I had the chance on Nov. 24 to chat with Dan Vache, vice president of supply chain management for United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C.
4:27 p.m. Tom Karst: Thanks Dan for taking time for a chat this afternoon! You are probably ready to go home and start hanging holiday lights.
4:28 p.m. Dan Vache: Hi Tom, no light hanging yet. With Thanksgiving upon us I take a drive across the Great State of Washington to Spokane and then come home to hang lights
4:29 p.m. Tom: I like to ask people what is in their "inbox" though in my case it might be mail from several months ago. Speaking in the sense of what you are working on with United Fresh, what's in your "inbox"?
4:32 p.m. Dan: Great question as I play catch up with my daily e-mail. Today I had some great comments and questions on the PTI plus new members of United looking for resources to help their business grow.
4:34 p.m. Tom: How would describe your role relative to PTI - is it answer man, hand holder, advocate, defender - how do you see the industry seeing the issue of investing in traceability right now?
4:36 p.m. Dan: I don't think you left any descriptive words out of that one - I catch myself playing each role and everyday is different.
4:38 p.m. You used the correct word - investing. Most of the market does look at traceability as an investment in their business and meeting the needs of the market place. Traceability is coming and the industry is accepting the fact we must make sure the consumers have the utmost confidence in the great products our industry provides.
4:40 p.m. Tom: I know you and Gary Fleming were two key people in communicating about PTI - now that Gary has left PMA, do you feel a little bit on an island?
4:42 p.m. Dan: Perhaps on a peninsula and in fact I spoke with Gary today. He was checking in from his new office to see how everything is going.
4:43 p.m. The staff at PMA are picking up some of the slack with Gary's departure and the PTI continues to forge ahead.
4:45 p.m. Tom: Dan, I wanted to ask how you were first connected to the industry - where did you go to college and when did you find your first opportunity to interact with the fresh produce industry?
4:49 p.m. Dan: I attended Eastern Washington State College - now Eastern Washington University. I grew up in the Columbia Basin - Tri-City area of Washington and was a country boy. Our place was on an old asparagus farm so I was cutting asparagus at a young age and graduated to picking cherries, peaches and grapes while I was in high school.
4:50 p.m. Tom: Uh oh..child labor...
4:52 p.m. Dan: That was before anyone was watching! My first real experience in the adult world was with Ryan Instruments as a field representative in the mid 70's. I moved to Fresno without ever having been there and truly got a feel for the industry that stays with me to this day. Agriculture is so rewarding in many ways and impacts everyone.
4:58 p.m. Tom: As you look back and reflect on your experience in the industry, what are two or three leadership roles that you value?
5:05 p.m. Dan: At Ryan Instruments we developed the first digital temperature monitor to be used in transportation and this was a giant leap from strip chart monitors. It was so new many in the industry did not want to trust a microprocessor based device so it took a great amount of effort to convince the industry to make the change. Now it is the norm. I also had a great experience serving on the Board of United for two terms and also as Secretary Treasurer - that was rewarding and I learned a tremendous amount working with the top leaders in the industry. I truly learned what it meant to be a servant leader.
5:07 p.m. Tom: I saw an old story in the Packer archives where you were quoted about the strip chart monitors...so time does go by. Dan I appreciate your time, so I'll just ask one more question. Being around you, it seems like you know how to have fun. What was the most fun you have had on a family vacation ?
5:12 p.m. Dan: That is a hard one, Tom. Every day is a fun day and vacations just take it up a notch. My daughters are the fourth generation to spend summers at Bethany Beach, Del. Our friends cannot believe we go to the East Coast every summer for our holiday but it is the best. Bethany is a quiet family beach community and is quality slow down time and family focused. Now you got me thinking beach and not rainy Seattle!
5:13 p.m. Tom: No beach in December, surely. Thanks for making time, Dan.
5:14 p.m. Dan: My pleasure, Tom. Enjoy the Thanksgiving Holiday as we all have plenty to be grateful for!