2024 40 Under Forty Winner: Matthew DeBlouw

Buyer/Sales; Grower Relations
Riggio Distribution Co.
Detroit, MI

Age: 30
Hometown: Chesterfield, MI
Hobbies: Hockey, Golf, Pickleball, Bowling, Dinner dates with his daughters
Family/Community: Married, 2 daughters, Michigan Vegetable Council Board Member, Director of the Henry “Butchie” DeBlouw Memorial Foundation, St. Isidore Catholic Church
Motto in life: Always grateful, never complacent.

DeBlouw is a fourth-generation farmer who grew up working on his family farm every summer. He graduated from Michigan State University, where he was also a member of the Men’s NCAA Division I ice hockey team, with a bachelor’s degree in food industry management. Following graduation, he played professional hockey for two seasons before realizing his true passion was in his produce and farming roots. His father tragically passed away in a work-related accident during his collegiate career, which drove him to carry on his legacy. He began his produce career in 2018, working as the warehouse manager at Mike Pirrone Produce. During this year, he also became a board member on the Michigan Vegetable Council. He was promoted to president of Mike Pirrone Produce in 2019 and served in this role until 2021. During this time, the company expanded growing operations to over 2,000 acres while also managing products for over 50 farms.

In January 2022, DeBlouw decided to head in a new direction and accepted his current role as sales/buyer at Riggio Distribution Company. In this role, he is in charge of buying and selling produce and bridging the gap with local farmers. He brought a new perspective to the company with his experience on the growing side of produce. During his transition to his current role at Riggio, he also started his own company, Uncle Debby’s Farm. In three short years of operations, Uncle Debby’s has become one of the largest growers and suppliers of rhubarb in the U.S.

Q: How did you begin working in the produce industry?

I have my dad to thank for instilling in me a love for farming and making the produce industry attractive. Even though he pushed me to pursue other professions because of the demands of this industry, farming and produce are in my blood. Following my dad’s passing in 2012, I made a commitment to continue his legacy in the produce industry.

Q: What do you know now you wish you knew when you first started your career?

I never realized how much you need to have a short memory while working in this field. I have learned to leave yesterday’s problems in the past and move on quickly.

Q: What is the one thing in your business you are most passionate about?

Making a positive impact by providing healthy food.

Q: What would you like consumers to know about the industry?

I want consumers to understand the full cycle of how their produce gets on the shelf for them to buy. From the time a seed goes into the ground to becoming a product on the shelf, the amount of people and work it takes is endless.

Q: How has the industry changed during your tenure?

Consolidation. If you are unable to consolidate nowadays for your customers, it is very tough to compete.

Q: What advice would you give someone new to the produce industry?

Truly listen and always be open to learning. This industry is unique because it is constantly changing. Work hard, listen to the ones around you and you will learn to love it!