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Produce Business

Deli Business

American Food & Ag Exporter

Cheese Connoisseur

If Men Were Angels

This thoughtful letter arrives just in time for this holiday edition of the Pundit:

Your comments regarding the SEC and FDA in the piece, entitled So Much For Regulation: SEC Misses A Big One…Why Think FDA Will Do Better? — were apropos. Would it not be reasonable to consider an underlying issue to be the diminishing of moral values demonstrated by Jesus, whose birth is being celebrated this week?

Here is a quotation to consider: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Jesus Christ as recorded by Luke in the first century AD.)

When love for God as Lord diminishes, what follows? Is it not reasonable to expect significant decline of love for my neighbor? The evidence in the culture seems to provide a resounding “yes.” Is a reasoned outcome of “hyper-individualism,” the context of this era in our history, a striving to gain the maximum for myself without regard to the impact on others, i.e., my neighbor, an overwhelming basis for today’s economic crisis?

What is the meaning of ‘love’ in this context? Merriam-Webster provides one definition as “unselfish, loyal, and benevolent concern for the good of another.” This definition has an implication one will do good to his neighbor even if it costs, or there is no gain other than to the neighbor.

As God, prayer, and references to the Judeo/Christian teaching have been stripped from the public sector… should there be surprise at the decline of honoring one another, the protection of others’ well-being, or living to be served and for my gain as opposed to living to serve?

The authority gap of “God out” leaves a vacuum being filled with “the individual” in. Now, what power does the individual have? Individually little, but organized with others, a great deal; but organized as government, corporations, churches, or other organized groups, there is great power and influence reflecting the values and morals of the people of the organization. It may be to serve others, or it may be to “lord” it over others. In this cultural context should the alleged actions of Mr. Blagojevich or Mr. Madoff be a surprise?

Will the SEC or the FDA be successful in removing fraud, deceit, and the misdealing? Likely, only with a “Gestapo” hand, but with the “Gestapo” leadership protecting their own well being, simultaneously betraying the freedoms valued by most in America! (Note the recent article in many newspapers headlining the refusal of bailed out bank executives to reveal how the monies were invested or spent).

What of a return to God, prayer, Judeo/Christian teaching? Consider this man’s opinion:

“The virtues of men are of more consequence to society than their abilities; and for this reason, the heart should be cultivated with more assiduity than the head.”

Noah Webster
On the Education of Youth in America, 1788

Is there another more proven source of virtue?

— John Shelford
Naples, Florida

We admire a man who has the courage of his convictions, and so we consider ourselves fortunate to have had many contributions to the Pundit from John Shelford including these four pieces:

Pundit’s Mailbag — Wal-Mart’s Folly

Pundit’s Mailbag — Gatekeepers And Risk Aversion

Pundit’s Mailbag — Beware The Bureaucrats

Pundit’s Mailbag — ‘Mandatory’ Had To Be Removed To Get Advisory Committee Approval

We read John’s letter as posing four questions for us:

  1. Isn’t regulation just a pitiful attempt to compensate for immoral behavior?

  2. Isn’t a decline in moral behavior a logical and predictable consequence of a decline in public religiosity?

  3. Shouldn’t our focus be the instilling of virtue in the populace?

  4. Isn’t a focus on religion the most proven font of virtue in a population?

These are grand questions and indeed, at Christmas time, a religious holiday that has been adopted as a secular one as well, these questions are apropos. Let us try and wrestle with them one by one:

Isn’t regulation just a pitiful attempt to compensate for immoral behavior?

Perhaps but, sometimes, our pitiful attempts may be all we can do. It was, after all, no less a luminary than James Madison, writing in Federalist # 51, who wrote this famous phrase: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”

Now Madison wrote this phrase in the context of explaining why checks and balances were necessary within government. Yet Madison pointed out that the concept applied throughout society: “This policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public.”

Selfishness, greed, indeed evil itself — all are part of the human condition. Laws and regulations are there because we look for ways to provide compensation for “the defect of better motives.” Such compensation will always be imperfect but, then again, so is this world. Perfection is reserved for a world beyond.

