Honorees at the Jan. 29 Hall of Fame ceremony of the Texas International Produce Association. ( Hector Garza, Texas International Produce Association )

Seven industry leaders, representing growers and marketers of citrus and vegetables, were recently inducted into the Texas Produce Hall of Fame. 

Organized by the Texas International Produce Association, the Jan. 29 Hall of Fame ceremony in McAllen recognized long-time leaders in the Texas produce industry.
A tradition since 1988, the event this year honored:

  • Jud Flowers, president of Lone Star Citrus Growers, Edinburg.
  • Mark Fryer of Orchard Service and Nursery Ltd., Edinburg.
  • Joe Metz of Metz & Kappler Grove Service, McAllen.
  • Bill and Christine Morley of Rio Fresh, San Juan. 
  • Jeanette Schuster, office manager of Rio Fresh, who owns the farmland and Rio Fresh packing facility along with her siblings Fred Schuster and Christine Morley and another sister who is a registered nurse.
  • Fred Schuster of Schuster Farms, San Juan, Texas.

Mary McKeever of TexaSweet Citrus Marketing, Mission, and Hugh Topper, retired vice president of fresh foods for H-E-B, San Antonio, were awarded the Scott Toothaker Award, The award was established in 1989 to recognize those who are not directly involved in production agriculture, but who have made important contributions to the industry’s success.

McKeever retired from TexaSweet in 1997 after 24 years with the group.

Topper worked for H-E-B for 26 years and served as a volunteer leader for several industry groups, including the United Fresh Produce Association, Produce Marketing Association, Produce for Better Health Foundation and the Texas International Produce Association.

“We have been hosting this event for three decades now,” Dante Galeazzi, president and CEO of the Texas International Produce Association, said in a news release. “To have standing room only speaks volumes about our inductee’s accomplishments and the tremendous amount of respect this industry has for their hard work.”


Hall of Famers’ backgrounds

Flowers is a 41-year veteran of the Texas citrus industry, starting in 1977 as the citrus research and demonstration manager at Rio Farms. He later worked for Pride O Texas as general manager, according to the release. He later was president and general manager of Healds Valley Farms, and in 2007 he partnered with his son, T.J. Flowers, and Trent Bishop to create Lone Star Citrus Growers.

“We built Lone Star with passion and determination to bring added value to the citrus buying customer while serving the independent grower,” Flowers said in a release. “Those ideals are at the core of everything we do, and I am honored to be a part of this journey and to be recognized by TIPA as an inductee in the Hall of Fame.” 

Bill Morley who is semi-retired, is a salesman and manager of the produce shed at Rio Fresh, a third-generation greens/herbs/onion farm. Christine Morley, president of the firm, was recognized as a member of The Packer 25 in 2016.

Jeanette Schuster has worked nearly 40 years at Rio Fresh, the family business.

Carl and Wilma Schuster, parents of the Jeanette Schuster, Christine Morley and Fred Schuster, started farming in Texas during the 1940s and became part owners of Rio Fresh in 1970. Rio Fresh is now wholly owned by the family.

Today, Jeanette Schuster said the third generation of the family is active in the business.

She said she appreciates the Texas Produce Hall of Fame honor.

“I was shocked, excited and very honored,” she said. “I am truly appreciative of it and Christine and Bill were too,” she said Jan. 31.


Nominations welcome

The Texas Produce Hall of Fame Committee accepts and reviews nominations throughout the year, according to the release. Bob Peterson, formerly of C&V Supply, Mission, has served as chairman of the committee since 2010.

“It’s a privilege to be part of this industry and serving as chairman of the Hall of Fame Committee is truly an honor,” Peterson said in the release. “Our biggest challenge as a committee is finalizing a list of honorees when there are so many deserving people.”

A portion of the funds from the Hall of Fame Ceremony goes towards the William E. Weeks Agriculture Scholarship Fund. The fund supports students wishing to pursue a degree related to the fresh produce industry, according to the release.

The next Texas Produce Hall of Fame Ceremony is tentatively scheduled for the winter of 2020.