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The Pull of Produce, A Q&A With Scot Sanders, Vice President of Farming, Fowler Packing Company

The Pull of Produce, A Q&A With Scot Sanders, Vice President of Farming, Fowler Packing Company

Destiny:​​ a predetermined course of events often thought to be an irresistible power or agency*.

As a child, the word “destiny” held infinite promise—that of fairy tales and fated happy endings. In adulthood, my attitude toward the idea changed, communicating that the circumstances of life are beyond our own influence. That we must throw caution to the wind and look only to fate.

That was until I happened upon a story that brought the idea of kismet into a new light: the story of a young visionary and a gravitational pull so strong that defying it would be a disservice to the Universe’s plan.

It is a pull that many of us have become familiar with today: the unwavering pull of produce.

When given the opportunity to pick the brain of Scot Sanders, Vice President of Farming at Fowler Packing Company, I witness my own vision changing in real-time. Destiny becomes not a forceful wind sweeping us in whichever direction it so desires, but rather a faint calling and a gentle guide to the center of where we were always meant to be.

For Scot, the tug of the produce industry was inescapable. In 1994, Fowler Packing Company tapped the might of this dedicated leader, who has helped guide its farming operation to substantial growth for 28 years and counting, all the while standing strong upon the values the company was built on in 1950.

Though I pride myself on being a storyteller, Scot recounts the tale so much better himself.


Peggy Packer: Scot, I am sure you have tons of stories to share from your decades in the produce scene. Take us back to the beginning of your journey. I’d love to know more about your first dip—or plunge—into the produce industry. What were some of the aspects that initially roped you in?

Scot Sanders, Vice President of Farming: My start in the industry came when I moved from Northern California to Fresno, in the state’s Central Valley, to start college. While in school, I became friends with someone whose family was involved in agriculture and owned a packing house. I needed a job for the summer, and I started working there stacking boxes, driving a forklift, and doing quality control. I was drawn to it and really enjoyed the work because I wasn’t confined to an office. It was physical work, and no two days were ever alike.

 


PP: Well, I’d say that surely beats my college summers spent sweeping floors and rolling burritos. At what point did you realize you were fully engulfed in the world of fresh produce? Was there a specific moment that tipped the scale?

SS: I found myself completely immersed in the industry when I officially made the decision to move back to Fresno. I had returned to Sacramento, California, to obtain my degree, and came back to the region shortly after finishing school. Once I settled in, I began working for Fowler Packing, and I have been fully engaged in the industry since my very first day with the company in 1994.

 


PP: So, now that you’ve had the chance to watch the company evolve for nearly three decades, what are some of your goals for Fowler’s operations, and how do you see the industry innovator achieving those goals in the future?

SS: My goal for the operation at Fowler Packing Company is to keep the principles that have made us successful for 70 years in place. Our Peelz® and Samsons® brands have seen tremendous success, and we want to continue that upward trajectory without compromising what we have always stood for.

Growth can sometimes put a strain on a company's core values. At Fowler Packing, we have always taken a great deal of pride in being an industry leader in quality and innovation, all while maintaining a strong moral compass as a whole. It is at the forefront of my mind every day when I come to work.


“...we have always taken a great deal of pride in being an industry leader in quality and innovation, all while maintaining a strong moral compass as a whole."

Scot Sanders, Vice President of Farming, Fowler Packing Company


PP: Scot, it’s easy to see you have a deeply rooted devotion to the industry and its people. What are some of your other passions, and how do they align with your current role at Fowler Packing Company?

SS: I am extremely passionate about family and community. Over the years, I have done a lot of volunteer work in my area. My passion for my immediate family, my wife and two boys, also extends to our ever-growing Fowler Packing family. We have increased our acreage dramatically in the past few years, and with that acreage comes a lot of new people to welcome to our team. Ensuring all of our employees are treated right and have a job they can be proud of is something I care deeply about. The way I see it, our team is one huge family.

 


PP: I couldn’t agree more, and I think that idea wholly reflects Fowler Packing’s deeply committed value system. Can you tell me a little bit more about the pillars on which the company stands?

SS: Our values have always been based on our most treasured assets. Without question, our most valuable asset is our people. It is something that will never change.

Regardless of your role within the company, you should always be treated fairly and with respect. Providing a work environment for our employees that creates the path to their success is our number one priority. We want to build a culture and a company they can be proud of.

I feel we have been successful in achieving that goal. We do not have a high turnover rate in our staff, and we have a lot of people who have been here for 30- to 40-plus years.


PP: These principles and high operational standards definitely elevate Fowler Packing Company as both an employer and a supplier. In addition to these aspects, what sets the company apart as a purveyor in the fresh produce space?

SS: What sets Fowler Packing apart from others in the industry is the combination of our size and the fact we are a family-run company. There is no corner of this company in which an Owner is not involved—and I don’t mean involved from afar. The Parnagians are hands-on Owners who understand the fine details of our company and have a strong grasp on what our employees need to be the best in the industry.

In fresh produce, it takes hard work and a hyper-focus on detail to be successful. The Parnagians have been there, shoulder-to-shoulder with our employees, for 70 years.

 


As we unfold the timeline of Scot’s produce journey, it is evident to me that destiny is not a title we obtain, a single moment in time, nor an individual achievement.

If you are quiet long enough, you will hear an inner voice; it serves as our own personal guidepost, drawing us in the right direction with a magnetism as subtle as the moon’s constant pull on the Earth.

Such is the tale of trailblazers like Scot and the many before him. And in the name of fate, the story goes on, bringing new opportunities to those bold enough to give in to the pull of produce. 

The Pull of Produce, A Q&A With Scot Sanders, Vice President of Farming, Fowler Packing Company