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Boston Challenges: Large and Small

Although many of the Boston terminal market merchants have been in business for decades, it’s not clear if all will continue to attract younger generations.

Peter John Condakes, president of Peter Condakes Company Inc., a tenant at both the New England Produce Center (NEPC) and the Boston Market Terminal (BMT), says his family-owned business, which began in 1900 with his Greek immigrant grandfather’s pushcart, isn’t a draw for the children in the family.

While this might be a disappointment, it also opens the door to outside talent. Talent, however, is hard to come by in the industry, whether at the market or in the field. Combined with the unusual hours of wholesale markets, it’s doubly difficult to attract good workers to produce-handling jobs.

Another aspect of the perishables supply chain—its beginning—is under siege in some areas too.

Steven Piazza, president, Community-Suffolk, Inc. at the BMT, says he believes there is less interest overall in farming, with older farmers struggling to find someone to take over.

“It’s challenging in general to be a farmer,” Piazza says. “With today’s instant gratification and technology, everybody wants everything now. And farming’s not like that—it’s a slow, tedious process.”

Rising Boston-area land prices are also a deterrent to holding on to a farm—and the same reason plans to add space at the BMT haven’t come to pass in recent years.

Other hurdles the sibling markets face range from the impact of recent legislation to shipping costs. The Food Safety Modernization Act, for one, has necessitated more detailed recordkeeping and added stringent controls to protect the food supply.

While most will agree the new rules can help raise safety levels, not everyone is happy about it.

According to Michael Strock, director of business development at S. Strock & Company, Inc. at the NEPC, “If the FDA and USDA cared as much about protecting U.S. citizens from carcinogenic synthetic ingredients in the food supply as they do about our company’s food safety practices, Americans would be exponentially healthier.”

The other major legislative hurdle, the mandate for electronic logging devices (ELDs), has caused plenty of consternation across the industry as well. Freight rates, certainly impacted by the rollout, continue to be an issue with both trucks and drivers increasingly hard to find.

Dominic J. Cavallaro, Jr., president of John Cerasuolo Company Inc. on the NEPC, is not happy with the current situation.

“The rates are too high,” he says, and says federal transportation regulation, including the requirement for ELDs, isn’t helping, making life more difficult for the drivers who are around and must not only comply with the ELD rollout but any resulting complications.

This is an excerpt from the most recent Produce Blueprints quarterly journal. Click here to read the full article.


Poonkulali Thangavelu specializes in business and finance topics, drawing on her experience as a journalist and education in economics, finance, and marketing.