There was no gold watch and the pension plan is non-existent. Yet Joe Pezzini, Vice President of Operations at Ocean Mist Farms, has stepped down as founding Chairman of the California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement. His retirement brings to an end the most consequential service to the trade rendered by a volunteer leader in the last decade.
Well, not precisely bringing it to an end. Joe is a very young 50-year-old, and in addition to continuing his duties at Ocean Mist, he serves on the PMA board of directors, so the industry will have the benefit of his not insignificant contribution for some time to come.
The industry was fortunate that Joe Pezzini, a man of calm demeanor and methodical approach, was the Chairman of the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California when the maelstrom of the 2006 Spinach Crisis consumed the industry. He found a way to turn hysteria into thoughtfulness and to reassure those who were panicked. His roots in agriculture were deep enough to be the authentic voice of the farmer, and his learning and ability to construct an argument made him more than just a cheerleader.
His peers recognized him in the way achievers are always recognized; they gave him more work to do. So he became the founding chairman of the California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement.
Once again, the Pezzini method brought order out of chaos and kept wildly disparate people and organizations marching in line. The organization became a model for others, already duplicated in Arizona and now the centerpiece of an effort to nationalize the approach.
As we go further from the spinach crisis, memories grow vague, but as we pointed out in the midst of the crisis when we said the industry must look at the faces, at that moment in time people died from eating our products.
That the trade’s response was not defensive but was constructive is to a significant degree a legacy of the work of Joe Pezzini.
To Joe Pezzini: A hat tip… a deep bow… and a round of applause for a job well done. The man and the moment met. Lucky for us all.