Home » Frieda’s Karen Caplan Will Receive 2016 Agricultural Achievement Award

Frieda’s Karen Caplan Will Receive 2016 Agricultural Achievement Award

Karen Caplan
Karen Caplan

Last updated on June 14th, 2024 at 09:43 am

Karen Caplan, president and CEO of specialty produce company Frieda’s Inc., will receive the Cal Poly Pomona College of Agriculture’s 2016 Jim Hicks Agricultural Achievement Award.

Karen heads the wholesale company in Los Alamitos, California, that was founded by her mother, Frieda Rapoport Caplan. Frieda Caplan is a pioneer who blazed the trail for women in the produce business and introduced the kiwifruit, along with many other lesser known fruits and vegetables, to the U.S.

But Karen has made her own mark in the business: she was the first woman to serve as chair of the United Fresh Produce Association’s board of directors and as president of the Los Angeles-based Fresh Produce & Floral Council. She also has served as a director on the Federal Reserve Bank Board of San Francisco, Los Angeles branch.

“Karen has spent her career working in the produce industry, marketing new and different types of fruits and vegetables,” says Mary Holz-Clause, dean of the College of Agriculture. “She also is an outstanding example for other women who want to become entrepreneurs or own their own businesses.”

The College of Agriculture will present Karen with the award at its 2nd annual Spring Harvest Farm 2 Table Dinner on Saturday, April 9.

Although Karen grew up around the family business, a career in produce was not pre-destined.

“From the time I was 14 years old, vacations and weekends were spent working at my mother’s side at her stand in the Los Angeles Produce Market,” Karen recalls. “She never encouraged or discouraged me to join the business but, when I suddenly announced as a sophomore in college that I wanted to make the produce industry my career, my mother was thrilled.”

Karen joined her mother’s company after graduating from UC Davis in 1978 with a degree in agricultural economics and business management. She has worked in nearly every department at the company, from packing boxes to sales and marketing.

She was promoted to president and CEO of the company in 1986. Four years later, Karen and her sister, Jackie Caplan Wiggins, now the company’s COO, bought the company from their mother. Since then, Frieda’s has become the nation’s leading marketer and distributor of specialty produce, introducing more than 200 types to U.S. supermarkets, ranging from Stokes Purple Sweet Potatoes to Sunchokes.

For her efforts, Karen was named 2004 Produce Person of the Year and was the 2015 Women in Produce honoree.

The family business story is highlighted in the 2015 documentary film, “Fear No Fruit,” which was an official selection of the 2015 Newport Beach Film Festival, San Luis Obispo International Film Festival, Carmel International Film Festival and the 2016 Sedona International Film Festival.

Karen also shares her passion for produce and her thoughts and stories about the food industry on her blog, “What’s on Karen’s Plate?,” and her Twitter account. She also is a regular columnist for The Shelby Report, Fresh Fruit Portal and the Orange County Breeze, where she writes about business, the produce industry, food and more.

The Jim Hicks Agricultural Achievement Award honors a leader for his or her accomplishments in the agricultural industry. It is named after Jim Hicks, the president and CEO of Jim Hicks and Co. in Brea, and a longtime supporter of agricultural education. Hicks was the first recipient of the Agricultural Achievement Award.

The Spring Harvest dinner is a celebration of agriculture, featuring local chefs cooking foods grown locally, including some raised by Cal Poly Pomona students using sustainable practices.

About the author

Shelby Team

The Shelby Report delivers complete grocery news and supermarket insights nationwide through the distribution of five monthly regional print and digital editions. Serving the retail food trade since 1967, The Shelby Report is “Region Wise. Nationwide.”

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