2022 Packer 25 — Kellen Stailey Martin
The 2022 Packer 25 is our annual tribute to 25 leaders, innovators and agents of change across the fresh produce supply chain. Each year, The Packer invites the produce industry to nominate distinguished veterans, leaders and rising stars of the fresh produce industry. As always, our editorial team was energized and awed by the talented pool of nominees this year. Now in its 18th year, The Packer is once again spotlighting 25 dynamic and inspiring people who are moving the produce industry forward.
The following has been edited for length and clarity.
KELLEN STAILEY MARTIN, VICE PRESIDENT OF MARKETING, HAZEL TECHNOLOGIES, CHICAGO, ILL.
What has been the most inspiring moment in your produce industry career?
Martin: Early in my career I had the opportunity to tour several facilities in Aalsmeer, Holland, including the largest flower auction and covered trade building in the world. There, millions of flowers and plants are traded daily, traveling from faraway growing regions to key markets worldwide. The cutting-edge technology, impressive logistics, and global nature of the business blew me away and left a lasting impression on me about the international impact of the produce industry and endless possibilities for advancement.
What drew you to the produce industry and why are passionate about it?
I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in international business and spent a good chunk of my college years studying in Europe and South America. I knew I wanted to pursue a career that provided opportunities to travel, continued to expand my language skills and allowed me to learn while making a positive impact. My first job out of college was in produce and it checked all the boxes. Over 15 years later, working in this talented industry has exceeded all my expectations and continues to surprise and challenge me in ways that drive my passion for our work.
What is the best advice you were ever given?
I grew up having school principals for parents and attended large public schools in the suburbs of Houston. They acutely understood the challenges of navigating middle and high school and the many detractors that can prevent kids from reaching their goals. I was often reminded to ‘stay above the fray,’ which was not in reference to people but rather the politics, drama and distractions that can blur focus and steal your joy. Though life today looks very different than through my teenage lens, I think about this advice and find it still resonates in my work life, in social circles or when parenting. It’s advice you must work at, no matter your age or life stage.
If you had to brand your own mission statement, what would that look like?
Good question. When I think about my guiding principles or personal mission, I think about the provisions in The Optimist Creed by Christian D. Larson, which was introduced to me by my uncle who was a successful marketer and entrepreneur. Larson’s work was comprised over a century ago and pioneered thoughts on the power of gratitude and optimism. Inspired by Larson and my uncle’s dynamic career, I think my mission would look like:
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as I am about my own success. To make all of my friends and family feel that there is something in them worth learning and appreciating. To be too large to worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
If you could only eat one produce item your entire life, what would that be and why?
Avocados — they’re nutritious, versatile and delicious.