Isn’t a decline in moral behavior a logical and predictable consequence of a decline in public religiosity?

The key word here is “public.” Though we agree that religiosity in general might instill higher levels of moral behavior, it is very difficult to measure moral behavior and its relation to religiosity. Furthermore, when looked at from a public policy point of view, interestingly enough, the evidence of the relationship between better morals to “public” religiosity is the opposite. In European countries that have “official” churches, church attendance is significantly below what we experience in the US. Perhaps our system of non-endorsement of specific faiths encourages a kind of capitalist competition which keeps sects engaged and relevant.

Shouldn’t our focus be the instilling of virtue in the populace?

We think so, though we might be more modest in our expression and urge the development of manners. It was another founder, John Adams, who pointed out that “A society can no more subsist without gentlemen than an army without officers.”

Edmund Burke explained that “Manners are of more importance than laws. Upon them, in great measure, the laws depend. Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in.”

Yet this is a great problem for both ends of our political spectrum. American conservatism is often too enthralled with the free market, often forgetting that this tremendous wealth-creating mechanism is inherently churning and thus destructive of social conventions and societal mores. Raising issues of manners and virtue forces conservatives to confront what, precisely, they would like to see conserved in our society.

The American left also has problems on this subject for it requires a willingness to believe that some modes of behavior, some social arrangements, are superior to others. Liberalism in America is remarkably tolerant, so tolerant it may well tolerate those whose behavior will destroy the liberal society that is a pre-condition for liberalism.

Laws are a funny thing: They grow out of the beliefs and habits of a population and they help shape those beliefs and habits. So no democracy can be indifferent to the character of the population. So a society that does not focus on the implications of its laws on the character of the people will not long thrive.

Isn’t a focus on religion the most proven font of virtue in a population?

This is often so. However, it surely depends on the religion and what it is teaching. The terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 thought they were acting in service of their religion.

The role of religion in public life in the US is a long national discussion. The Pundit’s parents grew up attending the New York City public schools and they had a daily non-denominational prayer. Didn’t seem to do them any harm but can’t say it really did them much good either.

In any case, that was a time when even in such a big city, virtually everyone was at least nominally a Christian or a Jew. Today with Islam, Buddhism and other faiths, plus a much more prominent atheist and agnostic community, it is hard to see a path whereby public authorities could have much of a role here. Especially with constitutional interpretation in the state it is in.

In fact, it may not even be good for religion for them to have such a role. The state of the law right now when it comes to public displays of Christmas symbols is that they are acceptable in the context of broader displays, so you wind up with a town displaying a crèche, but only if they also have Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman out there. That hardly seems a situation likely to invigorate religious practice.

Of course even if the government can’t or shouldn’t promote particular religions or religion in general, that is not to say that individuals and houses of worship can’t look to gain adherents and to strengthen the ties of those already affiliated. Indeed this type of individual and institutional outreach, with its ability to touch individuals, is surely the most effective way to bring a person into the fold and, in fact, to impress upon them standards of behavior — manners and morals — within the context of a community that is reinforcing of these manners and morals.

We suspect modern life is inherently destructive of such standards simply because life is so mobile, and if one feels free to pick up and move to Florida or California and start anew, the urgency of remaining in the good graces of a local community is less.

We don’t know what motivated Mr. Madoff. Because there is no possibility that he spent the $50 billion that is missing, we suspect that what will come out is that he got behind, thought he would catch up in the market and make everyone whole and never did. In fact his desperation to do so may have motivated larger and riskier bets.

Although Mr. Madoff is not a Christian, as a Jew the precepts of the Golden Rule were certainly not alien to him. There is a story told of a famous Rabbi named Hillel the Elder. The story goes that a pagan came to Rabbi and said that he would convert to Judaism if the rabbi could teach him the whole of Torah — the Jewish scriptures — while the man stood on one foot. Rabbi Hillel converted the man by explaining: “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary. Go and study it.”

