Packer 25 2020 — Richard Owen
With 30 years invested in the agriculture industry, Richard Owen has come to appreciate the global reach and opportunities of the fresh produce industry.
Owen, currently legislative and regulatory affairs team lead for the Produce Marketing Association, has held positions in his 11-year tenure with PMA that have helped the group expand its global influence.
Owen previously was the chief staff executive at the World Airline Entertainment Association and before that, director of agricultural affairs at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
From 1998 to 2006, Owen was executive vice president of the Montana Grain Growers Association. In the two years before that, he was director of the National Association of Wheat Growers Foundation.
Owen grew up in rural southwest Virginia. High school agriculture education teachers helped him see his potential and encouraged his involvement in the Future Farmers of America.
That led him to success in leadership positions and public speaking, serving as a local and state FFA officer.
“I had a couple of high school agriculture teachers that were motivators for me, and saying to me that I could contribute,” he said.
“They saw something in me that I didn’t necessarily see, so I give them credit for kind of pushing me to build my leadership and public speaking skills and to see the world in a different way.”
Owen earned an agriculture degree from Virgina Tech University. In about 30 years of working as an executive in various trade associations, all but a couple of years of Owen’s career have been related to farming.
“I think what’s grounded me in agriculture is the sense of connection that I, and the people I work with, have with taking your crop from the ground and then moving through the supply chain to help to feed the world,” he said.
Owen was a leader in PMA’s strategic planning process about three years ago, and that experience was rewarding, he said.
“That was a great opportunity for me because I was able to guide a process that really looked into the future of where the organization needed to be, and it really cut across a lot of different volunteer groups,” he said.
Jin Ju Wilder, director of marketing and business development for Vesta Foodservice, a DBA of L.A. Specialty Produce, Santa Fe Springs, Calif., was chairwoman of the PMA Strategic Planning Task Force and worked with Owen extensively on that project.
“What made Richard a great partner in that process and a wonderful leader is that he has great organization knowledge, political acumen, and never loses focus on membership value,” Wilder said.
“His intelligence, his strength of synthesizing the issues and communicating them with clarity helped us work through issues quickly, ensuring we provided a strategic plan in what was a fairly compressed timeline.”
Along with the connection to farming, Owen said his involvement in expanding global trade and engagement has been rewarding.
“I keep coming back to the fact that only 3% of the world’s population is based in the U.S.,” Owen said.
Big opportunities lie beyond the U.S. border, and Owen has been happy to bring that vision to more people.
“Richard’s contribution to the PMA in South Africa was absolutely imperative for its establishment,” said Tommie Van Zyl, CEO of ZZ2, Limpopo, South Africa.
“His vision of South Africa as fertile ground for an African chapter of PMA has been proven correct over the last 8 years with all the successes achieved.”
Van Zyl said Owen’s knowledge and passion about the fresh produce industry is well known.
“His sincere commitment to the value propositions of PMA to its members and his execution abilities of PMA’s strategy makes him an exceptional person.”
“A chance to learn from a different way of doing business, or a different lifestyle, or just a different way of seeing how the world works — that is something is pretty fundamental to me, in how I operate,” Owen said.
“The global perspective is something I always want to bring to the table.”