2020 Produce Business 40 Under Forty Award Winner: Maria D. Nunez

Age: 34
President and Chief Executive
Linda Mar Imports Inc.
Medley, FL

Nunez is a self-starter who has developed a successful woman-owned produce company over the past 10 years. She started in the produce industry in 2008 as chief executive of a produce transport company with 19 trucks and established strong relationships with customers. About two years ago, her motivation to do something different took her to Honduras where she leased a packing house and land to begin growing and importing oriental vegetables. Though her first year was difficult, she showed extreme determination and grit in learning from the experience and planning for the future. She is currently operating in her third year branding her own produce and seeing success. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, she has maintained four employees as well as working with independent sales teams to continue inventory in the markets. She provided services for storage and handling and trucking to customers and colleagues and worked non-stop to continue moving trucks with safety precautions.

Hobbies: Yoga, Dance, Golf, Boating, Sports With Her Kids

Personal/Community: Engaged, two sons, Charity work in Honduras

Motto in life: “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will lead you everywhere.”

Q: How did you begin working in the produce industry?
Running a trucking company with 19 trucks all over the U.S. hauling produce. I was attracted to giving my customer full service trucks and produce.

Q: What do you know now you wish you knew when you first started your career?
I wish I had a business consultant like I do now to help me organize my goals and keep me focused.

Q: What aspect of the business challenged you the most early on?
Growing and doing business internationally where I had to do accounting in foreign currencies.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?
The trust and the support I have from my customers and the awesome team I have created.

Q: What advice would you give someone new to the produce industry?
Do your research; don’t invest or take too much risk because market prices change rapidly.

Q: What do you think the industry can do to promote more produce consumption?
Production and farmers need to have money to invest in good quality product so that the distributors won’t reject and trash 30 percent.

Q: What was the “aha” moment when you knew the produce industry was the best choice for you?
On trips to Honduras, I visited and met many growers. I know how hard they work and I want my company to be profitable enough to help reduce hunger and poverty.

Q: What would you like consumers to know about the industry?
I would like to take them through the process of packaging and make them realize how it affects the environment. I’d also like to educate them more on all the nutrients and benefits of vegetables and fruit.

Q: How has the industry changed during your tenure?
The freight cost by boat has increased and the regulations of the FDA and USDA have no pity when it comes to fumigation.

Q: Which social media platform for business do you use the most and why?
LinkedIn because it’s a great way to connect.