( Photo courtesy United Fresh Produce Association; graphic by Amelia Freidline )

Sarah Frey, president and CEO of Illinois-based Frey Farms, and founder of Tsamma Watermelon Juice and Sarah’s Home Grown, is the honoree and featured speaker at this year’s Women in Produce LIVE! general session during United Fresh LIVE!

The session starts at noon Eastern on June 16, according to a news release from the United Fresh Produce Association.

The United Fresh Women in Produce event honors the contributions of all women in the produce industry, according to the release, and gives one women the opportunity to share her story and experiences. Nominees are evaluated by past honorees and United Fresh officers and selections are based on industry involvement, contributions, and inspiration for others, according to the release.

“For more than 20 years, our Women in Produce honorees have always provided an inspiring look into successful pathways in our industry,” United Fresh president and CEO Tom Stenzel said in the release. 

“Sarah has such an inspiring personal and professional story to share with our attendees. I know she will inspire yet another generation of produce leaders.”

Frey grew up on her family’s 100-acre farm in Illinois, and when she was 8 years old she and her mother started buying watermelons from local growers and delivering them to area grocers, according to the release.

When she was 16, Frey bought a truck and took over the distribution, expanding her client list from 12 stores to more than 150, according to the release. When she was 18, she bought the family’s business, and her four brothers returned to work with her, according to the release.

The company now grows pumpkins, watermelon, cantaloupe, sweet corn, hard squash and fall ornamentals, according to the release, with growing operations in Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois and West Virginia’s panhandle. 

A book about Frey’s experiences, “The Growing Season: How I built a new life and saved an American farm,” is being published this summer by Random House, according to the release.

Previous honorees include:

  • Dan’l Mackey Almy, DMA Solutions, Inc.
  • Tonya Antle, Organic Produce Network
  • Jan Berk, San Miguel Produce
  • Frieda Rapoport Caplan, Frieda’s Inc.
  • Karen Caplan, Frieda’s Inc.
  • Margaret D’Arrigo Martin, Margaret Inc.
  • Jan DeLyser, California Avocado Commission
  • Lorelei DiSogra, United Fresh Produce Association 
  • Jan Fleming, Strube Celery & Vegetable Co.
  • Janice Honigberg, Sun Belle Inc.
  • Cindy Jewell, California Giant Berry Farms
  • Lorri Koster, Koster Communications, Coastal Grower Magazine
  • Julie Krivanek, Krivanek Consulting Inc.
  • Kathleen Nave, California Table Grape Commission
  • Lisa McNeece, Grimmway Enterprises Inc.
  • Teri Miller, The Fresh Market
  • Dr. Martha Rhodes-Roberts, Roberts Associates
  • Steffanie Smith, Andrew Smith Co.
  • Heather Shavey, Costco Wholesale
  • Mayda Sotomayor-Kirk, Seald Sweet International/Greenyard USA
  • Rosemary Talley, Talley Farms
  • Jenney Tenney, The Kroger Co.

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