Aug 8, 2022
Industry remembers Western Growers’ Hank Giclas

Hank Giclas, who served the fresh produce industry in a variety of roles for 30 years at Western Growers, has died.

“Hank Giclas dedicated himself, totally and fully, in service to the people of the fresh produce industry,” Dave Puglia, president and CEO of Western Growers, said in a statement. ”His career was an unabashed love affair with agriculture, second only to his dedication and devotion to the love of his life, Kathy, and their two children.”

Giclas died Aug. 5; he was 63.

Early in his career at Western Growers, Giclas became known as the organization’s science expert and legislative expert in Arizona. He worked in several Western Growers offices before being promoted to vice president of strategic planning, science and technology in 2003, based at the Western Growers headquarters in Irvine, California. He retired in 2020 as senior vice president with that position.

“We have a saying in our organization, that someone especially enamored with and dedicated to the people of our industry ‘bleeds Western Growers green,’” Puglia said in the statement. “Hank probably coined that saying but whether he did or not, no one will ever embody its spirit more fully.”

California Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross worked with Giclas on agricultural issues for two decades, including working to establish the California Roundtable on Agriculture and Environment and the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops.

“Hank was a very special kind of leader – one of the quiet ones, willing to toil behind the scenes doing the heavy lifting of bridging science, technical expertise, and policy objectives to bring people together with a focus on practical implementation for successful outcomes, Ross said in the statement.

Ross said Giclas felt a dedication to growers, passion for produce and a commitment to science, and he was instrumental in the creation of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, established in the wake of a deadly E. coli outbreak traced to spinach.

Puglia said the produce industry is immeasurably better for Giglas’ vision and leadership.

“Few in our industry labored as long and hard as Hank to produce scientifically valid food safety guidance,” Puglia said in the release. “For much of his career, he blazed that trail with little company along the way, but because of his perseverance our industry today places food safety at the top of the agenda.”

According to the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA), when an E. coli outbreak was traced to California-grown spinach in 2006, Giclas was immediately involved in developing a food safety response with other stakeholders. That response was the LGMA.

“Hank’s initial role was to assist in designing the food safety standards that are used to produce over 50 billion servings of lettuce and leafy greens each year by Arizona and California farmers, but after that, he continued to help advance the standards to incorporate regular updates and improve as new data became available,” according to a statement from the LGMA.

Giclas also was involved in food safety standards for other produce commodities and acted as a liaison between agricultural producers and industry associations, the Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Comments from other produce industry members have been posted on the LGMA website:

Tim York, LGMA CEO – “Hank was smart, hardworking and committed to agriculture – a wonderful man who will be missed. I worked closely with him during the formation of the LGMA, as well as on the Stewardship Index, the California Roundtable on Agriculture and the Environment, and the Center for Produce Safety. He was truly dedicated to this industry and to food safety, he always went above and beyond and continued to work on special projects with us after his retirement.”

Scott Horsfall, former LGMA CEO, (quoted in May 2020, on Giclas’ retirement)  – “I will miss Hank’s friendship and his advice. Over the years he has been unsparing in his willingness to provide input to me and the LGMA staff. And he has been a true friend to the leafy greens community. He will be greatly missed.”

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