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Robinson Fresh Exec Shares Lessons From Climbing Everest

John Stenderup ascending Mt. Everest.
John Stenderup ascending Mt. Everest.

John Stenderup began his career at C.H. Robinson in 2008 in sales and account management before transitioning to his current role as manager of C.H. Robinson’s Western Growers Transportation Program based out of Monterey, California. He oversees C.H. Robinson’s partnership with the Western Growers Association, as well as seven additional grower/shipper associations throughout North America. He also plays an integral role in educating the produce industry on transportation industry trends, forecasts, challenges and potential solutions.

Stenderup recently climbed Mt. Everest and Lhotse, two of the tallest peaks in the world.

Robinson Fresh on June 29 published a post from Stenderup on its “Freshspective” blog called “From Arvin to Everest: What I Learned About Produce Growers While on Top of the World” (below).

In addition, his story is told in a video that can be found on the home page at theshelbyreport.com.


What do produce growers and mountaineers have in common? A lot, actually.

I recently returned from the experience of a lifetime: summiting Mount Everest. Turns out, you spend a lot of time with your own thoughts as you’re trekking over 29,000 feet into the sky. One of the things that kept running through my mind were the parallels between farming and climbing.

As a kid who was raised on a family farm—where carrots, potatoes, and tomatoes were grown—I saw every day just how crucial teamwork, planning, and commitment were to a successful growing season. Climbing Mount Everest on the other side of the world, it became clear just how those values I grew up with are core to everything I do today. Here, I explore some of those beliefs.


Success starts with strong relationships.

If you’re part of a team that you trust 100%, you can accomplish really amazing things. On the farm, I saw my dad and grandfather dedicate a lot of time cultivating relationships and building strong, cohesive teams that worked hard—and worked together—to reach a common goal. Likewise, a climbing team needs trust-based relationships in place, because you can’t make it to the top of a mountain without the support of every person you’re with.


The only guarantee is that nothing will go exactly according to plan.

It takes a person with a special type of grit to be a produce grower or a climber—a person with that competitive edge who really enjoys the unexpected. In both scenarios, you’re going to spend a lot of time planning and preparing, all while knowing that you will likely need a plan B. Growers need to consider factors like weather impact or pests and be ready to problem solve if and when needed. Mountaineers need to consider the possibility of high winds, avalanches, severe weather, altitude sickness, and a host of other factors can disrupt even the most methodical plans.


Exceptional people do exceptional work.

Growers put in a lot of effort to provide food that feeds us all. And the way I see it, every shipment of produce that leaves the field should be considered a significant achievement. We all have the opportunity to realize any goal we set our minds to, whether that goal is set in the field or halfway across the world on top of a mountain. Whatever your peak is, go after it. Maybe you don’t achieve it exactly the way you envisioned, or maybe you don’t hit the summit, but you’re going to be a better person for it because you grow and learn in the process.

Watch this video to learn more about how my upbringing on the farm helped prepare me for the journey up Everest.

To learn about the logistics of moving freight on Mount Everest—one of the world’s most hostile environments—read my post on Transportfolio.

About the author


Lorrie Griffith

An observer of the grocery industry since 1988. Away from her editor job, she's a wife and mother of two grown sons and thinks cooking is (usually) relaxing.

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