No ordinary apple.

The Story Behind the Sale: A Q&A With Juan Carlos Barrionuevo, Sales, SunFed®

The Story Behind the Sale: A Q&A With Juan Carlos Barrionuevo, Sales, SunFed®

Experience is a precious commodity all its own—better grown fresh than manufactured.

In a world that craves efficiency, convenience, and instant gratification, experience is made richer by the time it has been cultivated. The deeper the roots, the stronger the stalk, and the more flavorful and plentiful the crop.

To raise experience takes patience, opportunity, and time.

Juan Carlos Barrionuevo knows about building out an intrepid career path. When he began in the SunFed® shipping department in a Nogales, Arizona, warehouse in 2012, there was no knowing the journey he had begun. But thanks to hard work, opportunity, and recognition from leadership, he has seen himself go from that foundational beginning to McAllen, Texas, as a Regional Manager, then the Sales desk overseeing SunFed’s organic categories back in Nogales, all the while cultivating his knowledge into a flavorful signature of the SunFed portfolio.

Melissa De Leon Chavez: Juan Carlos, I guess I should start off by congratulating you on a big anniversary! It sounds like it was a great path that taught you a lot as you went. Tell me about what has continued to draw you to SunFed—what keeps you there and excited about the company?

Juan Carlos Barrionuevo, Sales, SunFed®: Yes, in November it will be my 10th anniversary working for SunFed! This company has always looked for new talent internally, so it gives us the chance to apply for new positions within the company and grow within new roles. The leadership team really invests time into helping their employees grow in their professional careers. Another big aspect that draws me is how SunFed never stays in a comfort zone. It is always looking for ways to innovate or evolve in all aspects of the industry from farm to table, so there is always growth to experience and new things to learn.

MDC: Definitely a favorite part of the industry for me as well—I haven’t been bored since 2014! In the time you’ve been with SunFed and watching it grow, what key changes or milestones stand out in your mind while growing with it over the past decade?

JCB: The biggest milestone we’ve seen as a team over the past few years has been developing into a year-round supplier for our customers in some of our most important items.

Nogales has always been the main focus, as most of our Sinaloa and Sonora, Mexico, production comes through here from September to June. By adding McAllen, Texas, and San Diego, California, as some of our shipping points, we have grown our customers’ confidence in our ability to provide from different areas, especially during the summer. They can count on us for volume and for quality.

MDC: That pretty much covers the entire Southwest, and strategically it seems like that growth has been incredibly organic. Speaking of which, can you tell me a bit about the growth of SunFed’s organic program? What should buyers know?

JCB: SunFed has always been looking to add more items into our line, both conventional and organic. Organics, particularly, has always been a top priority for new items, long before the segment became as popular as it is now.

It is important to remember that even before I joined the team 10 years ago, SunFed was actively involved in organics. Since our organic program was introduced, we have continued to develop by adding a range of categories from dry vegetables to melons. This range means that when something is not available, we are able to offer alternatives—organic melons are seasonal, while customers can count on us having summer squash and cucumbers year-round.

This is another important part of why SunFed is great at developing our talent—I am not necessarily in charge of just one category overall. The goal of my role is to learn and adapt to the needs of my customers and attend to those needs. SunFed has made sure I have access to the experience I need to do that.

MDC: I feel like that is the perfect note to come back to, and a motivating factor you have continued to find at SunFed over the years. As we close the back-to-school season and head into the busy autumn/winter window, do you have any market tips for us?

JCB: As we move into mid-October and into November, supply should be plentiful and promotable, and the market will start to stabilize on prices. New items will be available, such as organic eggplant, green bell peppers, and more, as we move into the season and we get Sinaloa going on production, so be on the lookout.

There is no substitute for experience. A stop along an unbeaten path yields a networking connection those on the fast-track may not have, and an unforeseen route could just weave its way into a conversation that clinches the deal.

Speaking to Juan Carlos, it is immediately clear he is a doer whose knowledge and professional pride are deeply ingrained, his energy sparked by the action of the task itself. He shines most when discussing the product at hand; the supply is the story, and it is one he is thrilled to tell for 10 years and counting. It is a winding way that has afforded him that precious commodity we all seek in a produce sale: experience.