While the industry continues to change, how do businesses keep up? As the world of produce, and agriculture as a whole, constantly innovates and evolves, there are people who live and breathe the industry, those who take the time to understand and adapt to the never-ending surprises and demands consumers and buyers expect. Those are the people to watch out for, to follow. And with a decorated history like Trent Bishop’s, J&D Produce may have landed the perfect man for the job.
Trent joined J&D Produce and Little Bear Produce this year after a history of encounters and pivotal moments. He has seen it all, lived it all, and his experience is anything but ordinary. I was able to get to know Trent and find out all that drives him in his life, both personally and professionally. His optimism and down-to-earth persona expose his determination and ambition, all culminating in his latest position as J&D’s Vice President of Sales.
Lilian Diep: When did you first get started in produce, and what kept you interested and passionate about the industry?
Trent Bishop: I got my start in the produce business as a high school student in the late ’80s, stapling cantaloupe boxes in the sweltering loft of the former Helle-Davis packing plant in Mission, Texas. That was followed by a sales assistant internship at the I. Kunik Co. during the summer of my freshman year at Texas A&M University, where I earned a degree in Agricultural Economics. Like many college students, at the time I was simply trying to figure out what I wanted to do for a career, and two things came to my mind about the produce business: There was always going to be a demand for fresh, healthy food, and most people that I knew in the produce business were making a fairly decent living doing so. Those two thoughts formed the mindset I have now and created a career that has spanned over 25 years.
LD: What’s a quote or mantra that you relate to?
TB: Own your minutes and maintain perspective. I lost my wife to metastatic breast cancer in 2018. The perspective gained by this experience was life-changing—our minutes on this Earth are finite and priceless. We get to determine how we spend them, who we spend them with, and who we give them away to. Once they are spent or given away, they cannot be replaced. So, I try to be in control of my minutes and not let negative factors or situations take my minutes from me—as much as possible. Having endured such a personal loss has also helped me keep everything in perspective. Some of the things that used to really bother me seem a little silly now in comparison.
"DREAM BIG, AND THEN CHASE THOSE DREAMS."
– Trent Bishop, VP of Sales, J&D Produce
LD: What would you say is your most rewarding experience while working in the industry?
TB: I absolutely love the fact that I can explain to my four daughters that their dad makes a living selling something that is healthy and of this earth. Although it is very hard work at times, the produce industry is a very family-friendly industry.
LD: During your free time, what’s your go-to hobby?
TB: When I am not chasing my girls around, dropping them off somewhere, or otherwise spending time with them, I love to fish the shallow waters of the Lower Laguna Madre off South Padre Island, Texas. Fishing is such a reprieve from the chaos of a produce sales office. Many times, I find myself alone in a back bay and out of cell phone service range. The lapping of the water against the boat and the sound of nature doing its thing is therapeutic to me. If I catch fish, great. If I don’t, great.
LD: What lesson did you learn early on that you feel is applicable and can translate to any field or career?
TB: My first mentor in this business, Stan Agar, taught me that an unscrupulous man can make a very good living in the produce business. However, an honest man can do equally as good. Doing the right thing is the right thing to do! Be fair, be honest, and protect your reputation as such. Something else that he taught me was to always be punctual, always look presentable, and never assume I cannot be replaced. I have never forgotten this advice and still pass it along to this day.
LD: What drives you on a day-to-day basis?
TB: My four daughters are my world. Being their father and their example is the most important job I have. There seems to be a shortage of good, active, engaged fathers in this world. Through my encouragement and nurturing, I want my girls to know that they can accomplish anything they truly set their minds to. I want them to know that they should never feel obligated to settle down with any man just for the sake of being taken care of. It is my job to make sure they know how to not only survive, but to thrive on their own talents. Although my career has afforded me the opportunity to spoil them if I was so inclined, I have (mostly) refrained and taught them the most important lesson my father ever taught me, and that is how to work and earn a dollar.
LD: If you had to choose another field, what would it be?
TB: I would love to either coach football or teach career advice to college students. As a lifelong athlete and former college football player, I am eaten up with the sport. I love watching how elite college coaches can transform a team in a very short time; it speaks to their ability to bring out the best in everyone—show them how they can achieve things beyond the limits they placed on themselves. I would love to have that kind of positive influence on young adults. Once or twice a semester, I am asked to guest lecture at Texas A&M University in the Department of Agricultural Economics; I enjoy the engagement with the students so much. After all, I was one of them not too long ago! I really love encouraging them to blaze their own path, believe in themselves, and dream. Because I have had amazing mentors in my life, I feel an obligation to my industry and those gentlemen who paved the way for me to pay it forward and give the next generation of industry leaders an example with which they too can create a basis from.
LD: What advice would you give to the next generation coming into the industry?
TB: I would tell them to humble themselves; the world does not owe them a job. Be ready to start at the bottom and truly learn your trade. Earn your promotions through hard work, engagement, and results. Hard work will not go unnoticed, and almost every successful CEO started at the bottom and earned their way up the proverbial career ladder. Dream big, and then chase those dreams.
As much as I have learned from this short interview, it pales in comparison to what Trent has harvested throughout his entire career. From humble beginnings in the cantaloupe fields to VP of Sales for J&D, Trent Bishop truly is instrumental in what he does for the produce industry and will not only bring J&D Produce to great heights, but everyone in the produce industry as well.