Rick Antle, president and chief executive of California-based vegetable grower-marketer Tanimura & Antle, has passed away aged 61, following a short battle with cancer.
His passing on 15 April, which was almost exactly two years to the day since the death of company co-founder George Tanimura, will be a major loss to many in the North American fresh produce business.
Jim Bogart, president of the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California, described it as “a tremendous loss for the industry”.
Speaking to The Californian newspaper, he said. "He was a true giant and an icon in agriculture who made significant contributions to agriculture and to the community in which he lived."
With more than 35,000 acres of mostly salad vegetable production and customers across North America, Europe and Asia, the Tanimura & Antle name is certainly renowned in many parts of the international fresh produce trade.
"Through hard work, perseverance, and leadership, Rick is the epitome of a true industry icon," the company said in a statement. "He followed in the Antle family tradition of leadership and innovation, and helped propel the produce industry forward for decades."
Antle had been president of Tanimura & Antle since its creation, and became CEO in 2003, taking over from his father Bob, co-owner of the group, who passed away in 2014.
Tanimura & Antle’s history can be traced back more than a hundred years to July 1915, when George Tanimura (who died on 15 April 2016, aged 100) began working for his father’s iceberg lettuce business.
Forced to rebuild the company more or less from scratch after World War Two, Tanimura and his brothers began supplying Salinas Valley-based grower-shipper Bud Antle.
After Bud passed away in 1972, his son Bob became chief executive officer and later oversaw its merger with Castle & Cooke, later part of Dole Food Company and today incorporated into Dole Fresh Vegetables.
Then, in 1982, Bob and his sons Rick and Mike teamed up with Tanimura and his extended family to establish Tanimura & Antle.
He was also involved as a board member at a number of other major fresh produce companies, including Salad Time, Earthbound Farm, Ready Pac Produce and Dulcinea Farms.
Antle was a graduate of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and had been designated a Distinguished Alumnus by the University’s Department of Agriculture.
He is survived by his wife Tonya, mother Sue, children Brian, Jeff, Anthony and Natalie, his grandchildren Cameron and Spencer, his siblings and several nephews and nieces.
A celebration of life ceremony is due to be be held at the Tanimura & Antle headquarters at 2pm on 27 April.