A French financier, who lost over a billion dollars of his client’s money by investing with Bernard Madoff felt he had betrayed his own clients and friends and, apparently, couldn’t bear the weight of his responsibility, so he killed himself. Such is the horrible price that was paid because, for all his involvement with philanthropists and charities, Mr. Madoff neglected his studies.

Many thanks to John Shelford for, at this Christmas, encouraging us to think of more than reindeer and sleigh bells.

2009 Resolutions

The year end holidays are a time for a break but also a time for reflection.

On the one hand, everyone in this industry has something to be thankful for. Selling a non-discretionary product is just about the best place to be in a recession. We’ve been making this point for the last few months in PRODUCE BUSINESS Magazine. You can read the columns here:

Despair Overstated

Produce Is A Silver Lining

Counting Our Blessings

Yet we have a very challenging situation in produce right now, one which will require structural change for the industry to thrive. Because right now, our very best producers, packers and shippers are being put under exceptional stress.

The industry is bi-furcated. We have a top tier of producers who have taken to heart the admonitions of buyers and trade associations and taken on the burden of supply chain improvement.

These are the leaders in food safety, sustainability, traceability and other standards.

Yet these leaders are not getting thanks; they are getting beat up and we need to stop it.

The problem is that the produce industry still has a large secondary producer capacity that operates oblivious to all these supply chain standards and initiatives.

At this moment in history, most retailers feel the necessity of offering “Value” to consumers. But they don’t mean value broadly considered. They mean price.

So what these buyers are doing is pushing the top vendors to meet the price of the “irregular” sector of the industry. This is, however, unsustainable.

Meeting supply chain responsibilities is not cheap, and if suppliers that have made the investment to meet these high standards have to compete with companies that have not, the best producers in the industry will realize subpar returns and, in time, will be unable to sustain the whole business model.

We think the focus of the industry has to shift from industry pronouncements about traceability, sustainability, food safety, etc., to ensuring commitments from buyers to constrain their supply chains to be certain that top quality producers are not forced to compete with producers that are not fulfilling supply chain responsibilities.

Consumers are depending on retailers to deliver the best value, but if the product is in the store as a result of a waived food safety requirement or decision to postpone a sustainability review for a year or comes in vulnerable, without a proper traceability trail, then consumers are being cheated, because they are not being given the value they expect — they are just being given a cheap price.

If the industry can’t find a way to deal with this reality, one suspects that a more activist government will see an opportunity to flex its muscles.

Perhaps our 2009 New Year’s Resolution ought to be that we, as an industry, will protect our consumers against elastic standards so that consumers can know they get the invisible product quality they expect, the quality producers know they won’t be undercut by competitors not expected to meet the same standards and retailers know they can always wear their white hats as a defender of the consumer and customer of the best suppliers.

At this time of need, it is time for retailers to donate their black hats, the ones retailers wore when pummeling good shippers to the ground, unto some association of needy undertakers. Here in the industry, the resolution should be that we won’t be needing them any more.

Christmas In Honduras…
A Bright New Year Ahead

We just received news of a really great Christmas present. With the first installation in March of 2008, we’ve now run twenty-three articles on the Import Alert the FDA imposed on Agropecuaria Montelibano. It is a horribly sad and unfair story in which one company was unfairly penalized and held mercy to the whims of the FDA.

Their treatment is a black mark on our country. You can review the coverage we’ve provided here:

FDA Fumbles Again On Cantaloupe ‘Alert’

We Are All Affected By Cantaloupe Issue

An Abuse Of Power: A Portrait Of The FDA As Bully

Emergency Task Force Requested

Letters From Warren And Molina Ask For Support And Patience

FDA Responds To Cantaloupe ‘Alert’ Questions

Honduras Cantaloupe Grower: Model Of Transparency

Central American’s Warren Speaks Out About Cantaloupe ‘Alert’

FDA’s Strong Arm Tactics

Why The Delay?

