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Along with vice president of fresh Emily Coborn, fifteen produce manager and two produce merchandising specialists from St. Cloud, Minn.-based Coborn’s Inc. got a firsthand look at more than half a dozen growing operations during a late August tour of California produce.

Tom Williams, director of produce and floral, said the company chose representatives from all three of the company’s banners, with a diverse background.

“We intentionally picked our last three United Fresh Produce Manager Award winners, added in new, up and coming produce managers and balanced with our experienced produce managers who could be mentors during and after the tour,” he said. “It really allowed for a nice mix for them to get to know those that they would not normally interact with, due to geography.”

Williams said he hopes attendees brought home a better understanding of the industry as a whole.

“I put the trip together to California with the intention of getting our produce managers into the fields, and to appreciate:

  • What it takes to get fresh produce from seed to our stores;
  • To understand why we partner with the growers we have, and see where they grow and the passion they have for supplying our stores with safe, high quality produce;
  • And for them to return to their stores with renewed passion and energy and pass on what they learned to their teams

The groups toured Ocean Mist, Earthbound Farms, Driscoll’s, Dole, Fresh Express, Kings River Packing, Moonlight Companies and D.J. Forry."

Another benefit, Williams said, is attendees got to see how much care and planning is involved in growing, harvesting, packing, processing and shipping fresh produce.

“They start to understand the responsibility they have at store level not to break the cold chain, to do our part to handle properly and to merchandise creatively to grow sales and have pride in what we sell,” he said.

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