With a career spanning more than 40 years, Western Growers executive Matt McInerney plans to retire in March.
McInerney, 65, senior executive vice president for Western Growers, joined the organization in October 1975. He said he is looking forward to traveling and enjoying retirement with his wife.
“I’m surrounded by a lot of young talent and great professionals (at Western Growers), so the organization will be just fine,” he said Nov. 12.
McInerney started with Western Growers “zero” ag experience, he recalls.
“It really was an opportunity to learn (the industry) from the ground up,” he said. “I accepted a position where I was a representative, traveling in California and Arizona to see our current members and prospecting for new members,” he said.
The job provided a unique perspective of engaging with growers and shippers directly, and some of them became his mentors.
More than 40 years later, and McInerney said he has contact with children or grandchildren of some of those members he met in the 1970s.
“It is just such a wonderful industry, you couldn’t be more blessed to have the people you deal with. It’s really kind of inspiring to see what they what they do throughout the entire supply chain, to get food to the plate of Americans and people from around the world,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”
Memories from his career include working with lettuce grower John Norton on the 1984 passage of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act.
“It was a remarkable time to work closely with (John Norton) and see how he was instrumental in navigating through the different opinions and perspectives on that — and the lasting legacy that the PACA trust program has provided to everyone in the supply chain,” he said.
McInerney said work on establishing the Dispute Resolution Corp. in Canada was rewarding. The creation of the DRC has resulted in timely and effective mediation of cross-border trade disputes, he said.
Also meaningful, he said, was working on the first guidance document for minimizing microbial contamination of fruits and vegetables in the late 1990s, He worked with Western Growers colleagues Jasper Hemphill (now retired) and Hank Giclas, now senior vice president for Western Growers.
That document was the start of increased attention to farm-level food safety practices.
McInerney also said he was proud to play a leadership role with the Alliance for Food and Farming. The group allows the industry to have a greater voice in assuring consumers about the safety of produce with respect to pesticide residue levels.
That effort, he said, has changed the conversation, allowing for science-based information that has enabled consumers to be better informed on how safe food is.
Working with C.H. Robinson on the creation of Western Growers transportation program also has been a special highlight of McInerney’s career, he said.
“It’s special because it provided a solution-based approach for members as they look strategically at their transportation (needs). I think that’s paid huge dividends for so many shippers,” he said.
McInerney said just coming to work and trying to make a difference every day has been satisfying.
“It’s been a great run.”