s somewhat of a transplant into the produce industry, something that continues to strike me is the eagerness of our people to foster the development of our own. Whether it be professionally or personally, it’s never hard to find an example of someone stepping up to be a mentor in our little community. A group of produce-minded individuals that I have seen showcase this hallmark of our industry, time and time again, is the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA)—in particular, with its Passion for Produce Program (PFP).
Since the program’s inception in 2010, CPMA has married its Annual Convention and Trade Show with a unique approach to developing fresh talent in the Canadian produce industry. Dubbed PFP, the program has aimed to go beyond the mentoring programs you may see in other industries, seeking to cultivate not just those who excel in their fields, but to help create our future leaders.
Ron Lemaire, CPMA’s President and one of those who have spearheaded PFP, tells me this is exactly what he feels is so valuable about the event. “The truly great thing about the Passion program is that we are not only able to connect professionals just starting their produce careers with today’s industry leaders, but this program also provides an intense three days of education and networking at Canada’s largest fresh fruit and vegetable convention and trade show,” he says.
And Ron is not just being glib when he refers to PFP as “intense.” In fact, that’s a word that comes up more than once when speaking to both those behind-the-scenes and alumni. The program itself takes place during a packed three days of training in conjunction with the Annual CPMA Convention & Trade Show. Each participant is put through everything from mentorship and networking activities with leaders in the Canadian industry, to getting in-depth knowledge on the scope of the industry through educational, convention, and trade show activities. It may make for a few action-packed days, but the thing is–it really works.
Greg Ogiba, COO of AMC North America and another leader behind PFP, stresses that its fast-paced nature is one of its biggest assets, sharing, “Through the Passion for Produce program, participants receive a unique and accelerated professional development experience that will help them grow their careers and their network.”
From speaking with PFP’s organizers, it becomes clear that it was created sincerely in an effort to provide those rising stars we see every day in the produce industry with the opportunity to put their professional development on the fast track. Now in its seventh year, 101 participants have gone through the program thus far. And each of those years, over 25 industry leaders make time during the busy CPMA convention to connect with the PFP participants, one of those leaders being CEO of The Giumarra Companies, John Corsaro.
“Participating as a mentor is extremely rewarding,” Corsaro says of his experience. “Every year I get to meet a great group of individuals who have a passion for the industry. I’m meeting and connecting with the industry leaders of the future.”
So, with seven years of success under PFP’s belt, where does it go from here? Participants may or may not be pleased to hear it’s only going to get more intense.
Again packing the most into a short period of time, new for 2017 is that, as soon as the participant list is finalized, each will have access to the CPMA Produce Basics Certificate program. The PFP participants will complete this first level of the CPMA Credentialing Program before even stepping foot in beautiful Toronto for the convention.
“For me, this was a really eye opening opportunity,” said PFP alumni and District Manager for Mann Packing, Michael Sousa. “Not only to how I see my career path in produce, but the sheer size and scope of the industry itself. This program helps participants to appreciate how complex and important it is for our industry to work together to deliver fresh product to consumers.”
The participants will once again have an opportunity to have a one-on-one meeting with produce industry leaders to learn about possible career paths and ask for professional advice. After the program, participants become part of the Passion for Produce Alumni who are regularly asked to participate in and volunteer for various CPMA activities.
“The Passion for Produce program was a great way to take the next step in my produce career. I was able to meet and connect with industry leaders that have offered mentorship even after the program ended,” said Kristina Goodall, Division Manager, NFI Canada.
PFP 2017 will take place in Toronto, May 9th through the 11th, during the Annual CPMA Convention and Trade Show. Last year, the PFP 2017 program asked for submissions between October 1st and December 15th, and a short list of individuals has been chosen to participate. The number of participants in the program is kept relatively small in order to maintain the quality of the experience.
An opportunity exclusively available to CPMA members, there is a program fee of $1,100 for each participant, which includes a full delegate registration for the CPMA Convention & Trade Show as well as all Passion for Produce events.