In November of 2003, I stood on the receiving dock at Maines Paper & Food Service as a truckload of Markon Ready-Set-Serve produce was unloaded. At 25 years old, I was unknowingly about to get a new education.
I grew up in the produce business. My earliest memories are having pictures of me taken in front of my Dad’s huge apple displays, re-stacking bushels of peaches in my uncle’s warehouse, and being scolded for dropping a box of zucchini instead of gently placing it down. Even my great-grandfather’s emigration papers from Sicily listed his occupation as “fruit peddler". I knew produce…or so I thought!
This was different though. I sat and watched as white box after white box of chopped romaine, broccoli florets, baby peeled carrots—even washed & trimmed, iceless green onions came off of the truck. I had some experience with processed produce, but I certainly wouldn’t call it “value-added”. This product was fresh, well packaged, and just looked good. I had to find out more about this Markon.
As the day went on, several more trucks came in full of white Markon First Crop boxes. Green leaf, iceberg, oranges, potatoes, onions, and the nicest boxes of celery I had ever seen. This was cool, but why hadn’t I ever heard of Markon, when I was familiar with Dole, Church, Sunkist, and the other top growers?
As the new Produce Specialist at Maines, I was about to learn all about Markon, including their strict specifications for quality, yield, consistency, and food safety, and what it took to be an approved grower-shipper of the Markon brand. I won cutting after cutting against competitors with the weight of my lettuce, consistency of potatoes, and shelf-life of spring mix.
I had become a believer, but not fully.
Then I visited Markon for the first time. Riding around in Markon’s Lead Inspector John Galvez’s white Toyota truck, I saw firsthand what went into selecting growers, fields, and even rows inside the fields for Markon brand. I was impressed by the mutual respect between Markon inspectors and harvesting crews. And spending some time in the Markon office, I felt their passion for delivering the highest quality produce to us, their members.
That week in the Salinas Valley broadened my perspective of the produce industry. I had spent many years in fields, coolers, and warehouses, but I hadn’t seen anything like America’s Salad Bowl—and nobody understood it and managed it better than Markon. Indeed, seeing was believing.