That could involve helping a grower by getting a university extension agent involved to improve growing practices or taking lessons learned from one region and bringing those to another region.
“We’re just integrating deeper and further on to the supply side and taking our learning and technology and some of the business process improvement and layering those into the relationships and the areas we have our business, and just making the whole supply side better,” he said.
For the demand equation, Lemke said C.H. Robinson understands the receiving side of the business better.
“A decade or two ago we used to sell product and when it got to the customer’s dock and when they signed the paperwork, we would move on to the next order,” he said. “Our mentality here over the last 10 years has been we don’t sell more squash, peppers or potato or whatever until they sell more to their customers so we have invested in and gone through training and account management development for our people to learn what it takes to pull produce through to the cash register rather than just get it to the receiving dock,” Lemke said.
Lemke said the big picture for the produce industry is positive with a higher profile role for fruits and vegetables in federal nutrition programs and the public consciousness.
“It’s hard not to be optimistic,” he said. “How can you not feel good about selling a healthy food and being involved in that?