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Mentors in the Making

The time is January 2016.

With eyes wide open, Blair Butterworth bids farewell to California State University, Fresno. Specializing in Agriculture Business, she looks to build her expertise in marketing, for the world is her oyster. Or rather, her salad bowl.

“I’ve always been in produce; it’s where I began my career. My whole family is in this industry, and it felt natural to me. As I walked the stage for my degree, I got a call from Grimmway Farms; later, I started my career as a Sales and Merchandising Specialist for its Los Angeles, California, territory,” Blair, now the Marketing Manager for Local Bounti, shares. “Since I entered fresh, I’ve met so many people and have learned so much. My time has been fabulous so far.”

Through Grimmway, Blair came across the Fresh Produce & Floral Council (FPFC). As she puts it, the association has been a huge contributor to her growth, along with connecting her to some key mentors in her career.

“FPFC introduced me to some lifelong friends through its Apprentice Program. Even if our companies compete, you want to see each other grow,” Blair says. “I’m a produce lifer, but if it weren’t for Michelle Allen-Ziegler and Don Gann, my network wouldn’t have grown as quickly.”

Michelle has been a steady guiding hand for Blair, and continues to be so. The National Accounts Manager, Agriculture, for Pactiv Evergreen is an influential mentor for the marketing maven in addition to being a great friend. Not only was Michelle a driving force for Blair during her time in the Apprentice Program, but she promotes future apprentices as the program’s incoming Chair.

“I’ve gotten to know Michelle a lot over the years, and we always make time to chat. I spontaneously call her up all the time with questions and asking for feedback,” Blair continues.

Through FPFC, Blair got to know Don as well. With over 38 years in the industry, Don played his own prominent role in Blair’s career. The President of FPFC may not have known Blair long while she was in the program, but he did provide opportunities for her to build her strengths and introduced her to several associations, many of which she is now a part of.

“I’ve always been in produce; it’s where I began my career. My whole family is in this industry, and it felt natural to me.”

Blair Butterworth, Marketing Manager, Local Bounti

“Without Don, FPFC wouldn’t be what it is now! He’s watched me grow so much, and I can’t give enough gratitude to him for instilling in me those foundations,” shares Blair.

After serving Grimmway for five years, Blair then joined Dulcinea Farms/Pacific Trellis Fruit. There, she met Corrie Hutchens. Corrie now holds the Vice President of Marketing position for Local Bounti, and she is the reason Blair joined the controlled environment agriculture company.

“Corrie is an inspiration. She’s such a strong woman in business and has a deep wealth of knowledge in marketing,” Blair says. “Not only does she know my strengths, but she helps me improve upon my weaknesses. We don’t have just a boss-colleague relationship; she lifts me up and is always by my side, whether in the meeting room or on the trade show floor. Corrie is an honest and amazing businesswoman, and she inspires me both in my work and as a person.”

Now that Blair has settled at Local Bounti, one more mentor she can count on within the company is Vice President of Sales Baltazar “Balta” Garcia.

Baltazar may not be within the marketing team, but the two sides are intricately intertwined, and he has proven to be a pillar of support for Blair. With the inside scoop Baltazar gained through his nearly decade-long tenure with Pete’s, now Local Bounti, Blair was able to rely on a treasure trove of expertise to bounce ideas off of.

“I knew Balta before I came to Local Bounti. He was with the company since it was Pete’s, and I would meet with him often at trade events,” explains Blair. “We actually went through the Apprentice Program together, so it felt like I was working with my best friend when I joined Local Bounti. He’s my ride-or-die, but I also look up to him.”

The trailblazer takes charge to bring awareness and industry members together to accelerate fresh produce, all with a smile and an idea at the ready. Everywhere Blair goes, it’s hard to imagine her not making friends. The young mentee is already a leader, as she currently has a plethora of responsibilities on her clipboard of committees. In addition to representing Local Bounti on retail shelves and at industry events, the marketing extraordinaire is the Chairwoman of FPFC Dinner Dance and is helping our industry’s apprentices take charge of fresh produce marketing.

I would say make an appointment to catch Blair’s attention, but as she likes making spontaneous phone calls to her mentors, I’m sure a friendly ring would be equally welcomed.The Snack Endstop

The Mentors

Here is what they have to say about Blair…

Michelle Allen-Ziegler,

National Accounts Manager, Agriculture, Pactiv Evergreen

“I’ve been in the industry for over 25 years. When I started in the ’90s, there were two female leaders I really looked up to: Jan DeLyser, formerly of the California Avocado Commission, and Marty Craner of B & C Fresh Sales. My passion today is to coach, mentor, and show up for our future leaders, to build them up to shine in this agriculture space. Blair is one up-and-comer, and I am so honored to be named a mentor of this strong woman.

I adore her, and I value her thoughts and contributions. As the incoming Chair of the Fresh Produce & Floral Council Apprentice Program, I couldn’t think of anyone better than Blair to take on the 2023 Chair position for the FPFC Dinner Dance. She is confident, willing, and always advocating for our industry.

When I see Blair, I’m watching another woman walk through the doors of this beautiful ag business and change everybody forever. She is a rising star.”

Don Gann,

President, Fresh Produce & Floral Council

“Blair is an ambitious leader! She entered the FPFC Apprentice Program in 2017, and I knew then she was going to have a prosperous career. Blair has a great way of communicating with individuals on every level, whether they are up-and-coming, seasoned executives, or veterans of the produce industry.

What I most admire about Blair is she wants to give back as she paves her produce career path. She is now on the apprentice task force, the very program she was once a student in, and is the Chair of our Dinner Dance committee. Being recognized as one of Blair’s mentors is such an honor for me because I have learned just as much from her. I can’t wait to watch Blair’s career blossom, because with all her skill sets, the sky is the limit!”

Corrie Hutchens,

Vice President of Marketing, Local Bounti

“In the dynamic world of produce marketing, I have had the privilege of working alongside Blair for several years. She has, without a doubt, left an indelible mark both professionally and personally.

Blair has an unwavering authenticity, is unapologetically herself, possesses an innate
drive, and has exceptional networking prowess. Her natural charisma is infectious. What truly sets her apart is her fearlessness in seeking guidance and support.

As I reflect upon our journey together, I am confident that she possesses all the qualities necessary to become an outstanding mentor in the future. With her unyielding passion for personal growth and dedication to helping others succeed, she is poised to influence the lives she touches.

In her, I see a mentor who will not only guide others but also empower them to embrace challenges, seize opportunities, and achieve greatness.”

Baltazar Garcia,

Vice President of Sales,
Local Bounti

“What an honor to be in this category for Blair.

I met her seven years ago in the FPFC Apprentice Program. It was then that I noticed her passion for the produce industry; with time, I appreciated her hard work and dedication. She is natural at her job. Blair is always willing to accept feedback, both good and constructive. Blair isn’t afraid to get guidance from her extended industry friends—I am simply happy I am one of those. We have connected on many topics, and her willingness to learn and drive new projects is superb.

Trust me, Blair is already a mentor, as I personally have learned a few things from her. This has been a two-way street for us that has allowed us to become dear friends.”