Media Misinformation And Confusion Over Cantaloupe ‘Alert’

How Save Mart Was Affected By Cantaloupe ‘Alert’

Consumer Guide To Cantaloupe Food Safety

Science Behind Cantaloupe ‘Alert’

President Of Honduras Stands Up For Grower

Positive Test On Cantaloupes Causes More Confusion

FDA Status Quo Cannot Stand

Despite Flawed FDA, Cantaloupes Are Challenged

Fix Suggested For FDA’s Vigilante System Of Banning Product Through Import Alerts

Cantaloupe ‘Alert’ Reaches Guam; What’s An Island To Do?

Pundit’s Mailbag — Cantaloupe Leaders Provide Roadmap To Safer Future

Honduran Cantaloupe ‘Alert’ Still In Effect Long After Season Is Over… FDA Must Act NOW To Save Next Season

With FDA/CDC Protected By Sovereign Immunity, Compensation For Losses Looks Bleak Says Professor Richard Epstein

After nine months of struggle, the loss of millions of dollars, penniless workers being deprived of a livelihood and perfectly good food needlessly wasted, we are, at last, thrilled to be able to report that the FDA has lifted its Import Alert and that the first five containers of cantaloupes have had all holds lifted and Chiquita, as the first receiver, is selling the fruit already.

Below you will see the slides of a PowerPoint presentation of the steps that the family took to win FDA approval. We are running the whole presentation not because there is anything so shocking but because the nature of the changes made point to the fundamentally arbitrary nature of FDA decision-making.

If you review the slides, you will see that all the changes made are specific to this particular producer, no “finding” has been made that others have to follow the same practices. Two examples:

  1. There were power lines that crossed the fields and, perhaps, some birds sat on the power lines and did their business. So they had to move the power lines.

    Note that the FDA never tied any contamination to these power lines and it is not obvious that birds can’t do their business on the fly but most of all note this: The FDA has not issued a regulation or even a recommendation that growing food under power lines is dangerous and should be banned. Every other farm in the world can keep growing food under power lines, it is this one farm that cannot do so.

  2. The FDA thought that river water may have been a problem, though all tests were negative. Still, they were not going to lift the Import Alert until the farm agreed to drill wells.

    Once again, this is completely arbitrary. FDA has not “made a finding” or issued a “regulation” or even made a “recommendation” that nobody should grow food in river water or even that this particular river is banned. Nor did the FDA ever tie a problem to the river. They just used their power in an arbitrary manner to impose on this farm burdens not imposed on any other.

Most of the changes the farm made at the behest of the FDA were good ideas; now the FDA is referring to it as a model for Central America and beyond. But it is not the place of the FDA to use the power of banning product — the power of bankrupting people — to compel companies to become models.

If the FDA has good science to justify a proposal, it should issue a regulation and go through the whole public comment period so that the science can be scrutinized. It also should articulate broad-based standards. Either you can grow food or melons or cantaloupes specifically under power lines or you can’t. But the FDA should not have the power to withhold entry into the market if there is no violation.

Agropecuaria Montelibano was already one of the top farms in Central America. It had Tesco’s tough-to-get Nature’s Choice certification and other tough audits. Now it exceeds even those standards. We just hope all these extra expenses win it a market that will pay enough to justify the expenses.

Please view the slides below. We wish the people at Agropecuaria Montelibano an especially joyous Christmas and a very happy, healthy and, after what they went through this year, PROSPEROUS New Year.

Learn From The Masters
At Leadership Symposium

Our piece, Leadership Symposium Offers Stimulating Speakers, included an interview with Rod Beckström, Director of the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) U.S. Department of Homeland Security and one of the Symposium speakers.

An unusual event offered through a partnership between PMA’s Foundation for Industry Talent, Cornell University and Pundit sister publication, PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine, the Leadership Symposium will be held January 14-16, 2009, at the Omni Dallas Park West in Dallas, Texas. Full information can be found here.

In order to get more insight into what the speakers have in store, we asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to speak with one of the presenters:

Tony Jeary
Executive Coach
Strategic Facilitator and Author
Dallas, Texas

Q: In your biography, I read you made and lost several million dollars before you were 30. It sounds like you’re imbued with a tenacious drive and entrepreneurial spirit, as well as a personality that fosters a bit of risk-taking. How do these traits fit with the leadership strategies you teach?

