October 28, 2010

In Today's Issue:

Dole Salad Bar Event Draws USDA Officials, Celebrity Chefs and Global Media

Dole Vice President of Communications Marty Ordman is joined by Julie Paradis, USDA Food and Nutrition Service administrator, Chef Spike Mendelsohn, DC Bilingual CEO BB Otero and Beatriz Zuluaga, Director Food and Nutrition for CentroNía.

The Dole Food Company's commitment to child nutrition and United's Salad Bar in Every School campaign was on full display at CentroNía's DC Bilingual Charter School in Washington, DC, last Thursday as industry leaders, federal and local officials and celebrity chefs helped launch school salad bars and raised awareness about the importance of students eating more fruits and vegetables.

At the event, Julie Paradis, USDA Food and Nutrition Service administrator and DC-based celebrity chefs Cathal Armstrong and Spike Mendelsohn spoke about the importance of improving the healthfulness of school meals and increasing kids fruit and vegetable consumption. DC Bilingual School founder and CEO BB Otero spoke of the role the salad bar is playing in making a difference in her student's lives. Also, in a highlight of the afternoon, Dole Vice President of Communications Marty Ordman pledged to donate another salad bar to DC Bilingual’s other elementary school.

The event drew the attention of the global news media as well, with BBC and Univision crews filming the event in addition to coverage from Washington's NBC and CBS affiliates, the Associated Press and several Washington-area newspapers. The event also provided the perfect opportunity to showcase the benefits of "A Salad Bar in Every School" to senior officials from USDA.

DC Bilingual received its first salad bar last spring, drawing rave reviews from students and teachers alike. In all, Dole will have donated salad bars to five DC schools by the end of this fall and has committed to helping additional DC elementary schools in the coming year.

For information on getting involved with A Salad Bar in Every School, contact United’s Vice President of Business Development Claudia Wenzing at 202-303-3400, ext. 415.

Join United on Election Night!

With the mid-term elections on Tuesday, one thing is certain – the next Congress will be a whole new ball game, and key states will face significant change with new governors.  This election, don't just watch Fox News or MSNBC, join United online Tuesday night at UnitedFresh.org, Facebook or Twitter for a live blog from Washington, DC to find out the winners and how they may affect our industry.

From 7:00 pm-11:00 pm EDT, United Fresh Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther and Government Relations Director Julie Manes will post updates and commentary on key races affecting the produce industry. 

Election Night West Coast Style
For a West Coast perspective, United Fresh President Tom Stenzel will be reporting in with live perspectives from Salinas, CA, produce industry members, gathered at an Election Night Membership Reception with United's Executive Committee.  The committee has its annual planning meeting next Tuesday and Wednesday in Salinas.

"While we're in Salinas, we wanted industry members to have a chance to meet our entire Executive Committee and election night makes for a great occasion," said United Fresh Chairman of the Board Steffanie Smith, CEO, River Point Farms. "“We also will welcome Dr. Barry Eisenberg, our new vice president of food safety services to the United Fresh Salinas office.  Barry really doesn't need an introduction as he's been a valuable player in the Salinas and greater leafy greens scientific community for a number of years."

Joining Steffanie at the event will be Chairman-Elect Reggie Griffin, The Kroger Company; Immediate Past Chairman Jim Lemke, C.H. Robinson; Treasurer Michael Cavallero, Dole Food Company; and members of the Executive Committee Mike Celani, Ready Pac Foods; Brendan Comito, Capital City Fruit Company; Ron Midyett, Apio; Mitch Smith, McDonald's; and Fred Williamson, Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce.

For more information on the Salinas reception, please contact Jeff Oberman in United's Salinas office at 831-422-0940.  For more on the election night events, please contact Patrick Delaney at 202-303-3417.

Nogales Town Hall Gives Arizona Industry Opportunity to Engage on Key Issues

United Fresh Chairman Steffanie Smith addresses a Town Hall in Watsonville, CA, earlier this year.

Labor, trade and food safety are on the menu in Arizona next week as United Fresh will hold a luncheon and discussion of local industry issues for the Nogales area on Wednesday, November 3.

Fresh Produce Association of the Americas President Lance Jungmeyer and FPAA Chairman of the Board Jaime Chamberlin, along with United Fresh Board Member Brent Harrison and Vice President of Membership and Trade Relations Jeff Oberman will discuss key topics such as the local impact of food safety legislation, cross-border trade issues, transportation and customs fundings, the current status of FDA test and hold procedures and an update on sales opportunities related to federal nutrition program.

"As a board member with United Fresh, I have been engaged on various issues at the national and international level that impact our regional operations here in Nogales," said Harrison. "I look forward to hosting next week's Town Hall luncheon in Nogales and engaging in a discussion of key issues and ways in which United Fresh delivers value and protects our industry goals."

Registration is open to all members of the produce industry.  For more details or to register, click here or contact United's Miriam Miller at 202-303-3400, ext. 410.

