January 20, 2010

In Today's Issue:

United Fresh Volunteer Leaders Address Industry Issues at Winter Meetings

United's Volunteer Leaders converged in Sonoma, California this week to address several priority issues for the produce industry, as well as hear from a potential contender for the presidency in 2012. More than 200 industry leaders met at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn with a full agenda on topics such as the new food safety law, the Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative, produce traceability, locally grown, retail manager education and many others.

United Fresh Chairman Steffanie Smith, CEO of River Point Farms, rallied the volunteer leaders to continue their support for the Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative, which was announced in November by First Lady Michelle Obama in partnership with United Fresh.

"More than ever before, and now with Mrs. Obama's support, United Fresh members are poised to make a real difference for our industry and in the lives of millions of children," she said at Wednesday's morning session. "As we look ahead to our convention in New Orleans this May, we have a tremendous opportunity to place salad bars in New Orleans schools and show our industry and the nation the great potential of the Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative."

United's market segment boards met Tuesday to review industry issues, hear from guest speakers, and provide input on topics for educational sessions at United Fresh 2011 in New Orleans. The market segment ideas, reflecting priorities for grower-shippers, wholesaler-distributors, fresh-cut processors, and retail-foodservice operators, will be used to develop programming for the convention's Learning Centers and Super Sessions.

Additionally, leaders from United's market segment boards took to the stage at the Wednesday general session to share viewpoints from their respective board members about industry issues, reflecting discussions during market segment board meetings. The market segment discussion generated spirited discussions on several key issues, including social responsibility audits, sustainability, the new food safety law, consumer behavior insights, produce manager education, traceability and other issues.

A highlight for the meetings, Tim Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota and a possible presidential hopeful for the 2012 election, joined United's volunteer leaders Wednesday to deliver an energetic, pro-business address.

"To grow jobs, let's not go ask the politicians, most of whom have never worked in the private sector, most of whom have never started a business or met a payroll ... let's ask the people who actually provide the jobs. Let's listen to them and hear what’s important to them about the deployment of capital, about taking risks, about growing jobs," said Pawlenty.

Volunteer leaders also heard from Amy Myrdal Miller of the Culinary Institute of America about the institute's new initiative to help produce industry and others to use innovation to improve nutrition for children.  "Healthy Flavors, Healthy Kids" is a multi-faceted program that brings together all parts of the food industry for improving child nutrition through education, culinary insight and flavor insight.

Recent advances in national nutrition policy was just one of the many topics on the full agenda for United's Board of Directors. The board heard about the produce industry's victory in the new child nutrition bill, which includes additional funding for healthier foods in school meals, including produce. The board also discussed the recently-released proposal from USDA for having school meals better match federal dietary guidelines, including a doubling of produce. Looking ahead, United's board heard plans for shaping the 2012 Farm Bill and United's leadership as part of the Specialty Crop Farmer Alliance.

Also conducting meetings this week were the advisory board for United's Center for Global Produce Sustainability, United Fresh Foundation board of directors, Food Safety & Technology Council, Nutrition & Health Council, Supply Chain Logistics Council, North American Transportation Working Group, United Fresh Member Relations Task Force, United Fresh Nominating Committee and the Executive Committee.

First 2011 Installment of United's Inspection Course a Success

Twenty seven participants in United's Produce Inspection Training Program gathered in Fredericksburg, VA, last week for the first installment of the 2011 program. Presented in partnership with the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s Fresh Products Branch, the program teaches participants the intricacies of produce inspections from the men and women in charge of the inspections themselves.

In addition to the classroom element, last week's inspection labs covered the most commonly requested commodities of grapes, lettuces, potatoes, strawberries and tomatoes, and was supplemented with requested tutorials on squash, avocados, onions, apples, peppers and broccoli.

Focused on detail, program instructors from the Fresh Product Branch display large surface and cross-section images of each commodity on high definition television screens in the inspection lab. Coupled with the extremely hands-on nature of the course, the visual aids in the lab help each participant to see the elements that inspectors look for on and within each commodity.

Two remaining Produce Inspection Training Programs will be offered in 2011: May 16-20, and September 12-16.

Class size is limited and attendees are admitted on a first-come, first-served basis. The registration fee for United Fresh members interested in the introductory course is $895, while the advanced course is $1225. If both courses are taken together, members may register at the discounted rate of $1925. If three or more colleagues from the same member company register for both courses, each will receive a $100 discount on the registration rate. For non-members, the prices are $1095, $1425 and $2325, respectively. Seminar registration fees include training seminars and all course materials.
Attendees may register for the training seminars at www.unitedfresh.org or by contacting Julie Jacocks, education manager, at 202-303-3400 ext. 405.

