Attend a produce industry event, and odds are good that you will see Wayne Brandt.
“You have to be out there,” said Brandt, president of Reedley, Calif.-based Brandt Farms.
He misses few opportunities to network and evaluate what trends are taking hold in produce, from new varieties to new package types.
Brandt has grown his business significantly over the years, most recently with a major expansion in the commodities the company handles.
He has also invested time and effort on behalf of the industry. Among the highlights were his years on the executive committee of the California Grape & Tree Fruit League, now the California Fresh Fruit Association. He was chairman in 1994-95.
“One of the best experiences I’ve had,” Brandt said, noting that he learned much from listening to other produce executives and from meeting with state government officials.
Also active with charitable organizations in his community, Brandt has gotten involved in many areas over his long career.
“Wayne’s always been an industry guy,” said Harold McClarty, president of Kingsburg, Calif.-based HMC Farms and chairman of the California Fresh Fruit Association. “None of us like to really spend our time on stuff that doesn’t make money, but I think we all feel obligated to give back a little bit, and Wayne’s always right at the top.
“He’s always stepped up and been a leader, and a lot of the good things that have happened are because of people like him,” McClarty said.
Brandt leads his company in a laid-back way, he said, preferring to hire good employees and let them work rather than micromanage.
McClarty said that demeanor sets the stage for people to pay attention when Brandt does say something.
“When he speaks, you listen,” McClarty said, “and when he asks something of you, you do what you can to help because he doesn’t ask very often, and when he does it’s got to be important or he wouldn’t be asking.”
Having grown up in the industry, Brandt never really considered a career outside produce, and McClarty considers him a standout in the profession.
“When he says it, you can believe it, and he’ll do it,” McClarty said. “Those things don’t seem to be extraordinary, but they really are, day in and day out over the length of the career that he’s had. My hat’s off to him.”