Jim Lemke, who joined C.H. Robinson in 1989 and has led its Robison Fresh division since it was established, is planning to retire this year.
Lemke will stay on during a transition period, according to a news release, but no set date has been announced.
Lemke started with the company in logistics, becoming corporate procurement and distribution services division manager in 1992, and became a vice president in 1999.
When Mike Rempe, vice president of produce, retired in 2004, Lemke officially assumed leadership of the produce division, a role that he had transitioned into the previous year.
When C.H. Robinson unified all fresh produce brands in 2014 under the Robinson Fresh brand, Lemke became its president.
He has been named as an industry leader in The Packer 25’s annual recognition, and was the publication’s “Produce Man of the Year” in 2008.
After serving as chairman of the United Fresh Produce Association in 2009-10, United Fresh President Tom Stenzel said Lemke is a visionary.
“If you look at what C.H. Robinson did 15 years ago in produce compared to today, it's incredible," Stenzel told The Packer at the time. “He saw the opportunity for logistic support and information technology to build a new business model in profitable sourcing and distribution of produce.”
In the release, the company credited Lemke not only with growing Robinson Fresh, but aiding the growth of the produce industry overall.
“His passion for innovation has driven change, while exhibiting a commitment to serving the customer,” according to the release.
Lemke has been a strong advocate for food safety, federal nutrition funding, and increasing fresh produce consumption.
He has served on numerous boards and associations during his career, including:
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee;
- United Fresh chairman;
- Food Marketing Institute Fresh Food Executive Committee member;
- Produce for Better Health Foundation board member;
- Produce for Marketing Association’s Produce Electronic Identification board member/Packaging Special Interest Group member;
- Center for Produce Safety advisory board member;
- Produce Traceability Initiative Leadership Council member;
- United Fresh Start Foundation chairman; and
- Second Harvest Heartland board member.