Growing up in Trenton, PA, Cece Krumrine figured her career would be in the food industry. “My mother always had a small garden in the backyard, and she loved to cook. I would come home from school for lunch, and she always made the best things.”
Her mother made sure that Krumrine and her siblings ate a well-balanced, great-tasting meal. Krumrine came away from those experiences with a keen interest in good nutrition and took that passion with her when she entered Penn State University in the late 1960s. She majored in journalism and food nutrition. Her parents ran a pretty tight ship at home so going off to college meant a new level of freedom that Krumrine had not experienced. “I loved it. I stayed there all the time, taking classes and I graduated in three years,” she said.
She also met her husband, Michael Krumrine, while at Penn State. The two were married in 1970 and moved to New York City where they stayed for a handful of years. Krumrine joined the staff of Good Housekeeping magazine, where food writing and editing were part of the gig.
Michael Krumrine worked in the medical device field. A promotion sent the couple to Chicago, where they spent another handful of years. In Chicago, Krumrine worked as a food editor for different food companies launching new product releases.
Michael was promoted again, and this time the Krumrines moved to New Hampshire. The move to New England in 1980 turned out to be a seminal moment in both the professional and personal lives of the pair. “We love New Hampshire,” Krumrine said. “When we moved here, I felt like I was never going to move again.”
In fact, they haven’t. The Krumrines have been married for 52 years and they have spent the last 42 years in the same house in Nashua, NH, in what Krumrine describes as the perfect location. “I can get to five states in less than an hour. Counting Vermont, which takes about an hour, it is six states — Maine, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Vermont.”
It has been the perfect location for her chosen profession of representing commodity boards in the U.S. Northeast and Canada. “I have been a sub-contractor for fruit and vegetable commodity boards for the past 40 years,” she said. “I have worked with 15 different commodity boards over the years, including avocados, watermelon, tree fruit, pears, mangos and kiwi.”
As a contractor, Krumrine was typically free to work for more than one board at a time, and she did so. She said working for five at a time was her self-imposed limit as she didn’t want to spread herself too thin. She noted that her business model was beneficial to the commodity boards as a retailer could be updated on several commodities in one meeting. That no doubt made it easier to secure those sought-after retailer appointments. “I loved it,” she said. “I would come to the retailer with five pots of gold, rather than just one.”
Even when pressed, Krumrine would not admit that she had a favorite board. Like the commodities themselves, she said each board was different and had its own strategy. She loved them all, otherwise she wouldn’t continue working for them.
Reminiscing about the relationships, she recalled it was Dave Parker of the California Tree Fruit Agreement who started her on this path by hiring her to represent peaches, plums and nectarines in 1980. Jan DeLyser of the California Avocado Commission was a “great mentor,” she said. Krumrine worked for CAC for many years until Mexico gained access to the Northeast and began dominating avocado sales in that corridor. She called Juliemar Rosado of the National Watermelon Board a “tech genius,” and noted that she was her social media mentor, even though Rosado was many years her junior.
“All had their pluses and minuses. I couldn’t pick a favorite,” she said.
Krumrine did say that she loved her job, loved traveling and thoroughly enjoyed meeting with retailers and collaborating with the commodity board staffs throughout the country. “It was fun,” she said, adding that the staff of the National Watermelon Board was especially fun. “They always had such a good time.”
Krumrine was very involved in the industry and in fact was one of the founders of the New England Produce Council.
Looking back over her career, she noted two disasters crystallized the warmth and camaraderie that embody what her fresh produce industry colleagues mean to her. After 9/11, she remembers people were afraid to travel and wouldn’t get on a plane. The Wakefern Food Corp. had scheduled a produce show for its staff, and they implored Krumrine and others to come. “A group of us drove there together. It was different but very good. That’s when you wanted to be with your friends. It was very comforting.”
She said that same spirit was the order of the day when Hurricane Sandy pummeled the East Coast in October of 2012 while Krumrine and much of the industry were at the Fresh Summit convention in California. “We were all stuck out in California for five days. We all got together every day and went to the same places to eat and made the most of it. It ended up being very fun.”
Krumrine gradually shed her accounts and closed the door on her business about a year ago. “It was time. I am 74 now and I want to spend more time with my family. My husband retired at 58 so he’s been waiting for this for a long time,” she quipped.
She noted that her daughter and her husband, Nicole and Chris, only live a few miles away. “My granddaughter (Chase) is a great percussionist. I want to spend more time with them. I love nature. I love birds. I love birdwatching. I like hiking and walking and going to the opera. This is what I want to do. We love to travel. We always took a major trip every year though we couldn’t do it the last couple of years. We are going back to Europe this year.”
Krumrine recalled that one of the best compliments she ever received was from a retailer who said, “‘You are the biggest cheerleader for your profession I have ever met.”
“I was very proud of that comment,” she said. “I had a passion for what I did.”
Her passion for life has followed her into retirement.
Top photo: Cece and Mike Krumrine.