I have something very bold to announce (at least I think it’s bold!) I am going to start following a vegan diet.

The definition of vegan is eating only a plant-based diet. No foods or products that come from an animal. No eggs, cheese (that one will be hard), meat, fish or dairy. You may be wondering why I have made this decision since I have never been a vegetarian or anything so extreme. Here is my thought process.

It all started about 3 weeks ago, when my 48-year-old niece Jennifer came over for a family barbecue. She looked fantastic. I mean – she always looks beautiful, but she looked different. She was calmer and thinner and her skin and hair looked healthier. I asked her what was going on? She told me that she and her husband Rollie had been following a vegan diet for about three months. Sure, she had lost a few pounds, but more importantly, she felt so much better!

Then, I was at a produce conference 10 days ago, and I ran into my friend Patrick, who is from Florida and in his early 60s. He looked different – rested and calm. I asked him what changed and he told me that he had been following a vegan diet for about three months and I could not believe how much energy he had!

I have to admit it was a big shock to me that he, of all people, would follow a vegan lifestyle as my first meal with him was a big fat steak at one of his restaurants. Patrick is in charge of purchasing for more than 2,000 restaurants across the United States.

Patrick pulled me aside and talked to me with more passion and commitment than I had ever seen from him before. He told me to try juicing first (processing fresh vegetable and fruits into juices at home to cleanse my system) and then to watch the movie “Forks Over Knives.

“Call me after you watch it,” he said to me.

I do recommend that you go on iTunes and buy the movie “Forks over Knives.” Watching it convinced me why I should change my diet.

Check out the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7ijukNzlUg

When I got home last week, I started doing some research. As I shopped at my local Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods – I found out there is a lot of information about veganism. Even the guy at my local Trader Joe’s volunteered to help me. He told me he has been a vegan for 15 years and said, “Don’t worry, you will have plenty of food choices. And BTW – there is plenty of protein in fruits and vegetables!”

That seems to be everyone’s big worry – getting enough protein. I admit that was one of my big worries. But the more research I do, the less I am concerned about that.

When I thought about being a vegan, I was a bit scared. OMG I can’t have a steak. Or my favorite cheese! Or milk chocolate! But then I realized – I can do anything for a month!

So, my commitment is to be a vegan for the entire month of August and  chronicle my journey for everyone here! Since everyone who reads my blog is interested in fruits and vegetables, eating healthy, and having a long, happy life, I think my observations and experiences will provide some insight.

So, please stay tuned as I share my journey with you!



I was off to another produce show this past weekend in beautiful Monterey, California. The region around this seaside town – the Salinas Valley – is also known as the “salad bowl” because of the number of vegetables grown here.

The produce show was part of the Produce Marketing Association’s annual foodservice conference where thousands of distributors, restaurants and schools meet up for inspiration.

The conference allowed attendees to chat with growers, food suppliers, see and taste new products and visit with friends in the industry. But perhaps most importantly,  the conference inspired new menu ideas.

It’s hard being a chef or a restaurant operator. Whether you have a single restaurant or a chain as large as Olive Garden, you are always on the lookout for new ingredients,  recipes and trends.

What I found most inspiring about this year’s conference was the focus on kids and providing healthy and flavorful ideas for them. On Saturday, instead of serving lunch to all attendees, six produce companies partnered with six chefs and created kid-friendly recipes. Attendees in the audience heard an overview of the chefs’ methodology and then the audience sampled each of the recipes and voted for their favorite.

Here were some of the ideas presented:

Baby Green Salad w/Serrano Vinaigrette: B&W Quality Growers 


BBQ Chicken Celery Sticks: Duda Farm Fresh Foods


Cipollini Onion Tart Recipe: I Love Produce 


Swappable Meat-Mushroom Taco: The Mushroom Council

There are already pioneer programs around the country in various cities with some pretty innovative programs to get kids to eat healthy. I recently read about The Tot Chef Culinary  program in Lodi, Ohio – a cooking class for parents and children.

In New York City – check out the Wellness in the Schools nonprofit that was developed by parents to improve fitness, nutrition, and environment in New York City public schools.

I was actually encouraged to learn that these grassroots programs are making a significant difference in changing the way American kids eat. All of this activity around healthy choices is inspiring for me.

Inside our produce industry we long ago recognized that if we can change the eating patterns of consumers early in life – we will have healthier citizens.

And who knows, maybe this is a long term solution for the health care system woes being discussed in Washington, D.C.? There is one thing I am sure of  – eating healthy is a personal choice. And thank goodness, we all have so many choices when we eat out.

