Western Grower & Shipper 2018 03MarApr

back about three years ago just as Steve III entered a graduate program at the Harvard Business School. The prestigious school has a special program for executives running a company. As CEO and president of Martori Farms, Steve III began his quest for his MBA from HBS, as he calls it in an effort to downplay the degree. The program combines online course work with annual three-week stints on-site over a three year period. He graduated this past summer. “It was a life changing opportunity for me,” he said, noting that the course work led to better ways to run the company more efficiently and pointed to new directions in which to take it. He knew financing and technology were critical elements for example, but said the educational rigor was eye-opening in these particular areas. YOUNG PRESIDENTS’ ORGANIZATION: At 32, Steve III knows he is very young to be in his current position. He has looked for and found mentors in several areas including as a member of the YPO. “It’s a global organization open to presidents of companies that are under age 45 with over $12 million in sales and more than 50 employees. It is designed to be a

support group for company leaders in an uncommon situation.” He is one of the group’s youngest members. BULLISH ON AGRICULTUIRE: “I see the same headwinds as everyone else, but I fully intend for our company to be around for the next generation.” Martori said the agricultural industry has exhibited an amazing knack to “out-innovate” whatever problems lie in its path. He is confident technology can be utilized to solve the challenges that lie ahead. Of course, one of the biggest challenges is labor. Martori Farms was an early adopter of the H-2A program and has been using it successfully for 30 years. He is not confident Congress will successfully tackle immigration reform. “Seems to be such a wedge issue with both political parties using it to garner votes. It appears to be more useful to not have a solution.” In the long run, Martori does believe technology will play a role in reducing the need for labor but he sees it as a very long term project. He believes innovation in varietal production, harvesting and packing need to combine to create varieties where robotics can play a role. “I don’t see a lot of change in that area over the next 10-15 years. It’s going to take time.”

THE ORGANIC REVOLUTUION: Martori Farms has been a leader in the production of organic melons, and Steve III expects the growth trend in that sector to continue. “There is a lot of demand from retailers. We are going to have a significant increase in our volume this year.” The company markets its melons from May to December. THE WG CONNECTION: Steve Martori III was a graduate of the first class of Western Growers’ Future Leaders Program, and he is the first member of that program to make it to the WG Board of Directors. He is excited about the challenge of being on the board and interacting with some of the longtime leaders of the association and the industry. “I do plan to lean on the expertise of others.” But he has no plans to shy away from the role board membership creates. He believes his involvement in the aforementioned Young Presidents’ Organization has given him insights and standing in his position. ON A PERSONAL NOTE: Steve III is single and quite busy running a company. In his spare time, he loves outdoor activities, including snow skiing and mountain biking .



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