Stenzel Advises Tree Fruit Growers to Go on Offense

In a speech Tuesday, United Fresh President Tom Stenzel told more than 100 California peach, plum and nectarine growers to get involved and shape their own future, whether tackling challenges like food safety and immigration reform, or bringing great-tasting fruit to kids in schools.

"We need to counter those who would raise misguided fears of pesticide residues with facts about the rigorous safety review by independent government health authorities," said Stenzel in his luncheon keynote address to the 2010 California Tree Fruit Agreement Educational Symposium in Visalia. "We need to push our congressmen from the Central Valley - both Democrat and Republican - to work together for immigration reform, rather than get polarized by politics and leave agriculture without a solution. Also, we need to increase the access and availability of fresh fruits and vegetables to children every chance we get. We have one chance to change the way the next generation eats, and that chance is now."

More on the California Tree Fruit Agreement can be found at www.eatcaliforniafruit.com.

Volunteers Sought for Sustainability Advisory Board

The United Fresh Foundation's Center for Global Produce Sustainability is now seeking member volunteers to serve on the center's new Advisory Board. Members selected to serve on the Advisory Board will work with the center's director and United Fresh Vice President of Environmental Affairs and Sustainability Rob Neenan and United Board leaders in charting the center's programs and priorities.

It is the center's goal to drive a clearer understanding of what sustainability means within the produce industry and ensure that public, academic and market evaluation of produce sustainability is based on sound science and appropriate principles rather than ideology, as well as provide industry members with tools and support to incorporate sustainability wisely in their businesses.

The center was formed last year with the support of founding sponsor Bayer CropScience and hosted its first conference on produce industry sustainability following United Fresh 2010 last April.

Members interested in serving on the Advisory Board should contact Neenan at 202-303-3400, ext. 427.  

National Institute of Food and Ag Awards $46M in Research Grants

This week, USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced more than $46 million in grants to solve specialty crop agriculture issues through research and extension activities through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

“The specialty crop industry plays an enormously important part in American agriculture and is valued at approximately $50 billion every year,” said Merrigan. “These projects will help provide specialty crop producers with the information and tools they need to successfully grow, process, and market safe and high quality products.”

Projects receiving grants must fall into one of five focus areas, including projects that improve crop characteristics through plant breeding, genetics and genomics; projects that address threats from pests and diseases; projects that improve production efficiency, productivity and profitability; projects that develop new innovations and technologies; and projects that develop methods to improve food safety.

The projects funded address research and extension needs for crops that span the entire spectrum of specialty crops production, from studying microbial threats to greenhouse tomatoes to assessing grower needs and market potential of berry crops. Major projects were also funded to study the genetics of lettuce breeding and to improve grape and wine quality.

A full list of grant recipients can be found here.

New York's Weiner Suggests Produce Food Stamp Incentive

In an effort to incentivize Americans to eat healthier, U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY) has proposed a bill that would give a 50 percent discount to food stamp recipients who buy fresh produce using their Electronic Benefits Transfer card.

"The unfortunate fact of life is the cheapest foods on the shelves at supermarkets are those with lots of preservatives, lots of sugar and lots of salt," Weiner told New York's WCBS-AM. "This [incentive] would not only help low income people that get these benefits to eat more produce - which would reduce the obesity, but it would also help supermarkets and bodegas because they would continue to get the same reimbursement for these products."

Weiner represents the Brooklyn and Queens boroughs of New York City, and has said that he plans on pressing Congress to pass the bill later this fall.

Vilsack Announces Disaster Assistance for Sweet Potatoes

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced late last week that, through the Farm Service Agency's Crop Assistance Program, up to $550 million in disaster assistance will be available to sweet potato producers as well as producers of rice, cotton and soybeans. The funds area aimed at helping producers recover from losses due to excessive moisture and moisture-related conditions last year.

The assistance will be available to sweet potato producers within areas designated as disaster areas and who also lost more than five percent of their crop due to moisture related conditions in 2009. A list of eligible disaster counties can be found here. Sweet potato producers will receive a payment of $155.41 per acre of crop lost.

For more information about USDA Farm Service Agency disaster assistance programs, visit http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.

Meet Your United Fresh Board - Aggie and Would-Be Country Crooner Encourages Industry to Be Ready

Dan'l Mackey Almy
DMA Solutions, Inc.
Irving, Texas

Dan'l Mackey Almy with daughter Mackey Payton

How'd you find your way into the ag industry?

I'm definitely not from a traditional production ag background. I grew up in a very small Texas town, and at a young age I became involved with 4-H and eventually was running a small business by the time I was 11. My first 4-H pig turned into two, then three, and before I knew it, I had my own checking account and was funding my passion for raising animals and all the things that 4-H taught me, from leadership to community service to culturing the knowledge that the agriculture industry is what feeds us, it's the fabric of our nation. That involvement in 4-H led me to a degree in agricultural business from Texas A&M University, so I went from a high school graduating class of 42 to 42,000 students at A&M, which was quite a culture shock.

