Thomas Wolfe may have declared You Can’t Go Home Again, but for T&G Global’s Brock Nemecek, all paths lead back to where one came from, a little older, wiser, and with a renewed view of what might have been missed in the place that grew you. He took a lot of detours from his small hometown in Northwest Texas to find himself the proverbial apple that didn’t fall far from the tree.
First, I will tell you what Brock told me: He was going to write speeches for presidents of the United States.
“I moved to go to The University of Texas at Arlington. My degree is in Political Science with a minor in Marketing, and politics is still one of my favorite sports to watch,” Brock laughs.
It was in trade show coordination and management, though, that he first began building his professional skills.
“I worked toward becoming a show manager, and I did that for several different industries before following an opportunity to Los Angeles,” he tells me. Toward the beginning of 2009, though, Brock found himself among those laid off in the Recession. “I decided it was easier to be laid off looking for work in Dallas than L.A., so I moved back and was invited to a friend’s crawfish boil, where I ended up meeting Dan’l.”
Life in and beyond produce is a winding road of relationships, with a wide array of roles to be played by those who help you find your path. If a mentor is a guide on that journey, Dan’l Mackey Almy, President and CEO of DMA Solutions, is the cartographer of Brock’s career in our industry.
“I was hatched at DMA,” he says. “Dan’l was a friend of a friend who took a chance on me. Within a few months, she had made a position for me. A chance meeting became the doorway to what I was meant to do; it became clear very quickly that this was it. I will be grateful to Dan’l for the rest of my life for giving me that.”
"Fresh produce doesn’t pop up just once or twice in the playback of my childhood. It WAS my childhood."
- Brock Nemecek, Marketing Manager, North America, T&G Global Limited
That doorway led to even more connections with even more movers and shakers. Three that stand out in Brock’s mind as his guides along the way are Cindy Jewell, Vice President of Marketing for California Giant Berry Farms; Dino Cancellieri Jr., Managing Partner of Veg-Fresh Farms; and Jan DeLyser, Vice President of Marketing for the California Avocado Commission.
“Dino was one of my first clients in the fresh produce industry. In 2009, he and the rest of the Veg-Fresh Farms family taught me much of the foundational fresh produce knowledge that I still refer to in my daily work. Dino has a natural way of connecting with people and building them up, which I knew I wanted to emulate,” Brock recalls.
Cindy became a client shortly thereafter in 2010. Brock says he was lucky to work with her as a client, and even luckier to count her as a lifelong friend.
“As a mentor, Cindy has given me the courage to try new things and taught me to appreciate growth from both successes and failures—like the time I accidentally allowed her Google ad campaign to run 7,000 dollars over budget, and she didn’t kick me off her account,” he laughs. “I always value Cindy’s ability to open my eyes to a new perspective, to see things differently. I believe that ability is one of the things that makes Cindy so relatable, compassionate, and humble—three of the things I admire most about her. As a friend, Cindy lifts me up, makes me laugh, and is always there for me. While I don’t get to work with her on a daily basis, we still find ways to collaborate on shared passion projects like the Tour de Fresh and the United Fresh Produce Marketing & Merchandising Council.”
As for how he crossed paths with Jan, Brock says early in his fresh produce career he just seemed to run into her at every industry event!
“While our initial meetings were ‘right place, right time,’ I began to seek out Jan’s advice and insights. I was inspired by the work she does and also greatly value her knowledge, tenacity, and calm demeanor. Plus, Jan always invites me to eat with her and her team at the California Avocado Commission booth at trade shows, so I knew I wanted to keep that going,” he laughs, but I understand completely.
When I ask Brock about becoming a mentor as well, he tells me that he can absolutely see himself passing what he has learned on to others.
“Both of my parents are teachers, and I think that affected me more than I realized,” he says, explaining that it makes sense in more ways than one that this industry is such a good fit. After all, as he once wrote in a reflective piece about growing up the son of a successful gardener, “Fresh produce doesn’t pop up just once or twice in the playback of my childhood. It WAS my childhood.
“Dad was a huge gardener and Mom’s family had an agricultural background. I was aware of it but never knew how much of an impact it would have on who I am and what I do,” Brock shares.
So, I guess Brock isn’t so much the apple that falls from the tree. From where I sit, no matter how winding the branches, he remains attached to roots that were a part of fresh produce all along.
Here is what they have to say about Brock Nemecek...
"One of the things I love about this industry is how many great friends we make by working together and by watching some of those friends grow, thrive, and become leaders. Brock is one of those people who has become a lifelong friend with the bonus of being able to work together for the last several years creating fun and engaging promotions that we are both very proud of. During that time he has taken some huge leaps in his career, while still taking time to volunteer and give back to the industry. Brock is always a student of the industry, hungry to learn everything he can, then apply it to his brand while teaching others what he learned so that they, too, can benefit and share in the success. He is one of a kind that is always ready to give, whether it’s time, knowledge, or to collaborate on a project benefitting the industry, even joining Tour de Fresh as a cyclist to benefit salad bars for schools. He earned respect from his peers for his efforts and determination, even though he probably should have just ridden in the van!"
"I think the world of Brock—he’s an extremely talented guy. Veg-Fresh Farms was one of the first projects that he was a leader on with DMA. We had just moved into a new facility and offered a lot of educational opportunities for him. I worked with him a lot on our brand and, for being new to the industry and new even to the company at the time, he was extremely respectful of our brand, very inquisitive about what it was that built the company, and wanted to emphasize and bring back those attributes instead of reinventing the wheel.
Having gone the route he has, Brock’s the perfect vehicle to bring more diverse talent to the industry. He is very approachable and more than willing to share his evolution. I think he’s a good example of the industry’s growth in new backgrounds; he has some real-life experience in where new industry members are coming from. There is so much opportunity for success for young people because the industry does a much better job of presenting itself as a fun opportunity to advance your career, and he can probably do a bit better of a job showing that than those of us for whom this is all second-nature."
"I have known Brock since he started working in the produce industry and have enjoyed interacting with him throughout the years. I remember Brock as a participant in the Produce Marketing Association’s High Performance Management Conference about five years ago. I was blown away by his enthusiasm as well as his innate ability to work with teams to achieve a common goal. He has an exceptional marketing mind, is a pleasure to work with, and he will continue to make a difference and positively impact our industry into the future."