Dan Vache has the type of inviting personality that makes it easy for even the most doubtful skeptic of the Produce Traceability Initiative to call him up with a question and know he will be there to help, Tom Stenzel says.

"People just like being around Dan, and he"s a great teacher on these complicated issues," said Stenzel, president of the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C.

Vache"s 30-year career has won him friends in the supply chain from growers to retailers and helped make him a critical and respected voice in educating the industry on PTI and other supply chain issues, Stenzel said.

Vache, 57, vice president of supply chain management for Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association since January 2009, considers his experience as a point man on Produce Traceability Initiative as a rewarding experience. Through nine months of 2010, he said he has met with 15 industry groups and answered a bevy of questions about PTI.

PTI, an industry-driven effort pushing case-level electronic traceability by the end of 2012, is administered by Ottawa-based Canadian Produce Marketing Association the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association United Fresh and the Lawrenceville, N.J.-based GS1 US.

Vache has been familiar with the fresh produce industry from a young age. The native of Washington state grew up on an asparagus farm in the Columbia Basin/Tri City area and picked cherries, peaches and grapes in high school.

PTI has once again illustrated that change in the fresh produce industry isn"t easy, Vache said. Having a background in sales and sales management, Vache said it takes a lot of work to get people to say "yes" to something new.

"From standard pallets, to (Price Look-Up) codes, to stockers on individual pieces of fruit, these things didn"t happen overnight," he said.

While he acknowledged "salmon days" when the entire effort toward PTI seems like swimming upstream Vache said he is encouraged the industry is making progress.

"We continue to move forward, and it is encouraging o see more people recognize the need to better the industry," he said.

Vache likened the acceptance of PTI with the evolution of acceptance for temperature recorders using electronic data microprocessors instead of analog technology. When Vache was with Ryan Instruments, he helped convince industry operators the value of digital temperature monitors to be used in transportation instead of the strip chart monitors.

"Some said, ‘Why fix something that isn"t broke," but the digital recorder ended up with much better results," Vache said.

Now Vache looks to continue his role to establish whole chain traceability with the ultimate goal of strengthening consumer confidence in fresh produce.

"To me, it is a great challenge to see this through in whatever form it ends up taking," Vache said.