( Photo by The Packer staff )

Taking measure of progress in the produce industry over the past 125 years is no simple task, but The Packer has helped to chronicle that journey since its founding in 1893.

This year, The Packer will publish its 125th anniversary edition.

Of course, the publication will afford the opportunity to celebrate the legacy of produce companies who have been part of the journey.

Previous anniversary publications — The Packer 75 and A Century of Produce — combined an extensive look back at the industry record and a thoughtful gaze at potential future developments.

Writers saw many of the future challenges awaiting the industry. Labor has always been recognized as a potential pain point for the fresh produce industry. 

“The never-ending problem of maintaining an adequate labor force, in field and packing plant, will continue,” said one article about future prospects for California and Arizona in the 75th anniversary edition.

There were some unavoidable misses. In a 1968 article “Florida eyes the future,” long-time Packer reporter Larry Waterfield highlighted feared overproduction of citrus in the years ahead. While citrus production did grow well into the late 1980s, no one could see the looming threats of citrus canker beginning in the mid-1980s and citrus greening that would stalk the industry starting in 2005.

Previous anniversary editions of The Packer were not yet in the digital age. Packer 125 is different in that respect.

I have already received great responses to some open-ended questions in the LinkedIn Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group about influential industry leaders, the biggest leaps in technology in the past generation and the shape of future challenges in California, Texas and Florida.

One digital tool that I’m excited to share with readers is an online survey for the anniversary edition. The Packer is inviting industry feedback through the survey found here.

Please take the time to fill out the survey and help inform our editorial efforts.
Here are some questions we’re asking:

  • How has technology changed shipping produce in the past 25 years?
  • Name one person who you believe — in the past or the present — has had or will have an extraordinary and lasting impact on the fresh produce industry ... and why.
  • How will produce retailing change in the next 25 years?
  • Technologically, what do you see as the biggest driver for change in the industry over the past 25 years?

Again, please take a few minutes to complete the survey and help chronicle the celebration of the produce industry past and expectations for the future.

Tom Karst is The Packer’s editor. E-mail him at [email protected].