Like so many in the industry, produce is an arena Marty Craner just fell into.
What’s unique about the owner of B&C Fresh Sales, Orange, Calif., however, is what she’s been able to do after that fall.
With less than a decade in the produce industry under her belt, Craner, 59, launched B&C Fresh Sales as a brokerage and the exclusive marketing agent for Pictsweet Mushroom Co. in 1988. She got a taste for the brokering business just five years prior, when she started working for a small broker in Southern California that is no longer in business.
“We all fall into things and a lot of it is all about timing,” Craner said. “You don’t have to be smart to be in produce, you just have to be very motivated. That’s one of the things that first attracted me. If you work hard, and play hard, it’s a great industry to be in.”
Craner’s start in produce was in the early 1980s with Dole, where she worked as a merchandiser and later as a district manager.
Over the years, Craner’s business has evolved, and now handles sales and marketing, as well as category management for mushrooms with her lean staff of three.
As Craner’s business grew, so did her role in industry leadership.
“She’s good in group situations,” said Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the California Avocado Commission, Irvine. “She knows when to ask difficult questions, and she knows when to work to build consensus.”
Craner and DeLyser served together on Fresh Produce & Floral Council committees after DeLyser left its staff, and now also serve on the Produce Marketing Association board together.
Craner is vice chairwoman of the membership committee. She also is heading up a new task for outreach for FPFC, a committee she says is really in an embryonic stage, but will direct charitable efforts.
“Anybody in the industry, when they think of Marty, knows she’s a hard worker, that she’s dedicated,” DeLyser said.
Dick Spezzano, president of Monrovia, Calif.-based Spezzano Consulting Services, met Craner when she was with Dole, and later worked closely with her when she got into mushrooms.
Spezzano said he judges a person not by what they do with their own company, but what they do outside of it, and Craner qualifies as a role model in his book.
“She gives back all the time,” Spezzano said. “You want to hold up a role model, I’d put Marty Craner right there.”
To her, Craner says, leadership is just doing the right thing and leading by example.
“If you’re not walking the walk you shouldn’t talk the talk,” Craner said. “It really is by example, in my opinion, and being a consensus-builder. There are a lot of grey areas in our business, and it’s really important to do the right thing.”
On Craner’s agenda now is helping associations like PMA and the United Fresh Produce Association attract more young people into the industry.