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Higaki and Van Valkenburg honored at FPFC expo

ANAHEIM, CA — Longtime industry veterans Harry Higaki of Bay City Flower Co. Inc. in Half Moon Bay, CA, and Rich Van Valkenburg of Van Valkenburg & Associates in Capistrano Beach, CA, were honored with their respective industry’s top award at the Fresh Produce & Floral Council’s Southern California Expo, held here July 19 at the Disneyland Hotel.20-RichRich Van Valkenburg (right) of VVA was awarded the FPFC’s Norman H. (Buz) Bolstad Produce Award during the FPFC Southern California Expo. He is shown with Matt Christ of the Allen Lund Co. and Jason Paez of Cal Poly-Pomona.

Higaki is largely credited with opening up supermarkets to floral merchandising when he sold potted mums to Ralphs Grocery Co. in the 1950s. His son and past winner Harrison Higaki presented the FPFC Floral Achievement Award to his father, outlining his personal story and the vital role he played in transitioning the more than 100-year-old company from a cut-flower grower to a provider of potted blooming plants to the mass market.

When 95-year-old Harry Higaki strolled to the podium, he noted that he has been retired for 30 years and indicated that while the award was appreciated, he was a bit dumbfounded by its presentation at this point in his life. But he quickly revealed his continued interest in the floral industry, touting a technology currently being tested that will eliminate the wilting of roses. Higaki called it a “game changer.”14-HarryHarrison Higaki (right) of Bay City Flower Co., presented the 2016 FPFC Floral Achievement Award to his father, Harry.

Van Valkenburg received the Norman H. (Buz) Bolstad Produce Achievement Award, named after one of the founders of the FPPC, who was a longtime Southern California retailer. In fact, Bolstad was one of Van Valkenburg’s early mentors in the industry.

Besides a long career in produce retailing, Van Valkenburg has operated his own food brokerage business for the past decade. He has been a longtime supporter of the FPPC, first serving on the board and the Executive Committee in the 1980s. After increased workload required him to step down from the Executive Committee before serving as chairman in the late 1980s, Van Valkenburg continued to be a constant presence at FPFC events and once again made an appearance on that committee in 2012, serving as chairman of the council in 2014.

The one-day expo, which is the grandfather of the ever-expanding regional produce show movement, attracted 2,000 produce professionals to its location at the Disneyland Hotel Convention Center in Anaheim.

Chef Fabio Viviani gave the keynote speech at the opening breakfast, exhorting the crowd of many in-store produce and floral personnel to go way beyond the bare minimum in doing their jobs. He said that while everyone can’t and shouldn’t be an entrepreneur, everyone is the CEO of themselves and responsible for what they accomplish and how far they go in their careers and lives.

Viviani told of his inspiring career that began as an 11-year-old in a bakery in Florence, Italy. Forced to work at an early age because of a family financial crisis, he made the most of it and has emerged as a rock star in the restaurant business, owning many locations and being featured as a regular on many cooking shows.

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Casazza, Higaki honored at FPFC Expo

ANAHEIM, CA — Apio’s Mike Casazza and Harrison Higaki of Bay City Flower Co. were honored with the annual Fresh Produce & Floral Council produce and floral awards, respectively, at the FPFC’s Southern California Expo, held Tuesday, July 16, at the Disneyland Hotel, here.

The 1,400 attendees were also treated to a rousing keynote address by former National Football League Quarterback Joe Theismann during the awards breakfast. Theismann preached a message of “embracing change and seizing the opportunities when they are presented. He relayed a story of how his career took a drastic turn during one Monday Night Football game when he suffered a compound fracture that ended his playing days.

Marty JoeMarty Craner of B&C Fresh Sales representing DLJ Produce, with former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, who was the breakfast keynote speaker.At the time, which was the mid-1980s, he said he was an arrogant egotist heading in the wrong direction as a person. He was forced to embrace the change and he has carved a very successful post-player career. Today he owns, controls or is a partner in 14 different businesses.

Theismann urged the crowd to write down their personal, professional, spiritual and financial goals, and he is clearly a big believer in visualization as a path to achieving those goals. He told the crowd that enthusiasm and confidence are important keys and that he has never tasted failure, “only educational experiences that didn’t go my way.”

FPFC Chairman Casazza, who served as the emcee of the morning session, told the crowd it was the “best keynote address” ever at this event, which is more than two decades old, and the crowd clearly agreed.

Just prior to Theismann’s speech, Casazza became the first-ever current FPFC chairman to receive the Norman H. (Buz) Bolstad Produce Award. Last year’s recipient, Connie Stukenberg of CS Sales and Marketing For Results, cited Casazza’s devotion to the industry, the FPFC and his family, and said he “firmly believes in the adage that a man’s word is his bond.”

The award is presented annually to an industry leader that is materially involved in both the success of the industry and the FPFC.

Casazza has had a long career of innovation for several companies, including Apio, where he has spent more than a decade and is currently the executive vice president of sales and marketing. His mark has also been left on the FPFC where he has worked to alter and improve several events and has been a board member and officer for a half-dozen years.

Casazza was surrounded by his family at the podium and said he felt truly blessed to have such a great family and be in such a great industry.

Higaki received the FPFC Floral Achievement Award, which was presented by last year’s winner, Chris Robinson of The Pinery. Robinson said that Higaki is a “perfectionist” where “quality is job one.” He said he has a passion for flowers and his innovative ways have changed retail floral. He added that he truly lives the company slogan, which is to “bring beauty to life.”

“I am very touched and very moved at my core” in receiving the award, Higaki said. He called it a “deep privilege and honor to sell flowers,” adding that while running a business is important, the true calling of the floral industry is to “enrich and bring beauty to the lives of others.”

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