MONTREAL — Les Mallard, vice president of sales for Fyffes North America and past chair of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, is The Packer’s Canadian Produce Person of the Year.
Shannon Shuman, vice president of produce for The Packer’s parent company Farm Journal, presented the award to Mallard at the CPMA annual banquet April 4.
“I had the opportunity to speak with some of his closest colleagues, and according to those colleagues, our winner truly cares about building genuine relationships,” Shuman said. “He knows everyone and he knows both who and how to get things done in Canada.
“In fact, one of his colleagues referred to him as the mayor of Canada, which I think is a step above prime minister,” Shuman quipped.
He noted that a customer of Mallard described him as the right combination of confident and humble and as someone who always delivers on what he has promised.
Mallard has been in the industry for more than 30 years, with most of that time spent at Chiquita, and he has a long history of volunteer leadership in produce.
“I’m absolutely shocked, humbled and honored to get this award,” Mallard said.
He described his start in the industry, when he was 16 and his mom got him a job at a grocery store.
Along with giving credit to his parents and his wife and children, Mallard mentioned the late Mary FitzGerald, who spent most of her 40-year produce career at Chiquita and who is honored each year with the presentation of an award in her name at the CPMA convention.
“Mary was one of the best bosses and helped me become who I was, who I am right now,” Mallard said. “There was no one else like Mary, and one of the things I’m most proud of to date in my career is helping with the Mary FitzGerald Award and to see people in the industry who have really, really, really loved getting that, and it’s become a real legacy here at CPMA, and that’s one of my most proudest moments.”
Mallard also commented on the spirit of camaraderie that many describe as unique to the produce industry.
“I don’t feel like I have customers. I never have,” Mallard said. “I have friends who helped me out. And I’ve told this many times. I, as much as anybody in here is, I’m a farmer, and I’m a farmer of relationships. And when you meet somebody, you plant the seed.
“And the things that you do to cultivate that relationship, whether it’s calling just to say congratulations or whatever, that’s what helps the plants grow, and sometimes you get the harvest,” Mallard said. “But inevitably, anybody you thinks that relationships are key, you’re a farmer.”