Nominate Your Outstanding Produce Managers Today!

The deadline is fast approaching to nominate retail produce all-stars through the 2011 United Fresh Retail Produce Manager Awards Program. Nominations for the Retail Produce Manager Awards Program may be accessed online and must be received by February 7.

Established in 2005 by founding sponsor Ready Pac Foods, Inc., the program will honor 25 retail produce managers at the store level and include their corporate produce directors in formal recognition at the United Fresh 2011 convention and expo, May 2-5 in New Orleans.

The 25 award winners and their corporate produce directors will receive complimentary airfare, hotel accommodations and registrations to United Fresh 2011. The winners will be honored at the annual United Fresh Awards Banquet on Thursday, May 4, where five grand prize winners will be announced as recipients of an additional $1,000 cash prize.

If you know an extraordinary retail produce manager who is deserving of recognition, nominate them today by clicking here, or contact United's Julie Jacocks at 202-303-3400, ext. 405 for more information.

GAPs Course Returns to University of Georgia

Next month, United Fresh Senior Vice President of Food Safety and Technology Dr. David Gombas will join representatives from the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Association, the Southeast Produce Council and the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Department of Food Science and Technology in presenting GAPs and GMPs for HACCP-Based Food Safety for the Fresh Produce Industry.

The course, which is now accredited by the International HACCP Alliance, is presented at UGA's Extension Food Science training facility in Athens and will teach participants how to develop and document good agricultural practices (GAPs), standard operating Procedures (SOPs), sanitary standard operating procedures (SSOPs) and good management practices (GMPs) for farm and field operations, packing facilities, cold storage operations and produce shippers. Additionally, specific breakout sessions will use HACCP principles to teach participants to identify and prevent food safety hazards, set preventive/control measures and control limits, develop control and monitoring procedures, document and verify the results of their efforts, each as established by the International HACCP Alliance. Participants will also learn how to use microbial testing as a verification tool for audit compliance. The goal of the interactive sessions is to assist participants in developing a food safety plan that they can implement in their specific operations.

The course will run from February 15 through 17 and United Fresh, GFVGA and SEPC members will receive discounted registration. For more information, visit www.efsonline.uga.edu, or contact UGA's Extension Food Science department at efs@uga.edu or 706-542-2574.

One More Day to Take Advantage of Discounted Registration for Produce Executive Development Program

Tomorrow is the last day for United Fresh members to take advantage of early registration discounts for the association's annual Produce Executive Development Program. The program, developed in partnership with Cornell University, is specifically designed for produce industry leaders to sharpen their executive skill set.

Designed for mid- to senior-level produce executives with management experience, the five-day course kicks off March 13, and will provide participants with a robust program that examines the latest business trends, blends personal and professional development, and teaches effective tools to navigate challenges affecting today's produce executives.

Click here to register for the program or for more information, contact Julie Jacocks, United Fresh education manager, at 202-303-3400, ext. 405.

United Fresh Members Featured Prominently at Upcoming Freshconex Business Forums

United Fresh members will play a huge role in the upcoming Business Forums at Freshconex 2011, the annual international trade fair for fresh produce convenience held during Fruit Logistica 2011, February 9-11 in Berlin.

On February 9, Friedhelm Balmes from Gartenfrisch Jung GmbH will speak on taking advantage of Germany's HORECA sector, and Steve Grinstead of Pro*Act will share his perspectives on opportunities for fresh produce convenience in mass catering.

On February 10, Kim Gaarde and Eric Gaarde of Fruit Dynamics will discuss new profit channels for fresh convenience products, and Paddy Callaghan of Ireland’s Nature's Best will speak on securing new retail growth for fresh produce convenience.

On February 11, Jeff Brandenburg of The JSB Group will update attendees on new packaging technologies. Mark Sementilli of Bunzl will share his perspectives on securing improvements in the fresh produce convenience logistics chain, followed by a presentation by Harrij Schmeitz of Frug I Com/Imtech, who will share his thoughts on distribution chain and traceability solutions for the fresh-cut convenience sector.

