CAC names Jeff Oberman to top post
In many ways, Jeff Oberman has been in training his entire career for the California Avocado Commission presidency slot that he just secured. He was hired earlier this month after close to a year-long search and starts his new position today.
“We are very pleased that Jeff Oberman has accepted the position of California Avocado Commission president,” said Rob Grether, chair of the commission's board of directors. “Jeff’s broad network, non-profit association leadership and fresh produce business experience, including an end-to-end understanding of the needs of growers, handlers, distributors, foodservice operators and retail customers makes him exceptionally well-suited to lead the California Avocado Commission.”
Oberman was born and raised in Ann Arbor, MI, in a family of educators. Both his parents were professors at the University of Michigan. His late father was a professor of pathology and well known for his work with breast cancer and AIDS research, while his mother is a retired professor from the psychology department. He also has a sister who is a college professor in health law, and a another sister that is an executive in the health care industry.
While Oberman has an affinity for the University of Michigan and its sports team, he went to the University of Missouri at Columbia where he graduated with a degree in political science and a minor in economic geography.
He began his post-college career working for the Chicago Cubs but soon found a position with the National Institute of Health — his first foray into the regulatory environment.
In 1997, Oberman joined United Fresh in Washington, DC, to help the organization create and launch a new trade show. For 21 years, he worked for the produce trade association in successively more responsible roles. He always had the desire to move to California, which he did in 2001, to engage with the association’s membership. For more than half his tenure at United Fresh he served as vice president, trade relations, interacting with members throughout the supply chain from grower to retailer. Toward the end of his United Fresh career, he was very involved with the retail community as he helped launch and manage the association’s Produce Managers of the Year program.
Oberman has extensive experience in trade association leadership, strategic planning, and management of customer and government agency relations. He notes that he was serving the association in the Salinas Valley when the spinach crisis hit in 2006, giving him a first hand look at crisis management and dealing with an unprecedented industry challenge.
In 2018, he left United Fresh and joined PRO*ACT, which specialized in the foodservice sector. For the past several years he has served as vice president of sales – business development, with an emphasis on building the company’s retail business. That became a chief driver of growth for PRO*ACT when the pandemic hit in the spring of 2020. Oberman said working as a buyer and seller of produce rounded out his career, which had been mostly trade association oriented.
The new CAC president is keenly aware that in his new position he is focused on the grower community and maximizing their returns. “I am honored to be joining a team with such a great culture,” he said.
In his 25 years in the industry, he has crossed paths with many members of the California avocado industry, including growers, handlers and the CAC staff, singling out CAC’s Vice President of Marketing Jan Delsyer, who he worked with many times over the years in various positions with United Fresh. “Having the opportunity to take the helm and build on the California Avocado Commission’s well-deserved reputation for innovative marketing and grower advocacy is exciting. Like most agricultural producers, California avocado growers face a host of ever-changing challenges, and I look forward to steering the Commission in support of long-term grower success.”
He added that avocados have clearly been one of the top growth drivers in the produce industry for the past decade. “I see my mission as helping to continue that growth while representing California growers and working to maximize their returns.”
Over the years, Oberman has received numerous accolades and been a constant attendee at many industry events, most notably events put on by Southern California’s Fresh Produce & Floral Council. In fact, he served two terms on the FPFC board.
Oberman has other close ties to the industry as his wife, Kyla Oberman, is the marketing director at California Giant Berry Farms, and his mother-in-law, Kathy Garnett, worked for the California Strawberry Commission for many years. Jeff and Kyla Oberman have two children: 7-year-old Harper Rose and 3-year-old Hudson Austen, and currently reside in Santa Cruz, CA.