A New Leader Emerges in the Fruit and Vegetable Industry
“The way you make your mark is to continue educating growers and yourself,” says Danielle Oomen, Certified Crop Adviser and Crop Consultant with Helena Agri-Enterprises, LLC in Michigan.
Oomen’s desire to share and gain knowledge earned her a place in the Fruit and Vegetable 40 Under 40 Class of 2022. The award given by the Vegetable Growers News and Fruit Growers News magazines recognizes young professionals who have left a substantial impact on their individual businesses and the specialty agriculture industry. Before Oomen is honored with her 40 under 40 peers at the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market EXPO in December, she’s looking back on what led to this achievement.
Oomen is no stranger to the high-value crop market. Growing up in Michigan, her family ran a fruit and vegetable farm. Today, she helps her husband manage his family’s large vegetable operation, with some help from their two young children. The lifelong experience and exposure to a diverse range of crops makes her leadership in the industry no surprise.
“As kids, we were very involved on the farm from picking asparagus in the fields, running forklifts in the packing shed, to thinning peaches or trimming Christmas trees,” says Oomen. “So we had quite the specialty crops on our farm, and after I graduated college with my Bachelors of Science, I decided to come back home to my roots in the ag industry.”
Oomen gained experience as a summer field scout, learning about integrated pest management and broadening her specialty crop knowledge, as well as working one-on-one with farmers in the field. She joined Helena as a crop consultant 10 years ago. In Michigan, that’s a job that always keeps you on your toes, according to Oomen.
“We start digging asparagus crowns in March, and we plant vegetables all the way through July and then harvest can go up to almost December for carrots,” says Oomen. “So we're busy in the spring, summer and fall. One phone call can start with an asparagus herbicide recommendation, and the next thing, it could be pest management and apples.”
While many associate states like Florida and California with fruits and vegetables, Michigan plays a large role in the lives of consumers. Crops grown in the state can be found throughout grocery stores in the form of frozen foods, canned goods and fresh produce.
“It’s a sector of the industry that's very exciting,” says Oomen. “All of us as consumers are certainly touching those products probably on a day-to-day basis.”
The Michigan fruit and vegetable industry is “always changing,” according to Oomen. She sees a lot of positive energy in the market. New chemistries are being introduced and there’s a strong focus on nutrient management, along with a growing organic segment. However, this region is not immune to the challenges of supply, labor and inflation felt in other agricultural communities across the country. For Oomen, it’s all a part of the job she feels honored to have.
“I get to work with my friends every day,” says Oomen. “Working with such high-value crops in our area, it takes a lot of time and experience and an eye for detail. You're visiting the farms multiple times a day, so that's where you build those relationships.”
Upon receiving her award, Oomen is most thankful for the support she’s received from fruit and vegetable growers over the years. From a thriving professional career, non-stop pursuit of knowledge, and vibrant life at home, the passion she has for her work makes it possible to manage it all. With leaders like Oomen, it’s clear the future of the fruit and vegetable industry is in good hands.
The entire Helena family congratulates Oomen on being selected for the 2022 class of 40 under 40, and thanks her for her dedication to Helena and Michigan agriculture. To hear more about her story, tune in to episode 17 of the FieldLink Podcast available on YouTube and these platforms: