By: Arielle Dubowe, senior agricultural communication major with a minor in integrated marketing communications
This summer, I had the chance to work as a marketing intern with the Kiwi Queen, but others might know her as Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan. Frieda is the self-made entrepreneur responsible for introducing America to the kiwi and many other exotic fruits and vegetables that millions of people now recognize as every-day household ingredients.
Frieda started her own company, called Frieda’s Specialty Produce, in 1962. In the beginning, Frieda’s was the only company that bought unheard-of exotic fruits and vegetables from the farthest corners of the earth. Today, Frieda’s is regarded as one of the top specialty produce companies in the country, shipping high-quality, flavorful exotic produce from all over the world to grocery stores, restaurants, and other retailers.
My official title was marketing intern, but I participated in a wide variety of meetings as well as assignments that dealt with different departments at Frieda’s. I went to buyer’s meetings, to the L.A. Wholesale Produce Market, and did other intriguing tasks—doing all this made me understand the produce business as a whole and if I will one day join the industry myself.
For the month of August, I worked on one of Frieda’s biggest and most famous events—the Hatch Chiles roasting events. Hatch Chiles are grown in Hatch, New Mexico (in fact, in order for these peppers to be certified “Hatch,” they can only be grown in Hatch) and are only available from August to September. Hatch Chile fans, also known as “Chile Heads,” go crazy for these peppers because of their bold, zesty flavor that’s unlike any other pepper.
By working directly with customers at the Hatch Chiles events, I became more adept at handling unpredictable challenges that are unique to the produce world. I had to deal with shipment of peppers that never came, sizing problems of the peppers (due to flooding in New Mexico), and the hot heat variety not being hot enough. But we still took care of our customers and that’s the one thing I’m in awe of—how no matter what happens with the crop or the weather, Frieda’s still takes care of their customers.
Every summer, my internships always teach me something new and exciting about the agriculture world and Frieda’s was no exception. Frieda’s taught me that the produce industry, due to its unpredictability, can be incredibly challenging. On the other hand, the produce industry has some of the most passionate people around, which I definitely saw at Frieda’s. Thanks to Frieda’s, I have a deeper perspective of the produce industry and I can now say I’ve tried at least 20 kinds of exotic fruits and vegetables!