For the Love of Produce
Talking Passion for the Industry with Mike Blume
February is known to many of us as the month of love – It’s a time to recognize the love we have for our families, our friends, and ourselves. This month, Andrea Scroggs sits down with Mike Blume to discuss his love of the produce industry.
Mike, before we get started – can you please walk us through your early days in the produce industry and what your current title is at Keystone today.
I started back in the mid 80’s, loading and unloading trucks over-night for a wholesaler in Connecticut. That’s when I first started understanding the Produce Business. After a couple of years, I moved into the office and they taught me the buying and selling side of the business. Today, I still refer back to those first two years on the loading docks – I learned so much! In the years to follow, working for a wholesaler, then a major retailer, I continued to learn – you never stop learning in this industry. And for the last 19 years I have been very fortunate to work for Keystone! Keystone has Great People, we are a Great Company, and we have a Great Future.
Why Produce? What is it about this industry that has kept you engaged over the years?
Since day one, regardless of the position I held, I would always say we do the same thing every day yet every day is different. And although a lot has changed since the mid 80’s, that saying still holds true today. In addition, the value of relationships has not changed over the years. The people – customers, growers, support teams, all my colleagues over the years – that is why I still enjoy working every day!!! Helping people to fulfill their needs and their goals is so rewarding.
What do you think is your biggest challenge working in this industry?
Our Mission at Keystone is to provide safe, high quality, fresh produce from growers to customers on a year-round basis. And that is challenging. We can’t afford to let up. Our Customers depend on us. Our growers rely on us. We will always work hard, every day – we have to.
What is your favorite commodity to sell at Keystone?
When I was first hired at Keystone, one of my responsibilities was to manage our Peach Commodity. So I’ve sold a lot of peaches over the years. And I still love selling them today! I enjoy selling apples and onions too, but it’s just something about peaches. Maybe it’s the pressure of supply vs. demand with peaches, but when my customers and grower partners have successful years, it’s so rewarding!
You oversee the sales team at Keystone… What is one thing you love about them that is unique to your team?
They are all different. And that is a good thing. And it goes beyond the Sales Team, it is everyone at Keystone. As different as we all are, we all work incredibly well together. And that is fun!
Some of my earliest and fondest memories of working with you is the road warrior trips we would take on the east coast, attending industry events or visiting customers, oftentimes short out and back trips. Why do you think it’s so important to get in front of customers, even if it’s just for minutes at a time, especially now in 2023?
I want all my customers and grower partners to know, that I am there for them. That I will work hard for them every single day. When I get the opportunity to meet anyone face to face, even if it is just for a few minutes, I think they appreciate that, that I made the effort to be there to say, “Hello”. To ensure them that they are important and that I will work hard for them.
What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received over the years, and/or what is something you’d say to someone just getting started in our industry?
Work hard! Don’t take anything for granted. Prove yourself every single day. And be humble!
You have a lot of other interests and “loves” outside of work – tell us about some of them!
Family. Travel. The Red Sox and Patriots. Home Improvement projects, wood working, and yard work. And some swing dancing too! That pretty much covers it – and keeps me busy. In September, I became a grandfather for the first time – my wife and I are thrilled to spend time with her when we can, even though she is 400 miles away! Visiting our son, our daughter-in-law, and Miss Charlotte will continue to be a frequent occurrence going forward!
About Keystone Fruit Marketing
Keystone Fruit Marketing is a division of Progressive Produce. Progressive Produce is a year-round grower/packer/shipper of fresh produce. We grow thousands of acres throughout North and South America of potatoes, onions, asparagus, citrus, and other fruits and vegetables and provide outstanding service 365 days a year.
Schedule an Interview
Are you from one of the leading publications in our industry looking for an interview on a certain commodity? Happy to help! Please reach out to our Sales & Marketing Manager, Andrea Scroggs for any interview requests.