( Photo courtesy DNO Produce )

In the produce industry, as with every other business that I am aware of, people are the greatest asset that the org possesses. Talented young individuals have many opportunities when it comes to choosing a career path, and it is necessary to do everything possible to attract them to the fresh produce industry. 

The many employment opportunities that exist for young talent are further compounded by the current job market being at near full employment, leading to increased competition to attract this talent. 

So how is the produce industry doing in attracting talented young people to the business?

Based on anecdotal evidence that I have gathered at trade shows and industry events over the past several years, and through consultation with many of my industry peers, it seems as though more young professionals are indeed getting involved in the produce industry. I believe one reason this is happening is because younger people are placing an increasing emphasis on health, and eating fresh fruits and vegetables is part of living a healthy life. 

Produce is now sexier than ever, and that is pulling younger people into the industry.

Produce is now sexier than ever, and that is pulling younger people into the industry. Our livelihood, the entire produce industry’s function, is that it creates health and wellness for those who consume our products. Who wouldn’t want a job that paid the bills and also was morally satisfactory in a profound way? 

Secondly, I believe that our industry trade associations have done a great job of creating programs that attract, educate, and groom young, talented individuals for growth in our industry. The United Fresh Produce Association, the Produce Marketing Association and other regional associations have fantastic programs that grow the talent pool, and I have seen more of an emphasis in this investment over the past five years than at any other time. 

Finally, I believe the produce industry has been becoming less monolithic in the way that it conducts business, and this has opened new channels for creativity and talent to fill in. As the digital revolution has begun to pervade our industry, we’ve become inherently more interesting to the young people for whom this represents an attractive challenge. 

Who wouldn’t want a job that paid the bills and also was morally satisfactory in a profound way? 

Through new markets, new technology, and new demands, the industry has changed and is still continuing to change from what it once was into more of a multidimensional industry with many career paths that have created new opportunities for talent to succeed. 

However, the produce industry can still do better at attracting and retaining new talent. I believe that most talented associates need to have a strong and compelling “why” behind the work that they are doing. Among many other aspects, this “why” may consist of benefits that are not associated with monetary compensation, such as community charity work, environmental sustainability, and the like. 

Moreover, in my experience, management of a produce company is inherently a team effort, and today’s business education is leaning toward the collaborative, team approach to business.

Each company will have its own unique reason or combination of reasons beyond compensation to attract talent. To attract the best young talent, marketing and promoting this compelling message should be a part of any company’s story, and every company should make attracting great young talent a priority.

Alex DiNovo is president and COO of DNO Produce group of companies, Columbus, Ohio. E-mail him at [email protected].

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