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Conor Leach jump-starts a future produce career with Oakes Farms

Nearly three years ago, at age 21, Conor Leach, now a Midwest sales specialist for Immokalee, FL-based Oakes Farms, was having drinks with some friends in St. Louis, MO. That’s when a friend of his older brother, a produce professional with a highly successful career, suggested that he apply for a job with his own employer, Tom Lange Missouri, also located in St. Louis.

“My brother’s friend said he felt I would be a good fit with the industry,” said Leach. “A couple of weeks later I was interviewed and I started working as an intern.”

Leach was still in college at the University of Missouri at the time, and his major seems idyllic for someone who would ultimately find his career path being guided to the produce business.

FullSizeRenderConor Leach with his girlfriend, Jamie, and dog, Berkley.“I am still studying,” he explained. “I plan to finish and gain my bachelor of science degree in business administration with an emphasis in supply chain management and logistics. I’ll complete my studies and gain my degree online. I have about one more year until I finish.”

He knew soon after he started working in the produce industry that his brother’s friend was right — it felt like a perfect fit. He likes the fast pace and the fact that it is ever-changing.

“I also like that there are so many variables in the produce industry,” he added. “I learned that these were all part of the culture of the industry when I began working with growers and shippers. They taught me about the many variables like how weather affects crops and consequently markets, how fuel costs can change markets, about insects and other aspects of field production, labor issues and so much more. They taught me how all these things determine supply flow and pricing aspects of fresh produce.”

Within six months Leach was offered a full-time position with Tom Lange Missouri in sales and logistics. He was with the company for two years, and then an offer came from Oakes Farms, which has had a tremendous growth spurt in the past couple of years.

“It was a bittersweet departure from Tom Lange Missouri,” he noted. “I have the highest regard of respect for the company, my colleagues and executives there, but as I contemplated my future and career I made the decision I felt was right. Oakes Farms is a rapidly expanding company, and I hope to transition my knowledge in transportation, distribution and sales here and to share in being a part of its future growth.”

This spring Leach relocated from St. Louis to Immokalee, bringing his girlfriend, Jamie, who is a woman’s boutique manager, and his dog, Berkley, a one-year old miniature Australian Sheppard, with him.

“Jamie is already working in Florida managing a boutique called Fab’rik,” said Leach. “

He is also a fitness fan. He played soccer for two years in college, and he’s hoping to find a team to join in Florida.

“One of my hobbies is rehabbing furniture,” he said. “I also enjoy weightlifting, jogging, hiking and going to the beach.”

With an appetite for so many outdoor activities, Florida is sure to provide the perfect atmosphere for Leach, Jamie and Berkley.

As a young generation member looking into the future of the produce industry, Leach believes that it will gain something he feels it is still lacking.

“This is the use of technology,” he pointed out. “This will undoubtedly change as more of the Millennial generation is integrated into the industry. I believe that the younger generation has a need for instant gratification, and as we move further along into the age of technology, social media and live streaming, it will be a necessity.”

Leach said that technology is one of the things that attracted him to Oakes Farms. The company has an updated website and Facebook page, and they post articles and new products it is testing in its retail store as well as at the farm level. Oakes Farms Market’s popular upscale retail store in Naples, FL, is a fully stocked grocer with proteins, produce, dry goods, wines and more.

“I look forward to my future in the produce industry with Oakes Farms,” stressed Leach. “My goal is to grow the sales and purchasing of domestically grown produce, and to deliver the finest quality product and service to our customers and to consumers.”