RJO Produce to launch into its 30th year of innovation, ag industry collaboration in 2023
Fred Valentino to become vice president of sales as company enters a new era.
RJO Produce, one of the nation’s most innovative agriculture businesses, will enter a new era when it begins its 30th year in 2023. Renowned for bringing relationship-driven, fair business practices to the produce industry, RJO is the brain child of brothers Rob and John O’Rourke.
In 1993, the O’Rourkes launched RJO with a goal of providing customers with the personal service and trusted information they needed to purchase only the highest quality fruits and vegetables. From their first day in business, the brothers made it a priority to send their team into the growing regions where they could see and report first-hand about the commodities and quality in the field.
The company’s three decade-strong reputation includes a commitment to building ag industry talent through its Bird Dog Field Inspection Program – a hands-on internship program created by RJO and supported by California State University, Fresno – giving ag science and produce industry students real-life ag industry experience. In addition to helping educate the future of the industry, the program provides critically important quality control by inspecting products prior to shipment to RJO clients throughout the United States. This program not only grows talent, it helps keep that talent in the ag sector long term.
“Since RJO’s inception, we’ve made sure the company prioritized investing in the holistic talent development of our team beyond RJO. We’re honored to have had a hand in the foundational journey of our people, and excited as they have taken our core values with them throughout their careers,” said RJO Produce President John O’Rourke. “It’s rewarding for our current team to catch up with and see the success of previous RJO Bird Dogs. We see them at farms, cold storages, sales offices, retailers, tailgates, industry shows, on stage and in classrooms. We even have an RJO Bird Dog Hall of Fame to recognize all who have bird dogged, including a father and son.”
RJO is also known for revolutionizing relationships with retail partners, acting as its retail customers’ agent in the fields and ensuring they receive the best information to enable them to get the best products at the best price. This includes RJO’s Bird Dog App™ that provides quantifiable scores for produce and exacting matches to customer quality specs; and the Bird Dog Quality Scoring System™ that guides RJO’s team in meeting customers’ specific quality specifications thanks to in-depth scoring of key attributes.
As RJO Produce enters a new era, Fred Valentino, currently RJO’s director of East Coast operations, will become vice president of sales. Valentino, also a former RJO Bird Dog, has led RJO’s field services and day-to-day operations, and worked as an account manager during his tenure with the company. Known as a team development rock star, Valentino is the perfect fit for an expanded role at RJO.
“I’m excited to take on this new role and help guide RJO into its fourth decade,” Valentino said. “Coming up through the ranks has allowed me to embrace the RJO culture and commitment to continuous improvement. I’ll continue to drive those values, and our dedication to top-notch customer service, in my new role.”
Additionally, Clint Lucas, director of West Coast operations, will be leaving RJO and the produce industry to join another well-respected family business.
“I’m honored to have had the opportunity to be part of such an innovative and people-centered company,” Lucas said. “I look forward to taking the values and ethics I learned at RJO with me as I work with my father in the insurance industry at DiBuduo & DeFendis, another passionate, homegrown Valley company.”
“We’re grateful for the years of service and professionalism Clint has provided RJO these many years,” O’Rourke said. “We wish him many successes in his new endeavors.”
O’Rourke noted that, thanks to years of collaboration and overlapping efforts between Valentino and Lucas, as well as developing young talent, RJO is well-positioned to seamlessly continue its work on behalf of customers. “We’re thrilled to enter our next era perfectly poised to continue blending digital innovation with human intelligence to ensure our retail clients receive top-quality produce,” O’Rourke said.