2023 Produce Business 40 Under Forty Award Winner: Kelsey Crusha

Age: 38

Senior Account Manager
Tanimura & Antle
Spreckels, CA

Hometown: Clovis, CA
Hobbies: Spending time with family and friends, Watching her kids play sports, Reading, Exercise
Family/Community: Married, 3 Children, Our Lady of Perpetual Help School Parent Club Board member, Our Lady of Perpetual Help School Heritage Committee, Previous La Visionaria Guild of Valley Children’s Hospital Executive Board as Coordinating Council, Vice President, President, and Fund Development.
Motto in life: I genuinely believe everything happens for a reason.

After graduating from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2007, Crusha accepted a position with Tanimura & Antle on the sales team. As a new hire, her day-to-day was to shadow other departments, including production, harvest, shipping, quality control and food safety. In late 2007, she was given her first opportunity to manage an account — Military Produce Group. In this role, she managed freight and consolidation of items outside of T&A offerings, along with her day-to-day sales responsibilities. In 2008, she transitioned to work remotely— a first for the company and somewhat unheard of in the industry at the time. She traveled with senior account managers and regional managers and was part of the original sales team that introduced artisan lettuce to the market in 2009. This item is now a category of its own.

In her 17 years at T&A, she has managed all sectors of business— vendor managed, retail, foodservice and wholesale. In 2016, she became a senior account manager, a role in which she has exceeded sales targets, expanded the company’s customer base and helped launch new product lines. She is considered a natural collaborator, forging strong relationships with customers, suppliers and stakeholders. She was a recipient of the Pack Family Scholarship in 2005 by the Produce Marketing Association (now IFPA).

Q: How did you begin working in the produce industry?
My ag business 101 class with Tom Frawley at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo was my first introduction to the produce Industry and it bloomed from there. I credit many of my professors at Cal Poly, including Frawley, Kerry Cochran and Tony Torres. Many of them had worked in the industry before moving into education and the passion and dedication was evident.

Q: What aspect of the business challenged you the most early on?
I’m a people pleaser, so it was hard (and still is) for me to not take things personally. It’s business and a competitive business, but markets are constantly changing and every day is a new day.

Q: What are some ways we can increase produce consumption at the point of sale?
If children are introduced to fruits and vegetables at a young age, they will continue to reach for them as they get older and then share their healthy habits with their families. We need to meet our children (and busy parents) where they are — schools, games, extracurricular activities — with quick, fresh, and healthy options.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?
I’m most proud of the partnerships and relationships I’ve built with customers. Whether it’s developing and onboarding a new customer or restoring an old partnership, I always work to understand what the customer needs so I can present them with opportunities to succeed.

Q: What do you see as a critical issue facing the industry in the next decade and why?
Recruiting and retaining talent. I recognize our industry is 24/7/365, but we have to acknowledge what the next generation is prioritizing when looking for a career. As an industry, this still seems to be out of our comfort zone, but I believe it’s possible to create a structure that works and, in turn, creates happier, productive employees with less burnout. And water — our farmers always need water!