2023 Produce Business 40 Under Forty Award Winner: Jacob S. Rabon

Age: 37

Vice President of Commodity Procurement
Fresh Pik Produce INC.
Kenly, NC

Hometown: Weeksville NC
Hobbies: Traveling, Saltwater Fishing, Live Music, Golf
Family/Community: Married, Raleigh Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals Networking Group, Board of Directors The Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, Feeding America Partner, Newbegun United Methodist Church, Member of Hiram #40 A.F.A.M. Mason Lodge of Raleigh, est 1799.
Motto in life: “Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.” – Michael Jordan

Rabon started his career in agriculture as a child working on his family’s farm in Weeksville, NC, one of the oldest farms in the state dating back to 1695. He made his official entry into produce as an adult in 2010 with a start-up hybrid CSA company called The Produce Box, in Raleigh, NC, where he started as a production manager. After a series of promotions, he became the logistics and operations manager, overseeing the purchasing of over 250 commodities from over 150 growers in North Carolina. During his tenure, the membership of the CSA grew from 3,000 to over 11,000 members. Under this position, Rabon received the Smart Fleet Award after finding a grant for converting The Produce Boxes’ delivery trucks to run off gasoline and propane, lowering the carbon footprint of its delivery system by 34%.

In 2019, Rabon had the opportunity to partner with James Sharp of Fresh Pik Produce, a longtime grower for The Produce Box, to become vice president of commodity procurement. In this role, Rabon helped head up the evolution of Fresh Pik from a grower and packer operation to an operation now encompassing growing, packing, shipping and distribution of local fresh produce to retailers along with distribution centers in the region. Since joining the Fresh Pik Team, Rabon has helped stimulate growth in the local Direct Store Delivery (DSD) sector of the business, taking the delivered stores from 48 to 146. He has worked closely with the USDA since 2020 to procure, pack and deliver over 200,000 boxes of fresh local produce to families in the state impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic. He also currently serves on the board for Steven’s Blueberry Farm in Tabor City, NC.

Q: How did you begin working in the produce industry?
I began working in the produce industry on my family’s farm as soon as I could reach the hand clutch on a John Deere 60. Once I got older, I realized I wanted to take what I had learned in business school and apply it to the agriculture industry to help growers with the business side, so they could focus on raising the best crop they possibly can.

Q: What are some ways we can increase produce consumption at the point of sale?
In my experience, the diversity of the produce assortment you provide, the communication to the consumer through ads, publications, retail promotions and employee training, along with produce education — “vegication” — has produced the best results I have observed.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?
In addition to my educational accomplishments, I would have to say that what I am most proud of is carrying on the legacy of my family’s life work. I’m also proud of helping grow Fresh Pik’s Local Goodness NC Direct Store Delivery footprint from 48 to 146 stores in three years; keeping a 99.8% delivery rate from 2019 to 2022; contributions to communities in need after hurricanes; being able to contribute to my FFA organization chapter; and teaching young people about the agriculture industry through guest lectures at NC State University. The most important accomplishment by far has been watching our staff realize that they matter, that they are not “just” workers, but that they are part of the Fresh Pik Family.