Susan Canales Retires from the Organic Produce Summit

Susan Canales Retires from the Organic Produce Summit

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SALINAS, CA - Over the course of the past eight years, Susan Canales’ name has helped fine-tune the way we think about organics. The industry veteran has played an integral role in helping to put the Organic Produce Summit (OPS) on the map, utilizing her passion, commitment, and experience to elevate an organization built to thrive. With all that she has brought to the industry, it was my pleasure to sit down with Susan as she spoke about her retirement from her post as President of OPS, and the joy fresh fruits and veggies have brought to her life.

Susan Canales, President, Organic Produce Summit
Susan Canales, President, Organic Produce Summit

“I am truly grateful for the wonderful people I’ve had the pleasure of working with,” Susan shared with me. “It is easy to be passionate about fresh produce and the innovative products that are our lifeblood. How lucky we are that we can bring to market the most beneficial products on the planet: healthy food! It is hard to go wrong with great people to work with and an amazing product like fresh produce.”

The relationships we form in this industry rival the best of them—further deepening our lives, as Susan expresses. She has many of them, having spent much of her career in fresh produce at the Nunes Company, where she spent 17 years in the marketing department. The position was unique, and she was able to learn and interact with other departments in the company.

“I can’t say enough about my years with the Nunes Company. They are so near and dear to my heart,” Susan shares. “Under the marketing umbrella, I managed packaging for the company, cartons, ties, etc., but as things like traceability came up, I began connecting with the field and cooler in a more in-depth way.”

When the Nunes Company started Foxy Foods, Susan stepped into managing all packaging components for the processing plant, dips, labels, and containers, which further introduced her to the processing plant.

Susan and her husband, Dan Canales of Ippolito International, both have deep industry roots and relationships that are a mark of the fresh produce industry's passion and interconnectedness 

“I had the distinct honor of gathering data from Nunes family members for an industry publication, so I had the unique task of interviewing various family members. I was fortunate to have one-on-one conversations with both Bob and Tom Sr. and hear stories about when the industry as we know it today began. My days with The Nunes Company are some of the fondest memories of my life,” Susan reflects. “There was a group of us at The Nunes Company who were hired in the same year, and we became great friends. When we started OPS, it was a whole different side of the industry and led to meeting another great group of people who have been like family over the past eight years. I think it’s a tremendous blessing when you can work beside people you really enjoy.”

Being with OPS since the outset in 2016 made for one of the biggest challenges and opportunities of Susan’s life—a moment in time that stretched for more than eight years.

“Creating something new is both terrifying and gratifying at the same time. The first year, we weren’t even sure people would show up, but as it turned out, there was a space in the industry that needed to be filled, and we stepped into it. For me, putting each of the pieces of the program together with the OPS team throughout the year and then seeing it all come together over the two days of OPS has always been so rewarding,” Susan remembers. “When you see people engaged in the show, whether through educational sessions, or the trade show floor, or networking at lunch, it gives you a great feeling of accomplishment. Knowing that something our team put together was relevant, inspiring, and motivating is a feeling you never get over.”

Susan’s tenure with OPS led to her meeting a great group of people and forming valuable friendships in the industry (OPS team pictured above)

As I sat in front of Susan, feeling very much inspired by this amazing industry, I wondered what advice she might have had for her younger self—tools we could all glean from.

“I would tell my younger self and anyone looking to grow their career, to not be afraid of rejection. If you see a hole in the company, approach management, share insights, don’t be afraid to step up even if your ideas aren’t taken to heart immediately,” she expressed.

I ate up every word of this as Susan went on.

“You never know when someone will think back on a comment you made. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. We live in a society where it’s taboo to ask questions, but asking questions is the bravest thing and helps you and everyone around you grow. You might think your question is obvious, but there are probably five other people in the meeting with the same question but are afraid to ask it,” she says.

Please join me in congratulating Susan Canales on her recent retirement! Thank you for the passion, dedication, and leadership you have shared with us all.

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