A: First off, my family cleaned cars for 40 years, three generations. I got a good work ethic from my grandfather and father serving people. Humility is a valuable trait whether working for others or for oneself. My financial ups and downs related to real-estate market changes.

I see three types of personalities: one is entrepreneurial; one organizational, some would say corporate; and one is intrepreneurial, entrepreneurial in spirit but thrives within an organization. It is good to identify who you are and see how you can grow in that area.

Q: Far from multiple personality disorder, can’t people have personality hybrids or adapt or learn new character traits based on different needs and aspects of their lives?

A: Can you cross over? Yes, over time. Sometimes your personality may be shaped by more of a security need, and later times in life, when you don’t have kids to worry about, for example, you could be more of a risk-taker.

We have developed several profiles and we encourage people to take our assessment surveys. There are four; two relate to communication and presentation mastery for individuals and organizations, and two relate to the theme of my book Strategic Acceleration. People are so time-starved. A lot of people today are tactically trying to keep up, working harder and harder just to stop from falling behind. It is essential to step back and make certain you are strategic with your efforts, and looking at the big picture.

So many people are on a gerbil mill of tactical, tactical, tactical, and it’s important to ask if we are really putting efforts the right way. For example, in this competitive environment, do we want to be a niche player and what does that really mean to our strategy?

Two years ago, we started evaluating our own business from our clients’ vantage point and got good input. We interviewed 30 of our clients, and what they were getting from us was much more clarity on where they were going, more focus on execution of ideas. This led us to publish a little booklet entitled Passport to Strategic Acceleration, foreshadowing the jumpstart of my new book coming out in March. At that time, we got a call from the person in charge of executive training at the U.S. Senate. The Sergeant of Arms of the Senate commissioned us to come to Washington.

Q: What were the issues the Senate wanted your help in resolving?

A: They were intrigued by the concept and methodology of clarity, focus and execution, and wanted us to bring our strategic analysis to the Senate. . After we completed the assignment, we got all this good feedback.

My president and coach for 14 years, Jim Norman, former president for Zig Ziggler (company profile here), thought we needed a book to push this methodology further. In today’s world, best described as an uncertain economy, trying to put a positive spin on it, leaders really need to have extreme clarity on what their priorities are; one third of the book is devoted to this, a vision of what to accomplishment. Whether you’re Del Monte or a small mom and pop, clearer vision is critical.

The second part in the book is about the tons of distractions in a fast-paced world and to really operate effectively, what we’ve found is making sure leadership and key people know what the best high leverage activities are that they should be deploying.

The third part, once you have clarity and figure out focus, it’s important to communicate well, to execute well internally and externally to drive more opportunities into your world.

Q: What about the ability to change focus and shift quickly to unforeseen issues or conflicts, often outside of your control? In a broad sense, new competitive forces, the economic crisis, international upheaval, etc. In the produce world, couldn’t natural disasters and food safety/security issues turn those clear-focused strategies on their head?

A: Having the flexibility, once you’re really clear on priorities, when new things come at you in life, you can be fluid, but you need to be focused on what your real objectives and vision are. Those should remain constant. Sometimes that means saying no to opportunities.

Q: Through your global coaching work with CEO’s in various industries, could you discuss specific examples of how clients incorporated these methodologies and strategies? What works and what pitfalls should executives avoid in order to reposition floundering operations and grow more profitable?

A: The city of Irving, Texas, is one of my biggest clients. The leaders put a stake in the ground to be one of the best run municipalities period. With 2000 employees, they had weird things going on like everyone else. But they’ve been able to weather a lot of distractions in today’s challenging climate. The reason: by carrying that message of clarity not only to the city manager, but the 23 directors working for him, and all those tied in to the city council, across the board to all 2000 employees, which means down to the person cleaning the parks.

One of the priorities was reducing crime rate. Since the tax base was down, they had to shift budget priorities, but because they stayed on task with the police force, they were able to keep driving down crime.

