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A Produce Coming of Age

A Produce Coming of Age

For Chelsey Skooglund, growing up alongside a fresh produce company meant sharing a lifetime of milestones. Born in 1989—just two years after her father, Jim Marderosian, founded Bee Sweet Citrus—she was herself a landmark in time. These two paths are intrinsically woven, taking Chelsey on a journey that led her right back to fresh produce.

“When I was 15, I got my work permit and started working at Bee Sweet during the summers. I worked in accounts payable, invoicing, and even the file room. No matter what the job was, however, I truly believed it instilled a strong work ethic in me from an early age,” Chelsey, now a Financial and Accounting Analyst at Bee Sweet, tells me.

Once Chelsey graduated from college, she got her Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license and worked in public accounting for a number of years. Eventually, she felt it was time to return to the family business and bring everything she learned to implement at Bee Sweet Citrus.

“One of the amazing things about growing up alongside Bee Sweet has been witnessing just how much it has grown over the years,” Chelsey says as she casts a line back across her memories. “As the industry morphed into what it is today, Bee Sweet Citrus has had to transform with it.”

Some children growing up in a family business feel pressured into joining the trade. In regard to Chelsey’s career in produce, she never felt as though the industry was forced upon her or her siblings.

“Because our growth has been synchronous with that of the company, it felt natural to come back,” she explains. “At its core, Bee Sweet Citrus is a family-owned and operated company. It’s that bond the company was built upon that remains the motivation for us to continue.”

That family bond all started with Chelsey’s father, Jim, who is today the President of Bee Sweet Citrus. She notes that although her dad worked long hours while she was growing up, he never missed an opportunity to take her and her siblings out to the packing house or the fields.

“It really does feel like I grew up with the company. For example, when I was in the first grade, my dad had a big open house to celebrate the grand opening of our current packing facility. I was so excited to attend. Events like that have become core memories for me,” Chelsey recalled, weaving those parallel threads ever so gracefully.

Chelsey points out that Bee Sweet Citrus, now a leading provider of citrus, comes from humble beginnings. Even when the company was operating out of a small facility, its goal has always been to provide customers with high-quality citrus and the kind of exceptional customer service that only a family-owned and operated company could.

“It goes without saying, however, that the needs and expectations of our customers have changed over the last few decades, and with that comes changes to Bee Sweet,” she continues. “We recognize the importance of evolving with the times to better serve our growers and customers, but we always strive to fall back on the same family values and customer service that Bee Sweet Citrus was built upon when it first opened its doors.”

That evolution began taking place earlier than you might expect. In the ’90s, Bee Sweet Citrus had built and moved to its current facility—one of the company’s biggest turning points, according to Chelsey.

“Before our current packing facility opened, the company operated out of a very small building with only a handful of ranches. Since its grand opening, we’ve added significant improvements, further solidifying our growth in the industry,” she goes on.

The past decade has also been a period of rapid development for Bee Sweet Citrus. The company added an automatic palletization room to its latest facility, installed solar panels on its rooftops, renovated its lemon wash line and pack line, and recently began to utilize its brand-new, state-of-the-art Mandarin facility.

“All of the advancements we’ve implemented to our packing house have been done with the goal of establishing a better work-life balance for our employees, while better serving our growers and customers,” Chelsey elaborates.

Everything Bee Sweet Citrus does is done, ultimately, with the consumer in mind. Every day, the company strives to grow, pack, and ship the best citrus California has to offer, and it is always looking for ways to improve how it operates.

“One of the amazing things about growing up alongside Bee Sweet has been witnessing just how much it has grown over the years.”

- Chelsey Skooglund, Financial and Accounting Analyst, Bee Sweet Citrus

Some of the most integral pieces of that company puzzle are the family members who continue to uphold its overarching vision, and Chelsey is one of them. She tells me that working in produce can be incredibly tough, but it is also incredibly rewarding.

“Those who aspire to work in this industry should know that it doesn’t fit a standard work model; there are long days and times where you have to be present on and off the clock,” Chelsey shares as a parting piece of advice. “When you’re dealing with those challenging days, however, it’s important to remember that your job literally helps to feed the nation. So much of the world consumes produce that’s grown right here in the Central Valley, and that’s truly incredible.”

I can think of no better way to describe what keeps Chelsey’s feet firmly grounded in the produce industry. She was born into a family that believes in nourishing the world, and if our past is any reflection of our future, I am sure that is what she will continue to do, for our future and for theirs.