President, Chairman, & CEO
Smith Packing Inc., and Smith's Farm, Inc.
Lance Smith is Chairman and CEO of Smith’s Farm Inc. and Smith Packing Inc., the largest grower and shipper of broccoli and cauliflower East of the Mississippi. Under the management of Mr. Smith, the company has expanded production beyond the State of Maine to include Florida, California, North Carolina, Arizona, and Mexico, which enables the company to supply customers for all 12 months of the year.
Lance grew up on a small potato farm with his three older brothers and three younger sisters in Mars Hill, Maine. The Smith family has a rich heritage in agriculture in northern Maine that dates back to 1859. Lance grew up with an expectation of hard work and responsibility to the family and to the business.
Lance was active in FFA in high school, and was lucky to have an FFA advisor, C.P. Whitaker, who encouraged him to participate in FFA leadership opportunities.
It was during his senior year that Lance met the love of his life, Dottie Keenan.
After graduating from the University of Maine with an Associate Degree in business in 1972, Lance and Dottie were married and started a family.
Lance and Dottie farmed potatoes, and had three beautiful children during the 70's. He always believed the ability to market a crop was the secret to becoming a successful producer. Lance went to work in 1980 running a Maine office for a major east coast potato shipper, and continued to run his farm at the same time.
Dottie went back to school, finished her degree, and became a high school English teacher.
In the spring of 1985 Lance joined forces with his Uncle Herschel Smith and his cousin Greg to manage a new venture growing broccoli. Lance says, "joining forces with Herschel and Greg turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life". Lance has said, "The opportunity to work side by side with Herschel, who I believe is one of the best business and marketing minds in the State of Maine has been invaluable.” Lance and Greg, first cousins and then also partners, worked together for 30 years building on the foundation Herschel had established. They were forward thinking enough to transition what had been potato ground for 4 generations to broccoli and eventually cauliflower. Both items had previously been almost exclusively western veg items grown in California and Arizona. Bringing them to the east provided “local” options for eastern retailers before “local” was cool. Proximity and reputation helped their program grow and Lance and Greg continued to innovate and expand.
The cousins had distinctly different but complimentary management styles. Their passion for their family, business and their deep roots in the ag industry helped them stay relevant in a rapidly changing, increasingly competitive and regulatory environment. Sadly, Lance’s cousin, friend and partner of 30 years, Greg Smith, who he trusted and leaned on in business and in life passed away in February of 2017. His presence is still missed every day, and his legacy ever-present.
Both of Lance’s adult daughters and Greg’s son, Zachary, are partners and key players in the company management. Emily Smith, President and Zachary Smith, COO of Smith’s Farm Inc have worked in every facet of the company’s operations and oversee all of Smith growing and production. Lance’s other daughter, Tara, is the Managing Partner of Smith’s Packing Inc., the sales arm of the Smith enterprises. Over fifty full time employees and more than two hundred seasonal harvest employees feel like an extension of the family enterprise. They know its history, and many of them were witnesses to it.
With a lot of long hours and hard work the broccoli business has grown to several thousand acres. In 1999, the broccoli enterprise was so successful in the summer months Lance and Greg made a decision to expand and begin winter production in Florida. Their children now grown, Dottie retired from teaching so that she and Lance could move South to Florida. They have now been farming in Hastings and living winters in St Augustine for nearly 20 years.
Lance has a passion for Atlantic Salmon fishing and preservation. He is the Chairman of the board of the Miramichi Salmon Club, a member of the Ristigouche Salmon Club, and the Anglers Club of New York. He is also currently serving on the board of directors of the Atlantic Salmon Federation.
Lance’s natural business acumen and good nature, along with a decisive management style have made him successful. These attributes also make him a natural choice as an advisor to other businesses in the State of Maine. Lance currently serves on the Board of Directors of Maine Employers Mutual Insurance Co. in Portland, and is the chair of the Performance and Compensation committee, member of the Governance committee, and the Executive committee. He is a former director of Maine and Maritimes Corp., and Maine Public Service Co.
Lance still really enjoys working, and doesn't see retirement anytime soon.
He loves spending time with his wife, their three children, and four very special grandchildren.
Lance would like to thank JA for the honor of receiving this award, but also for all the good work they are doing for the young entrepreneurs of the future.