The urban legend of the Sports Illustrated cover jinx goes something to the effect that people or teams on the cover of the magazine subsequently experience bad luck.
Is there a parallel truth in the produce world? Does front-page coverage in The Packer signal the start of future stumbles for commodities or companies?
I think not.
After page-one coverage on the red hot celery market in the April 15 issue of The Packer, I checked shipping point prices yesterday, half expecting a big market decline. Far from being jinxed, the celery market was reported at astoundingly high prices of $70-73 per carton.
This run of high celery prices will be remarkable to chronicle in the coming days and weeks. And, jinx or not, It isn’t over yet.
The Packer’s "100 Who Made a Difference’’ was a centennial celebration project introduced to involve the industry in recognizing its own. As The Packer prepares to publish its 125th anniversary publication later this year, I thought I would periodically revisit the “100” list and recognize them in this space.
A word about the “100” from a Century of Produce: nominations were solicited from the industry throughout late 1992 and the first half of 1993. Editorial researcher Donna Vestal also provided many candidates, notably from the first half of the century.
Here are a few from the "100" list published in 1993.
- John S. Arena: One of the founding fathers of the Western Growers Association, John S. Arena built his family’s business into the largest buying broker for California table grapes in his time. Arena was secretary of the WGA from the time of its formation until his death in 1969, and he served as president of the association in 1930. When he was 10, he began working in his father’s business, but his career began with his apprenticeship at the produce house Williams and Co. in St. Joseph, Mo., where, within four years, he became the general manager. He then married and moved to Los Angeles to join his father’s business, A. Arena & Co., Ltd. In the 1930s, Arena’s family business became the largest cash buying broker in both the California table and juice grape markets after recognizing the need to finance their own production and then planting in the Imperial and the Salinas valleys. The company went on to make the California grape brands ``Pansy’’ and ``Carnation’’ respected names. Arena later went on to become president of the A. Arena & Co. Ltd., a position he held until his death in 1969.
- Harvey A. Baum: As an executive with The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., Harvey Baum introduced fresh fruits and vegetables -- and also packaged produce -- to the chain-store system. And he used his influence to encourage the growth of large scale agriculture production through cooperatives. He is credited as being the first to use refrigerated cases and mirrored displays in stores. In the 1920s, Baum expanded the offerings through 17,000 A&P Red Front stores beyond hardware items like potatoes and onions and, for the next 30 years, supervised the annual sale of more than 100,000 carlot equivalents of fresh fruits and vegetables. In 1927, Baum worked with Florida shippers and packaged oranges in 8-pound bags for A&P. The bagging of apples and other Florida citrus followed soon after. He supervised the openings of packaging plants in Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida. In order to create suppliers to handle A&P’s large volume, Baum formed grower cooperatives. He began his career with A&P as a produce buyer in 1920. By 1925 he had organized the Atlantic Commission Co. Baum worked his way up from general manager to president and finally to an executive position with A&P until his retirement in 1954. That same year, the 65-year-old Baum became president of Consolidated Growers Exchange, a position he held into the 1960s.
- C.C. Bell: An organizer and leading grower-shipper, C.C. Bell founded what became the International Apple Institute, the oldest national trade association in the United States. Charles Christian Bell immigrated to the United States as a child with his family in 1854, after a stormy voyage in which they were shipwrecked and returned to England before landing in New York on a second try. His father, German-born John Bell, made his way to Missouri and established the family home upon a farm two miles south of Boonville, Mo. Charles was 6 at the time. Bell left the farm in the mid-1860s to attend a business college, but he returned home in 1877 to open a fruit packing and shipping business with his brother. In 1886, he successfully organized the Central Missouri Horticultural Association. That experience proved to foreshadow Bell’s role in forming a national association. On Feb. 7, 1895, Bell called a meeting with 10 others at the Hotel Sherman in Chicago. Sharing a desire to improve conditions in the apple industry, Bell and other grower-shippers formed the National Apple Shippers’ Association. This organization became the International Apple Shippers’ Association in 1903, the International Apple Association in 1929, was incorporated in 1954 and in 1970 became the International Apple Institute, its name in 1993. (Now the group is the U.S. Apple Association) Bell was elected president at the first NASA Convention on August 1, 1895, and served two terms. At the time, 81 firms from 22 states were members. The Bell Fruit Farm, Boonville, Mo., continued operations in 1993, though not by the Bell family.
The Packer is taking nominations from the industry on who should be recognized in an additional class of “25 who have made a difference” in The Packer's 125th-anniversary publication. Send your thoughts on that to [email protected]