In the produce industry or as a retailer, if new competitors come into play, don’t lose sight of your identity and priorities of what you want to accomplish.

Q: I understand you’ve coached top Wal-Mart executives through the years. Of course, Wal-Mart’s strategies have a significant impact on many industries, including the produce business. What input have you provided?

A: I’ve worked with 200 top executives at Wal-Mart over the years, including Mike Duke, who will be taking over the directorship of Wal-Mart from president/CEO Lee Scott. Lee Scott will remain a company director and head of the board’s executive committee. Eduardo Castro-Wright, president/CEO of Wal-Mart’s U.S. operations, was promoted to vice chairman and will manage the global procurement operation. I worked with Eduardo Castro-Wright in Mexico.

Eduardo Castro-Write put his stake in the ground when he was in charge of Wal-Mart Mexico. Integrity was one of his visions and he stayed with it. He was running five different companies in Mexico with a clear vision — integrity — and by remaining focused he rose to the top. The key: don’t succumb to inside or outside distractions. I also worked with the past president of Sam’s Club on this same methodology.

Lee Scott put his stake in the ground for a green Wal-Mart, and there was no mistaking that priority when he pronounced his intention to become the greenest retailer in the world on the front page of Fortune Magazine in July 2006. [Editor’s note: Fortune Magazine followed up on Wal-Mart’s progress in its green machine quest one year later here]

Q: With such a dominant global presence, Wal-Mart has faced its share of troubles in the public image domain. It certainly has been inundated by spells of bad press on a variety of issues. A company can have a clear and inspiring vision, but if it can’t communicate that vision, well, couldn’t the whole strategy fall by the wayside?

A: Life is a series of presentations, and one must be presenting and persuading all the time. Whether you are an executive manager or running a department, you need to be able to communicate with influence. I’ve segmented 10 different ways we present within any organization: Sales and new business opportunities, meetings, training, media, e-mails, facilitation, seminars, phone presentations, branding, and speeches.

We teach strategic approaches to effective communications. Often times, in an organization you cascade messages down, whether external through media or internally. If not done in a strategic way, you lose its effectiveness. It is vital to make it easy to cascade information down. You might pass along a tool. It could be a one page recap, or research overview, so people have an accurate understanding.

Sometimes a brand might not necessarily be a brand name but a family business, invariably linked with quality product, delivering on time, and trust. The brand is built on a reputation. Customers need to know what they will get out of your business.

Q: Those attributes seem expected, basic starting points. No one is going to work with a company that doesn’t deliver on time, produces sub-par quality product, and is untrustworthy. Isn’t that just obvious business sense rather than a unique strategic selling point?

A: Believe it or not, a lot of people and companies don’t have that clarity. Do you have a differentiator? Some do and some don’t; it could just be a commodity that delivers on time. The motto I like to promote: give value and do more than is expected.

Q: As you prepare to speak at the upcoming Leadership Symposium in January, what is the best advice you could impart to our readers now?

A: I would encourage people to take action; a lot of people procrastinate. Production before perfection helps people to execute further. Like a game of telephone, a lot of people get sloppy on communication. Can they still get the job done, yes, but they need to do so with more clarity.

My new book releases March 09. I devoted a chapter to strategic presence and management leadership positions. Think of your own brand, how you look and perform. Do customers trust you? Even if you are two brothers in a family-owned business; if you want people to turn on a dime for you, you need a stronger strategic presence.

Since we go to so many of these types of presentation, we get a pretty good insight into what is really valued and very often those who present important fundamentals, perhaps with a new twist or focus, are often the most appreciated.

We don’t think it a shocking revelation that organizations ought to know their strategic direction, yet we are always shocked at how many don’t. We, ourselves, who know the drill inside and out, know how easy it is to drift from that strategic direction when opportunities present themselves.

The Leadership Symposium offers a valuable mix of learning new things and reminding one of the importance of some old lessons.

What we find often adds something special is the networking opportunity. You get a chance to bounce ideas old and new off old and new industry friends and, suddenly, that concept reveals itself in a whole new light when interpreted by people with relevant but different experience.

