The Packer's publisher Shannon Shuman (right) presents BC Fresh president and CEO Murray Driediger with the 2018 Canadian Produce Man of the Year award. ( Pamela Riemenschneider )

VANCOUVER — Murray Driediger, president and CEO of BC Fresh, is The Packer’s Canadian Produce Person of the Year.

Driediger, the 2018 convention chairman of the April 24-26 Canadian Produce Marketing Association’s convention and trade show, was presented the award at the CPMA’s annual banquet by Shannon Shuman, publisher of The Packer.

Shuman praised Driediger’s long record of success and hard work.

“From his beginnings as a berry farmer four decades ago to the president and CEO of BC Fresh, our winner has done it all,” Shuman said in his remarks April 26.

Driediger grew up about 30 miles from Vancouver, in Langley, British Columbia. His parents moved to the region from the Canadian plains in search of opportunity with a family berry farm.

As he grew up, Driediger picked berries, became a field supervisor, drove tractors and trucks, and ran the u-pick operation.

At 19, Driediger became the managing partner in the family business.

Shuman said Driediger was a visionary and recognized the shift in the market from processed products to the fresh market and the consumer attraction toward locally grown produce.

“With those changes, he significantly shifted the business model that led to expanded production, a fresh packing facility and distribution throughout all of North America,” Shuman said.

In 1997, Driediger sold his share of the family business and became general manger with the BC Vegetable Marketing Commission.

While leading the commission, Driediger stood up for the industry in several anti-dumping trade disputes and helped modernize many longstanding components of the Natural Products Marketing Act, Shuman said.

Later, the Aqualini Group, a Canadian investment company, hired Driediger and he led the development of the company’s Golden Eagle Group which operates a variety of recreational and agricultural businesses, including one of the world’s larger blueberry and cranberry growing and processing operations.

Driediger was then hired as president and CEO of BC Lower Mainland Distributors and soon he rebranded the company as BC Fresh. Under his leadership, BC Fresh has become synonymous with a “farmer-first philosophy,” providing quality and reliability ever since, Shuman said.

BC Fresh is owned by 30 local family farms and markets fresh produce from over 60 farms in total. Shuman said Driediger has helped grow the company, which will move into a new 55,000-square-foot-facility in early May.

Shuman said Driediger has been deeply involved in community efforts, some of which include working with food banks to provide more fresh produce and improve local sustainability efforts.

Driediger’s volunteer leadership roles include volunteer leader for more than a dozen organizations and committees. He is serving a third term as director at the CPMA and also has been director of the Canadian Horticultural Council.

Driediger was also honored as the British Columbia’s Produce Marketing Association’s 2017 Produce Person of the Year and has served on the CPMA Marketing Committee since 2010.

Driediger has lobbied provincially and federally for the Perishables Agricultural Commodities Act-like trust in Canada and also has been instrumental in driving CPMA’s children’s Freggie programming, curriculum and education in British Columbia, Shuman said.

Accepting the award, Driediger recalled that when he was 28 years old, he, his brother and mother had to dip into savings to fund construction of a cooler to get into the fresh berry business. The investment paid off, as buyers who happened to be driving by his operation sought him out just as construction wrapped up.

“That was a seminal point in my family’s business history and also for myself and my career; it brought me to where I am today,” he said.

“I just want to say to all of you that it has been a wonderful 40 years,” he said. “I have made many great friends and it has been a great year being the convention chair.”

This is the 45th time The Packer has presented the award.