What spurred the jump to fruits and vegetables?

During my second semester in the A&M ag business department, a visiting professor came and talked to us about the food dollar, and what share of each consumer dollar ends up in the hands of the producers. Each example that he used involved fresh produce, and I remember thinking about the produce department at my local grocery store. The whole market space seemed intriguing, so I tracked down one of the professors in charge of fresh produce for the university's extension program and stalked him for a job. I told him I'd work for free, if it meant that I could be immersed in this stuff and learn everything there was to know about the industry. Coming out of school, I knew that I wanted to get into marketing eventually, but all my job offers were for buyer positions in California. I landed on one offer for job in Salinas, so I had two weeks to close the offer and move out from College Station. During that time, I called around to Dallas-area wholesalers using a Blue Book given to me as a gift from a professor to gather information and make contacts in case at some point I wanted to move back to Texas. I was eventually relayed to Standard Fruit and Vegetable, who, after 11 interviews, hired me in February of 1995 and I never ended up taking the job in California.

What do you have a passion for personally? Music? Travel?

There's no joke about it, I am a music lover and a karaoke enthusiast. I love Dolly Parton. I used to watch Dolly and the Porter Wagoner Show after the Grand Ole Opry with my grandpa. That was our Saturday night ritual, and after seeing her in "9 to 5" she was larger than life to me. For Christmas that year, my mom surprised me with a membership to the Dolly Parton Fan Club. I just loved her story; she's the quintessential rags to riches story, in so many regards other than money and more importantly she's continued to be someone I could rely on to be real and an outstanding role model. My family and I drove to Dollywood the year that it opened, and ironically, I took my daughter to the 25th anniversary of the parks opening

If not produce, what would you be doing?

I thought for a good chunk of my childhood that I was going to be a country music sensation. My dad's a musician and I sang all the time, no matter where we were, at the top of my lungs, and one day my dad pulled me aside and said "Kid, I love you, but you're tone deaf." He was right, and I'm sure it was a tough conversation to have, but I never stopped singing. I've got a karaoke stage in the house now, and I actually sang B-52's on stage with the band the night I graduated from United's Leadership Program. I'll never forget the look on Tom's face.

What are you working on right now at DMA?

Right now there's not a constant, proactive communication to consumers about what we do as an industry. We need to start with individual companies being ready. At DMA we've stressed the tell your story concept for a while, but the next step for us is the idea of being ready. If that means you're telling your story through the broad megaphone of social media, television or any other medium, be ready for today's consumer who is seeking your company's information. That means having a website and marketing tools that reflects what consumers are looking to connect with today. Don't make it all about you, make it about them.

You've made a significant commitment to United's A Salad Bar in Every School campaign. What is it about this particular effort that sticks out for you?

I believe the salad bar campaign is a wonderful, direct connection to a very important audience, and it's a way to tell our fresh produce story.  We need a bunch more of those strategies to move the industry forward.

You run a blog, The Core, on which you post some intricate, insightful looks at marketing. Isn’t that the type of stuff you'd normally charge clients for?

I don't believe marketing ideas, discussions or tactics represent a competitive space. I see our industry getting tangled up in competitive posturing too often and just flat identifying the wrong competitive targets. Collectively our industry's competition is other food choices, namely processed.  Our competition is the voice that is louder and more widespread than ours.  Our competition is what consumers do not know about fresh.  If a person goes in to the produce aisle to buy the apples that they always buy and is persuaded to buy an additional something new because of better marketing, consumption goes up and our industry tide rises. Or if they see a new recipe featuring one of our commodities on Food Network and they're inspired to try something new, that's a huge opportunity for us and we all need to be ready to capitalize. The tide rises if all the efforts are put forth.

What is one marketing area in which you feel most produce companies need to improve?

We're really good at saying what it is that we do, but we need to do a better job of equating that to what we call the "so what." This means translating your mission statement, product information, etc., into what it means for those interested in your product. We need to tell our story from a value proposition, speaking directly to buyers and eventually the end consumer. What's the "so what" in what you do? What ultimately are you delivering? What will they gain by choosing your product over someone else's?

What's your favorite part about work?

I am literally a person that is getting to do exactly what she loves every day, and so when times are tough, and businesses will go through what they go through, I can still wake up every day and love what I do. I feel very blessed by that. What's so exciting about our business is that I feel like we're just getting started, even after six years. There are so many improvements to be made in the way we portray our businesses and our products, and I believe that we're far from exhausting that opportunity at this point.

New Member Welcome

Each week, United Fresh welcomes its newest partners in building a stronger produce industry:

  • Greenery Produce, Philadelphia, PA

United Fresh thanks all current members for their dedication to the Association and the produce industry. Please let us know whenever we can be of service to you.  For more details about the benefits of membership, please contact Jeff Oberman at 831-422-0940 or Miriam Miller at 202-303-3410.

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