The presence of a fruit and vegetable trade publication in his college pad was Exhibit A that Ashley Rawl was destined to be a great fit for the produce industry.

Subscribing to The Packer newspaper while a student at Clemson, Rawl was already leaning toward a career in the produce business.

Sure enough, not long after graduating from Clemson University with a degree in agricultural economics, Rawl had a chance to join the family business, Walter P. Rawl &amp Sons Inc. in Pelion, S.C.

Son of Wayne Rawl and grandson of the firm"s founder Walter Rawl, Ashley grew up working on the farm. Although his parents gave him the freedom to chose whatever he wanted to do, Rawl wanted to be a part of the produce industry.

But he was not given a corner office and a plum job starting out. Beginning his career in fall 1994, Rawl was sent to work on all aspects of the farm for a couple of years.

"I was not given a ticket to come right back into the office, and I think that was a great thing for me," he said.

Rawl, 41, director of sales, marketing and product development for Walter P. Rawl &amp Sons, said the produce business has been fast moving and challenging in his nearly 20-year career.

"I think it has always been relatively fast, but it seems to be even faster now than it has ever been," he said.

The speed of information technology has been a big part of that, he said.

"You"ve got to love it to stay in it because it is not easy," he said.

Despite the challenges, Rawl said he receives a tremendous amount of enjoyment and fun from the business. Importantly, Rawl thinks that he has seen an increase in need for collaboration between grower-shippers and retailers.

Rawl served in leadership positions for the Leafy Greens Council and was selected to be a member of the 1997-1998 United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association"s Produce Industry Leadership Program.

Over the years, Rawl has served on the selection committee for the leadership class, including the tough job of serving as chairman of the selection committee.

Rawl also served in various board posts for United Fresh, including as chairman of the health and nutrition council of the government relations council.