Coming from outside the produce industry gave Dwight Ferguson a sense of what makes it different from other industries.
Now that he has roughly two decades of produce experience under his belt, Ferguson, president and chief executive officer of Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC, still tries to remember how special produce is — and what drives him to make the industry even better.
“It’s such a privilege to work in an industry where you supply such healthy, great-tasting products to consumers,” Ferguson said.
“It’s a special aspect of the produce industry that perhaps we take for granted.”
Something else that distinguishes the produce industry from other industries is its global reach, said Ferguson, 53. He characterizes that as “both a blessing and a curse” for a company like Naturipe, whose slogan — “Every berry, every day” — signals its commitment to sourcing from all over.
“Our global focus represents a challenge logistically, but it also provides a tremendous benefit to our customers,” he said.
If “gratitude” describes Ferguson’s relationship to his industry, “camaraderie” might be a good word to characterize his approach to management and leadership.
“I really advocate inclusion and participation in decision-making,” he said.
“At the end of the day, you wind up making better decisions. I feel I’ve been really blessed to have worked with such great teams.”
Bryan Silbermann, president of the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association, on whose board Ferguson serves, admires Ferguson’s willingness to speak his mind on important issues.
“Dwight has an incredibly well-rounded knowledge of the industry and a highly disciplined strategic view of where it needs to go,” Silbermann said.
“He’s also very well-liked and personable, giving him the leadership qualities so important both at his own company and on the PMA board.”
Looking back at his career thus far at Naturipe, Willcox, Ariz.-based Eurofresh and other companies, Ferguson said he’s proudest of the growth of those companies during his tenures. Discussing his accomplishments, the “gratitude” theme resonates again.
“First and foremost, I feel extremely fortunate about the companies I’ve had the privilege of working for,” he said.