Courtesy National Mango BoardWilliam Watson, National Mango Board A flexible approach is the key to success for the two marketing boards William Watson has helped build in the produce industry.
Watson describes himself first as flexible.
“In the commodity board world, you have (the U.S. Department of Agriculture) looking over your shoulder to make sure that you stay in the parameters of the statutes,” said Watson, who left a 13-year position as executive director of the National Watermelon Promotion Board for a similar position at the newly created National Mango Board in 2006.
“Those don’t always mesh with what the industry wants to do, so I have to figure a way to bring those two together and at the end of the day come up with a solution.
“You can’t do that if you go into a situation where you’ve already got your mind made up and have all the answers,” Watson said. “You have to be flexible. It’s been a lesson that takes a while to learn.”
His results at the Orlando, Fla.-based watermelon board attracted the attention of mango industry participants who had just voted to form their own member-supported research and marketing board, also to be based in Orlando, in 2005.
“They had some good years and saw consumption grow but felt like there was a lot of room for improvement, and they started looking around at other commodities that were making some real progress in the market and one of those happened to be the watermelon industry,” Watson said.
Mango importers met at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit to discuss ways to create a consistent marketing program for mangoes.
“They used the watermelon board as something to compare to,” Watson said.
Mango importers approached Watson about helping them launch their organization. He said he welcomed the new challenge.
“I said I wasn’t sure I wanted to run it, but I wanted to get it started,” he said. “I understand how commodity boards function. I understand new ones when they’re just starting up. I also understand the nuts and bolts and day-to-day activities you need to build for that system to operate.”
After a short stint as interim executive director, Watson became executive director.
Watson, 50, is a native of Tyler, Texas, and an agriculture education graduate of Texas Tech University.
He said the business side of agriculture always has drawn him, even if the production details didn’t.