United Fresh Preps for United Fresh Leadership Program and the Revolutionary Leadership Conference
WASHINGTON DC - With three upcoming leadership programs—the United Fresh Leadership Class 24, the Revolutionary Leadership Conference, and the Convention—United Fresh is working to cultivate the next generation of produce industry leaders who will be savvier, better prepared, and more connected than ever before. I spoke with Gretchen Kreidler Austin, Director of Business Development for Grow Farms and Chairman of the United Fresh Leadership Alumni Board; Brian Kocher, President and CEO of the Castellini Group of Companies; and Cindy Jewell, Vice President of Marketing for California Giant Berry Farms about the United FreshLeadership Program and the impact it has had on their lives and the lives of others.
"The United Fresh Leadership Program is the result of the desire of a few of the industry's most influential to build leaders in the industry from the younger generations," Gretchen explained the origins of the United Fresh Leadership program. "That was 24 years ago! Through the generous sponsorship of DuPont, now Dowdupont, their dream was achieved!"
The program has continued on for nearly a quarter of a century, granting opportunity to a select few in each generation.
"Each year 12 individuals are hand-selected through a lengthy review and interview process from a large group of candidates," continued Gretchen. "Those lucky 12 are then given four weeks of intense training over the course of a year on becoming our industry's leaders of today and tomorrow. The classes focus on Leadership Development, Business Relations, Government and Public Relations, and Media and Public Relations. Industry experts and past alumni all play a part in the educational process."
For Gretchen, as an alumnus of the program, the United Fresh Leadership program is not only of great benefit to the industry, but directly improved her career.
"The program changed my life on the very first day of class," Gretchen said. "I figured out what type of employee I was, how I felt I wanted to be rewarded, and what I needed to do to feel successful and to give my best to my employer and industry. I absolutely give the credit for my transformation to the Leadership Program and my then employer, Mike Martin [also a Leadership Alumni] of Rio Queen Citrus."
The second and newest of United Fresh's Leadership offerings is the Revolutionary Leadership Conference, which the company offers in partnership with the George Washington Leadership Institute. As a testament to the conference's success, even Cindy Jewell, the berry queen herself, feels her company has benefited from the program.
"We are very excited about the new Revolutionary Leadership Conference as it really rounds out a complete line of leadership tools for members of the industry," said Cindy. "At California Giant we have benefited from staff participation in the United Leadership programs and look forward to offering this educational opportunity to those looking to expand their growth with our company and in the industry."
Brian Kocher feels that all of United Fresh's Leadership offerings have been a great benefit to the industry.
"Each year, I encourage members of my team to participate in United Fresh's leadership offerings," said Brian. "I find the more exposure they have to the values expressed, networking available, and lessons taught at these events directly translate into improved processes and team development once back at the office. It's a short-term commitment to a long-term return on investment."
Gretchen reflected on this long-term investment, speaking to how the leadership programs have shaped industry leaders and the companies for which they work.
"Whether it is upward movement in their company, more exposure to our industry, how to be involved, or greater understanding in what it means to be a leader, and how to become a true leader in our industry, the program leaves a mark on you that is never forgotten," she reflected. "The entire industry as a whole benefit any time a group is educated. Enlightened. This select group of 12 goes back to their prospective companies with new ideas, with renewed excitement, with a sense of family and belonging in an industry that is so vital to everyone on the planet. Without us, without the new generation of us, the planet doesn't eat fresh fruit and vegetables."
The Revolutionary Leadership conference will run April 9th through 11th; followed by the United Fresh Leadership Program, which begins in August of this year and runs through June of 2019; and the United Fresh Conference September 24th through 26th. Applications for the leadership program's 24th class close March 30th. To stay in the know on industry leadership projects, keep reading AndNowUKnow.