A passion for produce
By Lisa Nicklanovich; photo courtesy of Steve Janedis
Steve Janedis loves nothing more than sharing his passion for produce with the world. In his quest to educate people about how to pick produce, Janedis admitted he could talk for an hour just about how to choose a pineapple or a watermelon.
Janedis’ early days in his family’s garden certainly influenced his career choice. As the youngest of five siblings, Janedis was always the kid in their Oak Park, California garden with his dad picking vegetables and playing around in the dirt.
Janedis started as a clerk in a grocery store in Southern California and put himself through college at California State Northridge, working full time while going to school. Driven and ambitious, he bought his first house at 19 years old. Janedis worked his way up through the stores, moved over to the buying side, took over regions, and created a career in produce that spans 39 years.
As national vice president of sales and business development for the Coast Produce Company, Janedis visits with grocers, food distribution companies and growers, bringing produce to market on an international scale. In addition to sourcing and logistics, Janedis helps bring his merchandising and marketing visions to life, customizing displays to his customers’ markets. Janedis had influence in the inception of the idea of fresh-cut produce in grocery stores and worked with Del Monte to help time-starved, two-income households be able to grab pre-sliced fruit like pineapple and watermelon that are still convenient today.
“Food carries our culture forward,” Janedis exclaimed, meaning that what you serve and how you serve it represents the uniqueness of your culture and heritage, and it is “probably influenced by your grandmother,” Janedis added. Not only is this important for future generations within our own families, but Janedis expressed the importance of sharing our heritage through food with friends and neighbors too, maybe exposing them to a food they’ve never had or something prepared in a new way.
Along the same lines, Janedis encouraged trying a variety of produce. He said, “buy a couple of different apples that you may have never had.” If you are not sure what to try, what is in season, or how to cut a mango, Janedis encourages engaging the produce staff where you shop and asking questions.
While Janedis would rather talk about all the wonderful varieties of apples and how watermelons with seeds are delicious and fun (remember seed spitting contests?), he does have other interests, which include cars and travel.
Janedis and his wife, Tami, a marriage and family therapist for Kaiser Permanente, have been community residents for 15 years, where they raised their two kids. Having traveled through Colorado often for work, Janedis said he was attracted to not only the location, but the people, the seasons, and the activities in Castle Pines. “The community is great. We’ve raised our kids here successfully and the community is a part of that and nurtured that. We’re fortunate to be a part of this community.”
Janedis spoke excitedly about Colorado and its produce, describing our Palisade peaches as unreal. “There are cantaloupes coming up out of the Pueblo area, and oh, our chilies! These localized items will be a basis for children growing up here to tell stories about later,” Janedis said. “Then their children will want to try local produce too.”