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Tanimura & Antle’s Rick Antle succumbs to cancer

Rick Antle, president and chief executive officer of Tanimura & Antle, the largest lettuce and vegetable producer in the Salinas Valley, died Saturday, April 14, after a short battle with cancer. He was 61.ant

Mr. Antle grew up in the family business as the grandson of vegetable pioneer Bud Antle and son of the equally imposing Bob Antle. He began his career at Bud Antle Inc. in the early 1970s and launched Tanimura & Antle with his father and brother and the Tanimura family in 1982.

That continued a tradition of the Antles selling the crops that the Tanimuras grow dating back to 1949. Together the two families built a powerful and innovative company, with Rick Antle taking a lead role in guiding the course for the past three decades.

Over the past 35 years, T&A has been every bit the industry leader that its predecessor Bud Antle Inc. was. It has been involved in all aspects of the industry and is the largest grower-shipper in the commodity business. A year ago, Mr. Antle told The Produce News, “Our sweet spot seems to be in the 16-20 percent range,” he said, referring to the company’s market share in lettuce and its other core products.

He also led the company into many different innovative areas of the industry as it currently has a greenhouse and artisan lettuce operation in Tennessee and is greatly increasing its presence in the organic sector.

A year ago, the leadership of the organization formed an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) to assure a smooth transition as the company moves forward and also to gives its vast number of employee a material stake in the operation. Tanimura & Antle has always been one of the leaders in the industry with regard to its workforce.

In 2016, Mr. Antle, along with his wife, Tonya, was honored by the United Fresh Produce Association with its distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mr. Antle is survived by his wife, Tonya, and his two sons, Brian and Jeff, both of whom are involved in the company. He is also survived by his brother, Mike, who is currently on T&A’s board of directors. Funeral services are pending.