While they are holding the hotel block, hurry and sign up here.

Pundit’s Mailbag —
Gifts From The Heart

We received this heartwarming message just in time for Christmas:

Thank you for your continued service to the produce community.

I wanted to take a second to share with you a peek at the heart of some of the people in the produce industry.

After viewing a Thanksgiving news story about the lack of food available to feed the needy, a few of the people at Fresh Express Salinas were moved to make a difference. They started the first Annual Fresh Express Chickens-4-Charity Challenge to engage their co-workers to gather donations in order to provide a frozen chicken to as many needy families in their community as possible in time for Christmas. Their goal was to raise $1,000 or about 300 chickens in less than 2 weeks.

The donations arrived in a furious fashion, and most were very generous, especially considering the current economic situation. The goal was going to be surpassed with ease.

Then on the last morning of the event, just before the donation was to be delivered to the Monterey Food Bank and Ag Against Hunger, a manager from the processing plant arrived with another donation. He said that it was monies collected from the plant workers during a common meal held the day before to celebrate the Christmas Holiday.

In the bag that he delivered, there were no large checks, no large bills. In that bag were hundreds and hundreds of one-dollar bills and change, totaling $1,308! This donation was not given by those with great abundance, but it was given by those who generally live paycheck-to-paycheck. A gift from the heart!

In total, the associates at Fresh Express donated over $5,000; the donation included over 1,660 pounds of frozen chicken and cash gifts of $2,000 to both charities.

The goal was exceeded, the program will be a re-occurring event, but more importantly those in this produce community were touched by their neighbors in a positive way.

Merry Christmas,

— Michael Johanson
Manager — Transportation, Logistics, Innovations, & Warehousing
ChiquitaFresh Express

Congratulations to the team at Fresh Express in Salinas on transcending passivity at this holiday season. We bet there are a lot of examples of such loving kindness throughout the industry and, in fact, we’ve covered some recent corporate-giving to charities in our sister publication, PRODUCE BUSINESS, through a two-part article on Cause Marketing in our December and January issues.

Whenever you happen to see individuals at your company doing some good for the world, why don’t you send a note to the Pundit… even better with a photo, so we can memorialize the good works of this industry.

The story of the workers at the processing plant is especially poignant and it shows how good works can be infectious in a community.

It is all so very nice but we confess to one question. Didn’t you send a few bags of salad along with the chicken?

Make sure to send us an update when you break this year’s record, next year. Many thanks to Michael Johanson for sending us word of this fine donation. Good tidings to all!

Pundit’s Mailbag — Worthy Cause

“Banana Jim” Still has often contributed to the Pundit; you can see some of his contributions here:

Pundit’s Mailbag — Look At Lot Size

Pundit Mailbag — Passing The Legacy

This time he is sending along word of an organization that could use some help. A perfect example of giving for the holidays and, certainly, a worthy cause:

If you have a few minutes, please read A MESSAGE OF HOPE…FROM A WOUNDED WARRIOR’S WIFE, it’s astounding how much help some of these wonderful families need…

My work for them involves a number of things, but especially finding better ways to use Frequent Flyer airline miles donations to fly moms or spouses to be with their wounded soldier…

I know everyone is busy, but there are a group of people here in the States, who desperately need our help. They are losing houses left and right, and they are the parents of our young men who put themselves in harm’s way to protect our freedoms, and our ability to each do what we do every day.

This is it in a nutshell:

  • most households in the USA are 2-income;
  • when the son, or sometimes, daughter, of these households are wounded overseas, they are placed in a military or VA hospital, almost always far from the parents’ home;
  • amputees, and double-amputees, have very long recovery times, and are very troubled, often suicidal;
  • so one parent or the other, quits their job, to be with their child, in time of extreme need;
  • so household income goes down, and expense go up;
  • our government does nothing to help these families;
  • and a good number of them are losing their houses, or having their utilities cut off… they cannot manage to keep up;
  • because of advances in body armor and medicine, casualties which would have died in earlier wars, are living now;
  • there are 20,000+ of them;
  • there is an organization, http://www.operationfirstresponse.org//, which helps these families as best it can, run by a wonderful lady named Peggy;
  • with our economy in its present state, there are more soldiers’ families in financial troubles, and less donations to help them get through it;
  • Peggy, herself, is understaffed and haunted by her failure to do more for them.

