Jim Prevor: Captain of Conscience

Don Harris - Retail Perspective

Originally printed in the January 2023 issue of Produce Business.

Jim Prevor was my friend. He is not a mere casual acquaintance, industry colleague, business associate, media contact, or fellow board member, but a true friend. One who is honest, straightforward and direct in all his support. Above all, he always told you the truth, no matter how brutal or discouraging it might be. Upper management may not understand this type of relationship, but in the produce industry, it is one to be valued and treasured as a unique aspect of this highly personal industry. Once again, this lack of understanding shows that in matters concerning produce relationships, “they just don’t get it!”

I met Jim in October of 1985 at the PMA convention in San Francisco (the last one ever held in that city). I was assigned by my boss, Bob Backovich, to meet with representatives of the new produce magazine. This was an unusual assignment, as during this period and for many previous years, the relations between retail and industry media were very tense. There was a sense of suspicion and distrust whenever the industry media asked for information or comments from members of the retail industry. In fact, many retail companies had policies that prohibited their personnel from talking with the media.

Because of this situation, I approached this meeting with some trepidation, but my mind was soon put at ease. The vibe when I entered the room was far different from many others I had experienced with other contacts with the industry press. Jim and Ken (Whitacre) had a far different approach. They were active listeners, and their questions were honest and not designed to try and trap or trick one into divulging information that would make good headlines. They were looking to get insight and perspective more than any “hot scoop.” I left the meeting with the distinct impression that here was a new media source that would prove to be far different from any the others the industry has experienced. Thus began a fruitful, 37-year relationship and friendship.

To say Jim Prevor was a complex person is an understatement. My friend had so many facets to his personality, knowledge, intellect and intelligence that it was hard to apply any classification. People in the industry had varying opinions of Jim and his writings and opinions. Many thought he was anti-retail and pro-supply, anti-North America and pro-Europe, anti-export and pro-import. Regardless of these opinions, one thing was for certain: Jim was Pro Produce. He was pro everything produce, from production to consumption. Everything he did or said pointed to improvement of the industry and increasing consumption. He championed every possible avenue for increasing the consumption of produce across the board. His “Produce Pundit” column was eagerly anticipated throughout the industry for its thought-provoking content.

Jim was our conscience. He was constantly encouraging us to be what we should be, to do what we should do, and how to move forward, always forward.

In many ways, Jim was our conscience. He was constantly encouraging us to be what we should be, to do what we should do, and how to move forward, always forward. He reminded us of what we should be pursuing, regardless of its political ramifications or business obstacles and to go beyond simple lip service to the issues of our day.

Jim tirelessly reminded us of the need to move ahead when challenges or opposition affected the industry’s efforts to increase consumption. He showed us that nearly every controversial situation facing the industry was a part of the greater challenge of increasing the consumption of fresh produce across the globe. He was always challenging us to pick up the mantle of the industry and move forward, despite what seemed to be insurmountable problems and challenges.

When it came to improving our industry, he never rested or allowed the situation to become bogged down in procedural matters or petty squabbles. We constantly looked for Jim to provide us with the answers and motivation needed to move ahead and clear these obstacles. His tone could sometimes be rough and forceful, but it always was done with the goal of making the industry better. Some thought that Jim could be somewhat overbearing at times, but in the long run, this type of provocation was invaluable in the continued improvement of our industry.

Now that he’s gone, any tribute of mere words does not do justice to Jim and his lifetime efforts to improve the industry and increase consumption. The best thing that we can do, as an industry, is to continue Jim’s work and do everything we possibly can to promote Jim’s cause. We must recognize and adopt new, innovative strategies to energize our industry and the consumer. We cannot overlook any possible opportunity and should utilize every potential channel and creative, out-of-the-box thinking to formulate a strategy that will meet our (and Jim’s) goal.

With Jim’s loss, we all know that a great voice and conscience for the industry is now silent. It is our duty to press forward and challenge ourselves to be the best that we can be and to push our industry to a new level, no matter what the cost. The best monument we can give to Jim and his work would be to succeed in his lifetime goal to increase fresh produce consumption.

Don Harris is a 41-year veteran of the produce industry, with most of that time spent in retail. He worked in every aspect of the industry, from “field-to-fork” in both the conventional and organic arenas. Harris is presently consulting. Comments can be directed to editor@producebusiness.com.