both challenges and opportunities.

Tom K    
Lenexa  |  September, 17, 2013 at 05:09 PM

Those are strong. I especially like 2 in your list. Luis. Tom K

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