2024 40 Under Forty Winner: Paul J. Mastronardi

Director of Sales/Partner
Ever Tru Farms
Kingsville, Ontario, Canada

Age: 32
Hometown: Kingsville, Ontario
Hobbies: Golf, Fitness
Family/Community: University of Windsor Dean’s Science Board
Motto in life: If you fall off the horse, get back on.

As a third-generation farmer, Mastronardi’s career started long before he formally entered the industry. It began at 12, as he helped out in the warehouse on his family operation, Jem Farms. In 2014, he joined Jem Farms full time as director, and handled responsibilities for operations and development of the 28-acre greenhouse operation. Over a period of about five years, the farm grew to 50 acres. In 2021, while still acting as Jem Farms director, he also became an investor/board member for greenhouse lettuce producer Pure Green Farms.

In 2022, still remaining active as a director of Jem Farms, he became director of sales and a partner at Ever Tru Farms, a premium greenhouse strawberry grower and marketer. During the past four years, he has focused the bulk of his energy on running the sales and marketing of Ever Tru, which is a joint venture between him, Jim DiMenna and Great Northern Hydroponics. Starting with only 25 acres, the farm has continually increased and today boasts 95 acres of greenhouse strawberries. He is responsible for all sales and marketing for the farm and its products. Also in 2022, he worked with the University of Windsor to found a program to develop a two-acre R&D Center at Jem Farms. The project, a joint venture of JEM Farms and Ecoation, is called Agriculture at UWindsor (AgUWin) and is aimed at advancing agricultural research, development, and innovation in the Windsor-Essex region.

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

As a third-generation farmer, entering the industry was a combination of ambition — to build on my family legacy — and drive, to prove I had what it takes to meet the challenges of this business. But regardless of who you’re related to, the best way to truly understand an operation is to start at the bottom and try everything between. The opportunity to be part of the foundation of the premium CEA strawberry industry led me to partner and start Ever Tru Farms.

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

I’d like consumers to know we aren’t manufacturing widgets. While our industry has thousands of dedicated, hard-working people who are integral in bringing fresh produce into their homes, it still isn’t easy and never will be. However, we won’t let that stop our industry from continuing to innovate and get better.

Q: What are some ways we can increase produce consumption at the point of sale?

The overall eating experience will drive consumption through the quest for improved genetics.

Q: How has the industry changed during your tenure?

In the last 15 years, branded produce in North America has proliferated. What was a few legacy brands gave way to the CPG marketers’ approach to branding in produce.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?

Being a part of the establishment of the University of Windsor Agriculture program, through a joint venture with the university and other technology partners that formed HORTECA, a research greenhouse facility in Leamington, Ontario.

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

Don’t stay in your silo. Be curious. If you’re in sales, get out into the greenhouse. If you’re a grower, get out to see your crop at retail. This is the same advice for any role within the industry. You have to understand the whole supply chain to truly be successful.