Taking Every Opportunity To Engage New Advocates for Avocados
As we have been preparing for our first ever Board Leadership Development Program (BOLD) University affiliated learning, we ran across an opportunity from one of the University of California Davis associate-professors, who will be instructing our classes that was too good to pass up. An invitation to engage her students in an agricultural marketing class, and talk about marketing avocados.
As you can imagine, this invitation was just the kind of opportunity that HAB thrives on, and one that our executive director Emiliano Escobedo never lets go by without fully taking advantage of the occasion. We asked Emiliano to talk about the experience, and why this chance to engage young minds, with the topic of agricultural marketing resonated so deeply with him.
Here is his recounting:
A few months ago, I connected with a UC Davis professor who teaches marketing to students in the Ag school. She invited me to present as a guest lecturer to her 100+ students about our work at the Hass Avocado Board. I was delighted to get her invitation and give back to students what I never had: an opportunity to listen to an executive from the fresh fruit industry and learn about a case study on how to market and position fresh Hass avocados as healthy and delicious in the United States.
When I was in school studying at the College of Agricultural Life Sciences in Gainesville, Florida, I took several food and ag marketing courses for my specialization in agribusiness marketing and sales. Most of the classes focused on commodities (corn, soy, and wheat, frozen orange juice, dairy, pork bellies, etc.). Very few, if any, talked about marketing fruits and vegetables directly to consumers. For one class, we visited the Chicago Board of Trade, but we never visited or heard from a produce distributor, trade association or farmer.
I graduated with good grades in school, and my professors were very supportive of me. A few months before graduation, one of them asked me about my career plans and aspirations. After hearing that I was interested in getting involved with the produce industry, one of them tried to talk me out of it. So, not only did my coursework rarely cover anything about marketing fresh products, but a professor was also discouraging me from pursuing a career marketing them.
Now that I manage one of the most exciting fruit marketing programs in the United States, whose success is the envy of the produce industry, I can’t help but think about how all my learning has happened on the job—outside of the classroom—and the impact I could have on future generations if I were to go back to school today.
After two guest lectures this year, the two most fascinating things to me are:
- The dozens of questions that I get from the students even before my lecture and
- Seeing the diversity of backgrounds attending the course, several of whom are from other countries.
Their questions provide me with a peek into the minds of first or second-year college students and provide me an understanding of how they see HAB, the avocado industry, and produce marketing. If I had to generalize their interests to just a couple of subjects, I would say that sustainability, technology and the digital world is definitely what is in the minds of young folks born around 2002.
Ultimately, I think of these lectures as a win-win because students learn about how to market fresh foods and I get to learn about the motivations of future generations. Hopefully, one day, a few of them will learn from the incredible success story of the Hass Avocado industry and begin to write the next chapter of marketing fresh produce in their own lives for the benefit of our society. Because after all, wouldn’t the world be better off if we all ate a little more fresh fruits and vegetables?
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