Guest Columns 




A love that starts at home


Ever since I was a little girl, I have been fascinated by fresh produce, health, and wellness. My mom made sure we had two vegetables and a salad on the dinner table every night. My father, who called himself a “dirt farmer,” worked so hard to provide for his six children. I admired the long hours he worked, but he always did it with a smile, enthusiasm, and passion. He inspired me to pursue a career in agriculture. At the time, there were not many women studying agriculture or working in the industry. I saw that as an
opportunity to stand out and to make a name for myself. I was fortunate to grow up in vertically-oriented
family farming business. I experienced everything from growing, shipping, cooling, processing, research
and development, seed breeding, and innovation.

After I graduated from U.C. Davis with an agbusiness degree, I wasn’t ready to return to the family business. I wanted to gain greater industry knowledge and work experience outside of the Salinas Valley. I came back home and spent 22 years at D’Arrigo Bros. Co., of California. I found my passion in sales,
marketing, new product development, and philanthropy. I will always value the Ag Leadership program and United Fresh Leadership program which helped me to increase my self-confidence and to create lasting relationships. Then a new chapter opened when I joined the Taylor Farms team as Vice President of Community Development. I share Bruce Taylor’s passion for the welfare of his employees, team members, and a passion for giving back to the community. The promise of AgTech. The explosion of AgTech has brought the industry together in a positive way. Companies are working together more now than ever before, as we all challenge ourselves to increase efficiency, mechanize, and automate our operations. At the same time, people will always be the most important factor in our businesses. We aim to satisfy the
growing number of healthy minded consumers by giving them what they want and what they bodies need:
fresh fruits and vegetables.
It’s hard for me to believe I’ve been working in the produce industry for over 33 years. I’ve seen so many
changes, both evolutionary and revolutionary. What’s it like to be a woman in the agricultural business?
Challenging, but rewarding. No two days are the same and change is inevitable. That’s what I find the
most exciting. My personal goal is to be a mentor for young women in considering or entering a job in the
produce industry. I have a lot of experience and wisdom I want to share with others. Produce is a
business build on relationships. I hope more women will choose a career in agriculture. No matter where
my path takes me, my roots will always be in agriculture.

Margaret D’Arrigo-Martin is Vice-President of Community Development for Taylor Farms. She has over 35 years of experience in the produce business, including Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing for D’Arrigo Bros. Co., of California. She was recently selected as the Ag Woman of the Year for Monterey County. She has an Agricultural and Managerial B.S. degree from U.C. Davis and earned her

Executive MBA from CSUMB. Her greatest passion is her twin boys, Alex and Sterling (13), who attend
San Benancio Middle School. Margaret enjoys her limited amount of free time sipping wine with
girlfriends, walking, hiking, travelling, and cooking.





A small act of kindness


Back in January, I boarded a flight from Houston, Texas, back to Orange County, California. My first business trip of the year started on January 2 and took me to Ohio, where the temperature each morning was 4 degrees. Thankfully, my gloves and thick winter coat kept me insulated from the freezing cold.

Sometimes, the dramatic change in the weather from one place to the next when you are traveling on business can affect your attitude. You know what I mean—you can be a little testy, grouchy, and not a lot of fun to be around.

Can you imagine what it must be like for flight attendants—especially during this first week of the year when non-business travelers are making their way back from their holiday vacations, and students are headed back to college, and one of the worst storms of the decade is blasting the Midwest and East Coast?

So, as I made my connection in Houston and boarded my flight home to Orange County, I did what I always do and said hello to the flight attendant. I could tell she wasn’t having a great day. Many flights had been canceled. When I jokingly asked about getting coffee, she let me know right away that she hadn’t even set up the galley yet.

Based on her response, I wasn’t expecting a lot on this flight home.

As the flight attendant came down the aisle shortly after the flight took off, I asked for her name.

“Althea,” she said.

“That’s a beautiful name!”

She then asked for my name, which kind of surprised me.

About 30 minutes into the flight, I was startled out of my reading when someone said, “Karen, did you say you wanted some coffee?” I mean, who knew my name on this flight?

It was Althea.

“You caught me off guard, Althea!” She giggled, and she had that smile on her face for the rest of the flight.

We connected just by knowing each other’s names. And that is all it took to change someone’s attitude.

How often do you sense that someone you are interacting with is having a bad day? Like a server at the restaurant, a checker at the grocery store, the person parking your car, or even a complete stranger in line ahead of you who is grouchy or grumpy. Do you check them off as being rude and act grouchy right back at them?

The next time you encounter those people, I would encourage you to stop for a moment and perform a small act of kindness. I’m not talking about things as dramatic or expensive as those “SoCal Helpful Honda People,” springing acts of kindness across the region from giving away free pumpkins for Halloween to helping a military member get home for the holidays. (They talked about some of these acts on their radio spot. I think it’s a brilliant marketing campaign!) I’m talking about just simply treating everyone as a person. Look them in the eye, smile, say, “have a great day,” and mean it. Find out their name. Pay them a sincere compliment or thank them for their service.

These days, there are a lot of angry, grouchy people out there. People who are having a bad day for a variety of reasons—and it’s not just the weather. I do know that being kind and making a personal connection with a complete stranger can be a game changer for them and for me.

The Dalai Lama said, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” So, why don’t we all try to be kind? Smile at everyone you see even if you don’t know them. Ask strangers their names and make them feel important.

Oh, and Althea did get me some coffee after all!

Karen Caplan is the president and CEO of Frieda’s Specialty Produce in Los Alamitos, California, a women-owned family business and leading distributor and marketer of unique and exotic fruits and vegetables to supermarkets and foodservice distributors in North America.