A man who has helped launch 1,000 careers, Jay Pack is one of those figures in the produce industry that instantly conjures up respect. From his work leading Standard Fruit & Vegetable Co., Inc. as Owner and CEO, to the immeasurable impact he and his wife Ruthie have made with The Pack Family Foundation and the Career Pathways program, you’d be hard-pressed to find a corner of our industry that hasn’t been influenced by Jay’s passion and drive to push produce professionals forward. It is in this same vein of gratitude and appreciation that we thank Jay for the impact he has had on multiple generations here in the industry, as he passes the torch in search of the next steps in his journey.
Recognizing the need to increase the pool of young professional talent in the produce industry, Jay's conversation with the now-retired President of the Produce Marketing Association, Bryan Silbermann, in the early 2000s spurred his idea for a scholarship program that would introduce college students to career opportunities in the produce industry. This program would introduce students to industry leaders and promote education through one-on-one student-mentor relationships. From that conversation, what was then known as the Pack Family Career Pathways program was born.
In just that first year, 2004, Career Pathways brought 24 students from five schools to what we all know is the gauntlet for new members of the produce industry, the annual PMA Fresh Summit. Giving the group, and later many others, the exposure to each and every facet of the industry over a short five-day period, provided a testament to the warm, welcoming, and inclusive qualities of a produce career that has captured the hearts of many. And what’s more—Jay’s plan actually worked.
By 2006, the Foundation for Industry Talent was created, with a vision to attract, develop, and retain produce industry talent, and today, having now developed into a part of the Center for Growing Talent by PMA, Career Pathways has grown to include nine programs across the globe, and has steadily introduced over 150 students each year to the produce industry. When you look at the stats behind the program, the numbers are astounding. Here are a few: 67 percent of those who participate in Career Pathways began careers in the produce industry, 78 percent of Career Pathways participants remain in the industry today, and more than 200 industry volunteers support Career Pathways year in and year out. If that doesn’t speak to a legacy like Jay Pack’s, I don’t know what does.
And as Jay and his wife Ruthie welcomed their first grandchild, a granddaughter, just a few weeks ago, the couple is embarking on a new, and exciting chapter in the produce industry and beyond. Jay has been involved in a number of companies since selling Standard Fruit & Vegetable Co., including currently acting as an investor and Director for Mission Produce, Coastal Sunbelt, and Country Fresh. To me, its evident that Jay’s passion for the future of fresh produce will have an indelible impact on the industry he dedicated his life’s work to. But don’t take my word for it—have a look at just some of the words that members throughout the industry have shared, when I asked them what Jay Pack has meant to them…
“I started working for the Packs right out of college, so my assumption was that all bosses were as driven, open, and fun to be around as Jay and Ruthie. I later learned that wasn’t the case. Jay and Ruthie have been incredible examples to my husband Drew and I in so many ways; most of all, they remind us to laugh every day, love the people you work with like family, and give back!”
“Over the years, Jay and I have had many occasions to cross paths. While we have never worked together, over our many years of collaboration in the industry, Jay has always treated me as a long lost friend. He is a great listener, loves to learn, and is always willing to help. One of my passions is getting young people into our business, and I don’t think there is anyone in the produce business who has done as much for that cause than Jay.”
“Working with Jay Pack in the Standard Fruit & Vegetable days, he was the consummate produce businessman—driven by customer service. Today, I appreciate Jay as he gives back to the produce industry. He is the epitome of a philanthropist through the Pack Family Foundation, and one fine example of that is the Career Pathways Program with the PMA. This program brings new talent and visions to our industry, enabling it to thrive.”
“I have been in the produce industry for over 20 years and I love it. This industry is amazing because of the products it produces—delicious, healthy, sustainable, there are so many wonderful adjectives you can use to describe it—and the people that work in it. I was lucky to find this industry by chance, and can’t imagine working anywhere else. We have to thank individuals like Jay Pack for his contribution in helping us attract new exciting talent to our industry so that we can continue to grow and help feed the world with good nutritious food. His contribution to the Career Pathways Program has helped us bring top students from various universities into our industry that we need to help us accomplish things in smarter and more affordable ways. We have to spread the story of how exciting our industry is, and not let good talent just find us by chance. We are competing for talent every day and Jay’s contributions help us attract that talent. Career Pathways has brought us so talent, and without Jay it would not be possible. Thank you, Jay.”
“Jay has obviously been very successful in the business world, and he isn’t afraid to give back to the industry that has helped him reach that point. He has a fantastic vision for developing talent, one he has brought through his work with Career Pathways, and is always working hard to further the produce industry.”
“The biggest impact Jay had on me was as a Career Pathways student. In fact, his impact started before I even knew about produce. He had this vision that we need young, talented people in produce, and if we can just show them the industry, they will be hooked. He was right, and once I had the opportunity, so was I. To this day, he is always genuinely interested and invested in my career path. I’ve had a lot of people support me throughout my career, but he is always going to be one of my major influences.”
“Jay has been a real visionary in the produce business, not only with his own company, but also in the business of introducing the best and brightest students from the U.S. and abroad to the produce and floral industry. He stepped up and put his ideas and money behind the Center for Growing Talent by PMA Pack Family Career Pathway programs. For the last ten plus years, over 500 students experienced PMA Fresh Summit, with Career Ambassadors at their side, and participated in specialized programs to build their awareness of the vast careers available in produce and floral. Because of Jay’s contributions, 67% of those students have graduated and started their careers in the industry and 78% of them are still working in the business today! He’s built a sustainable legacy and our industry is stronger than ever because of Jay Pack.”
“Jay Pack had the vision to develop and retain generations behind him through the Produce Marketing Association’s Career Pathways Program. This investment in students has given younger generations the opportunity to learn more about the agriculture supply chain, connect with a mentor, and start their careers upon graduating. I had the chance to attend the Career Pathways Program by Center for Growing Talent by PMA seven years ago, and with the support of the Pack Family scholarship and the guidance of the program’s curriculum, I was given the tools to succeed. I am so grateful to have found Taylor Farms through this program and given the chance to build my career with such an innovative company.”