No matter how old we are.



There is quite a vibrant produce industry trade association based right here in Southern California. It’s called the Fresh Produce and Floral Council (FPFC) and it has been around since 1965. It was founded as a forum for buyers and sellers to get to know each other on a more personal level, and of course, before there was such a word as “networking,” that’s really what was needed.

My mom, Frieda, was one of the council’s first members, and when I was in high school I attended my first FPFC luncheon with Mom in Los Angeles.

Most of the men who worked on the produce market started their day between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., so they chose to have the luncheons at the end of their work day. I say “men” because, truly, there were no women — except for Frieda.

After I entered the business, I was asked to join the board of directors of the FPFC, and in 1990 I became its first chair-woman. So, you can see this organization has a special place in my heart!

One of the events that we created when I was president was a produce expo. It’s like a mini trade show where produce growers, floral growers, salad dressing companies, importers, wholesalers, distributors and food brokers all set up their products. Then produce buyers from large local retail chains, independent markets, school districts, foodservice distributors and others walk through the show to find new products and to network.

This year’s expo was on July 17th at the Disneyland Hotel with more than 200 companies displaying their goods. I’ve been attending the show since its inception, so I thought it would be interesting to get the perspective from one of my new employees, Cindy. When I asked Cindy what “jumped out at her” at the show, she lit up.

As you can see, the produce industry is focused on providing healthy and convenient fresh foods for consumers. I would love to hear what YOUR favorite produce convenience food is!


Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Instagram or  QR codes we all know that “social media” is the buzz these days.

Earlier this week I spoke to a group of business owners in Southern California (http://www.lbcc.edu/ERD/10000sb-index.cfm) and one of my topics was how to use LinkedIn effectively.

I’ve always considered LinkedIn, “Facebook for business.” I feel that for the most part, Facebook is used to communicate and build your network in your personal life, but for business, LinkedIn is the place to be.

For example, I knew that one of my supermarket customers had changed jobs – but I didn’t know where he went. So I logged onto my account on LinkedIn.
Even though I had never “connected” with him on LinkedIn, I was able to type in his name and found out which company he was now at. Then I sent him a request to connect.

Another time, I had an appointment with a customer whom I had never met. I wanted to know a little about him and what he looked like, so I typed in his name and found him on LinkedIn. I was able to see his photo, find out his previous career positions and actually took the opportunity to send him an invitation to “connect.”

Did you know that a LinkedIn email message to a business connection is 70% more likely to be read than just a regular email? (I heard that at a seminar I attended last month.)

But my favorite thing is “stalking.” I learned this from my sister, Jackie. One time she told me that she was going through photos on her son’s Facebook, since we all know our kids aren’t good at sharing their photos!

It’s possible to do that on LinkedIn. Once you are connected to someone you can view their contacts. It’s a great way to find new contacts for yourself—or new potential customers or employees. And that’s probably why we are all getting so many LinkedIn requests to connect. Others have figured out that they look at who YOU are connected to. And that’s why I am kind of picky when it comes to connecting on LinkedIn.

And you should be too.


It seems that Farmers’ Markets are everywhere these days!

Fortunately for me, one of the most famous is right here in Southern California. Every Wednesday at 8 a.m., dozens of California farmers set up their stands at the Santa Monica Farmers Market — just blocks away from the Pacific Ocean.

A few hours earlier, our company forager — Mary — packs up her car with coolers and handcarts and makes her way to the market. Mary started working for Frieda’s a few years ago and she tells me that she has to “pinch herself” sometimes when she thinks about how much fun she’s having. Part of that fun is going to the Farmers’ Market on Wednesday mornings, in search of trends in fresh produce.

A few weeks ago, Mary arrived at the office for a Farmers’ Market “show and tell” for our sales and marketing team.

You can tell summer has officially begun!” Mary started out explaining to everyone.

In previous weeks the variety and selection at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market had been a bit mundane. But, with the change in season, there were new fruits, flavors and plenty of excitment!

Take a look at some of the amazing samples she brought back for us to taste.

The office was filled with the aroma of peaches, plums, melons, berries, cherries and the crisp scent of lemon verbena. You can see that she labeled the fruits by variety and grower name, so our sales team could taste the difference. This is helpful when we are describing them to our customers across country.

Farmers’ Markets — especially those in metropolitan cities like San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles — are great places to find new foods. In fact, these markets are where Mary has found a few of our newest growers.

Every season we continue to find new tastes, shapes and varieties of fruits and veggies that American consumers will love.

What are some of your favorite summer fruits and veggies?