If you could take a few minutes, and surf around the site, I think you would be moved to tears. And if you are, join me and do what you can to help them, you have a much bigger following than I do….

— James D. “Banana Jim” Still
CVO of Global Cooling Inc.
dba’s Global Ripening, and also of Global Logic, Inc.

Jim has been using his logistics expertise to find ways to make Frequent Flyer donations go further for transporting this deserving group.

Few people need tax deductions this year, but many people could use a helping hand. It is easy to focus on what one has lost but it is a blessing to be able to focus on all one has. It worth remembering that we all have what we do because others have paid heavy prices. These wounded soldiers went in harm’s way on our behalf.

You can donate money here.

Or frequent Flyer Miles here

The Pundit is in for $500. Hope it makes a better New Year for a wounded veteran and his family.

Thanks to Banana Jim for passing on this worthy cause.

Perishable Thoughts — Blagojevich
Digs Deep And Quotes Kipling

Did you get to see the Illinois Governor explain his position:

The best part is the Governor’s decision to quote Kipling. Governor Blagojevich quotes these lines:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

Interestingly enough, he pulls back and doesn’t quote the next line:

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

Perhaps this is because he is famous for having a hairbrush near at hand at all times and was tape recorded talking rather “wise.”

The whole poem goes like this:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream — and not make dreams your master;
If you can think — and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings — nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And — which is more — you’ll be a Man, my son!

By Rudyard Kipling
1895, published in Rewards and Fairies, 1910

The quote can be viewed here:

The New World Edition of the Works of Rudyard Kipling
(Google Books, download entire volume here)
By Rudyard Kipling, Charles Wolcott Balestier
Published by Doubleday, Page, 1919
Pg 145

The quote can be purchased here:
Rewards And Fairies
By Rudyard Kipling
Book Jungle, 2008
308 Pages, Pg.115

Of course, others have been rewriting the poem to accommodate the circumstances. Claudia Rosett, Journalist-in-Residence and Director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies Investigative Reporting Project, did a newer version:

If …. Kipling Only Knew

If you can keep your job while all about you
Are fielding bribes and blaming it on you,
If you can duck the Feds while all men doubt you,
And bleep-ing show the charges are untrue,
If you can fight and not be tired by fighting,
Or, being wiretapped, profess surprise,
Or argue that there will be no indicting
Because it’s all a bleep-ing pack of lies.

You can read the rest here.

If you are not offended by profanity, there is another funny version here.

For ourselves, we thought there was something fantastic in Blagojevich’s being caught so bluntly. Completely non-ideological, none of the usual cant that surrounds politicians, no pretension to the public good. He just wanted money.

Obviously it is illegal to sell a Senate seat appointment, so we don’t support it but it is also true that many a discrete Governor has made appointments based on crass political calculations, which is perfectly legal.

If the Governor of New York appoints Andrew Cuomo to the Hillary Clinton seat for the personal reason that he hopes to head off his running for Governor, that is OK… it is called committing acts of government. If he appoints Caroline Kennedy with the expectation he will have the undying loyalty of the Kennedy family, thus assuring appointments in his retirement to The Kennedy Library, various charities, etc., he is simply exercising the discretion his position allows.

It is only money that is so direct and crass that it is beyond the pale. Governor Blagojevich seems to be in trouble for being forthright.

Of course, the Kipling poem ends with an explanation that manhood is really about making the best of the opportunities one is given:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And — which is more — you’ll be a Man, my son!

Governor Blagojevich was trying to grab his opportunities to see “If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run.” Governor Blagojevich is like something from a Fitzgerald novel, his own original work of American art.


Perishable Thoughts is a regular section of the Perishable Pundit. If you have a favorite quote that you would like to share with the industry, please send it on. You can do so right here.

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