Celebrating 75 Years of Good From the Ground Up

Elyse Lipman (right), current CEO of Lipman Family Farms, Immokalee, FL, is pictured with her sister Amelie and their grandfather Bill Lipman, second generation and former CFO of the family-run operation, circa 1990.
Originally printed in the May 2023 issue of Produce Business.

Lipman Family Farms, Immokalee, FL, has grown into one of the nation’s largest integrated network of growers, fresh-cut processors and distributors of fresh produce. And, as it celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, the now-international, family-owned company emphasizes its roots, but has a renewed commitment to quality, growth and stewardship for the next 75 years.

Fourth generation Lipman family member, Elyse Lipman, was appointed CEO at the start of 2023 and is the first woman on the Lipman executive team. She previously held senior roles at the World Economic Forum and holds an MBA in innovation management from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Lipman, who joined the family business four years ago, previously served as its chief strategy officer, which included overseeing the company’s Mexico expansions. She remains focused on the company’s core values, while pushing for continuous growth.

“I’ve experienced how Lipman has changed, evolved and grown over the years, while staying true to its core values as a family-owned business,” she says, “and I’m honored to have the opportunity to build our business, not just for tomorrow, but for generations to come.”

In the 1930s, Max Lipman was a peddler in New York City, but would come home at night, complaining to his wife, Ella, with the desire to do and be more. So Ella started pinching pennies, saving whatever she could, until one day, she went over to their savings jar, broke it open, handed him $100, and said, “Well, let’s do something about it.”

Max, who didn’t read or write, but had quite a knack for numbers, started by selling whole produce into the New York City’s Washington Street Market. He walked the stalls, saving a penny here, a nickel there.
“Still today, our business knows the value of a few cents,” Elyse Lipman adds.

It wasn’t long before Max and his five sons and sons-in-law saw a bigger opportunity — they wanted to follow the produce back to the source. So the whole family moved to Florida to become farmers. In 1948, Lou Lipman planted the first tomato, and the company was born.

Over the years, Lipman Family Farms made great strides in expanding its footprint and offerings to become a completely vertically integrated, service-oriented, one-stop-ingredients-shop for its customers. The company acquired 10 businesses over the last 12 years, making it one of North America’s largest integrated networks of growers, packers, fresh-cut processors and distributors of fresh tomatoes and vegetables.

The family history runs deep, and though many Lipman employees are not blood-related, they have become like family through their connection to the family business. The company has more than 300 employees that have been with the company for 20+ years. The total number of employees varies with the season, but this spring is running at 3,600.

The company is also pushing for next generation ideas and innovations from employees through its Accelerator Program. The program explores new technologies that could improve production or operational quality and productivity across the company’s footprint, and its cross-functional team fosters a culture of innovation from the ground up.

While results and growth are a priority, Lipman Family Farms is also focused on remaining ‘people-first.’ This involves taking care of its people and communities by participating in food donation programs; offering scholarship funds; providing resources for disaster relief; supporting organizations like RCMA (Florida’s largest non-profit provider of early childhood education), Boys and Girls Club, Brighter Bites, Feeding America; sponsoring charity events throughout the year, and hosting an annual, companywide Day of Good event.

“As we look ahead,” Lipman says, “one thing that will always remain is our commitment to being a people-focused company and remaining Good from The Ground Up.”