40 Under Forty The Class of 2021 – Rising Stars of The Industry

Winners of our annual 40 Under Forty awards program should be truly honored because they were chosen by their fellow industry mentors. PRODUCE BUSINESS conducted an extensive, widespread search to elicit nominations for top young leaders. The search involved communication with thousands of industry executives along the entire supply chain.

This year’s winners are exemplified by an outstanding array of leadership. They have demonstrated an extremely high degree of giving back to the people who have helped them reach their current positions. Individual candidates were contacted to discuss their key company, industry and community accomplishments, sharing meaningful examples of their roles, as well as their goals and aspirations.

James Nardelli II, 28

Vice President of Production and Transportation Nardelli Bros. Inc./Lake View Farms

Hometown: Cedarville, NJ

Hobbies: Fishing, Hunting, Golfing

Motto in life: Live life to the fullest because we do not know what tomorrow brings.

Nardelli is considered a huge asset to the family business as an innovative farmer in addition to being well rounded in all aspects of distribution and trucking. He is well respected and has been instrumental in bringing Nardelli Bros. into the future of advanced agriculture, distribution, transportation, food safety and packaging. Nardelli Bros. Inc.–Lake View Farms has always been a part of his life. He worked on the farm during high school and was president of the FFA program. After college, he wanted nothing more than to return to the farm and be part of the produce business. Throughout his years with the company, Nardelli has held various positions. Currently, as vice president of production and transportation, he has implemented new growing practices, harvesting techniques and packing strategies, including the farm’s newest tray pack overwrapping operation. Nardelli also manages the operation’s trucking company, enabling it to make quick and timely overnight deliveries to many major cities. He is known for embodying the same values and ethics of his grandfather and father, while being innovative enough to advance to the next generation.

Q: How did you begin working in the produce industry?
I knew since I was very young, when I would ride around the farm with my grandfather and father, that I wanted to be in the produce industry. From planting the seed, through the growing, harvesting, packaging and delivery to the customer, we take pride in knowing the end consumers enjoy what they purchased and come back for more.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?
My biggest accomplishment has been the ability to take a 123-year-old, family-run company to the next generation. Working with my father, Bill Sr., and my brother, Bill Jr., makes me proud to be able to take our family business to the fifth generation.

Q: What do you think the industry can do to promote more produce consumption?
I believe it’s very important to make sure the end consumers know where their product is coming from. Here in the Garden State, we have always been proud to promote the “Jersey Fresh” logo along-side our company trademark “Fresher by Miles,” and consumers know they are taking quality, local produce home to feed their families.

Q: What do you see as the most critical “hot button” issue facing the industry in the next decade?
The biggest issue I see is the lack of labor. The competition from imported produce in the U.S. makes it difficult to compete. Many other countries are harvesting their product for a much lower labor cost than the U.S. and that makes it hard to market when there’s a major cost difference. We continue to be innovative in our harvest techniques by adding new equipment to make us more efficient, but a lot of our fresh vegetables are harvested by hand. With the labor force getting smaller, that’s a major concern to us over the next decade.

Q: How has the industry changed during your tenure?
Convenience is more important for our customers, with many families living busy lifestyles. While holding the highest standards in quality and food safety, we have continued to make our products easier to take home with our tray pack overwrapping operations. This trend will continue, as consumers want to know the portion sizes of the product they are purchasing as well as nutritional facts.

Q: How has the past year changed your life and your future outlook?
Not being able to connect with people face-to-face and having to conduct virtual meetings was a true challenge. You didn’t realize how much looking someone in the eyes and a handshake meant until it was taken away. I feel the outbreak was an eye-opener for many people in their daily life and made the country overall a much cleaner place. I am looking forward to the future, continuing to overcome this pandemic and provide safe, fresh produce for consumers across the country to enjoy.