United Fresh will also have a booth in Hall 7.2C/A-08, where attendees can meet with United Fresh staff and learn more about United's programs and services global produce leaders, as well as programs in food safety and supply chain management, research in consumer trends, and more.  Chairman of the Board Steffanie Smith, River Point Farms, Members of the United Fresh Global Advisory Council and its Chairman David Barney, Bakkavor and President and CEO Tom Stenzel will host a Global Reception in our booth Thursday, February 10 from 17:00 – 19:00.

For more information about United events at FRESHCONEX and Fruit Logistica, please contact Jeff Oberman at 831-422-0940.

Dan O'Connell of Sun Rich is This Week's BIG Winner in United's Restaurant A Week Giveaway!

Congratulations to Dan O'Connell of Sun Rich Fresh Foods, as the winner of United's first Restaurant a Week Giveaway. Dan is headed to Chartrés House Café, courtesy of United Fresh.

Every Friday, United Fresh draws a winner from all registered attendees to United Fresh 2011. Winners receive a gift certificate to one of New Orleans' finest restaurants. Each week, the list is updated with the most current registered attendees, so the sooner you register for United Fresh 2011, the BIGGER your chances are to win!

Congratulations Dan! Next week's Restaurant a Week winner is headed to Drago's, courtesy of United Fresh 2011.

Meet Your United Fresh Board Member: Georgia Fan Charles Hall Pulls for the SEC, with One Exception

Charles Hall
Executive Director
Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association
LaGrange, Georgia

Within your community, you're very involved with the 4-H program. What do you feel is the value of 4-H and other agricultural education programs in a society that may feel rural agricultural issues don't pertain to it?

Currently, we're living in such an urban society that the 4H program really helps to bring the rural culture back into the schools and helps people to understand the role of agriculture in our lives. I was in a meeting recently with a gentleman in the equine business raising quarterhorses, and he was telling me about our local 4-H program's Equine Club, which he hosts at his farm twice a year as a part of their education program. He told me that of the 20 kids that came out to his operation this year, only one had ever been out on a farm, and only one actually had a horse. This is in LaGrange, with 60,000 people. We're not talking about a major metro area, here. So 4-H and those types of programs really keep the kids tied back to agriculture.

Long-time Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Tommy Irvin recently retired and Gary Black was elected to take his place. What type of transition do you foresee for your organization and for Georgia agriculture as a whole?

I think that the transition from former Commissioner Irvin to Commissioner Black is going to be a smooth transition for us. We've had a great relationship with Commissioner Irvin, who's been a very strong supporter of fruits and vegetables, and that same support, I expect, will come from Commissioner Black. I consider Gary a good friend of mine, and we've maintained a close relationship over the years. He's very progressive thinking, and I think will be a strong commissioner moving forward.

Moving from an ag commissioner that has been in office for 42 years, how do you make sure that you, as an association, are still able to be effective under a new administration?

Whether it's a political office or any other type of post, there's always going to be a transition whenever somebody new takes over. I think that, as an association, you try to make sure that you're keeping that person aware of your concerns and your priorities. You always want to ensure that the person is informed and educated as to the issues facing your group, and the role that your group plays in the greater issues discussion. You really want to make sure that the communication link is there and open, and you continually look for opportunities to interface with that person.

There has been a great deal of adverse weather conditions in the southeast, some of it affecting crops. Have Georgia growers been affected?

The December freeze did not hurt us as much as it did in Florida. The snow and ice last week was fortunately in middle and north Georgia.  At this time of year, the majority of our growers are in a preparation mode, not much is in the ground, so freezing weather is not going to have a real big effect on crop production. The December freeze caused some damage to broccoli and greens but nothing major. However, give us 3-4 weeks and if we had a freeze, it would be devastating. 

How did you spend your holidays?

We were able to have our kids and grandkids down on Christmas for a couple of days, which we look forward to every year. A few weeks before that we were able to get up to the kids' house for a night to see the church choir sing, which was great. We really enjoy the fellowship and the ability to get together, even just for a couple of days. It's a great time, partly because the best thing about being a grandparent is that it's my role to spoil the grandkids, not necessarily to discipline the grandkids.

LaGrange is within shouting distance of Auburn. Did you pick sides for the recent BCS Championship?

Even though I'm not a big Auburn fan, I'm certainly a Southeastern Conference fan, so any time there's an SEC team in a bowl game, that's who we're going to be pulling for. Except maybe South Carolina and Steve Spurrier.

Chairman's Roundtable Thanks 2011 Supporters

United Fresh's Chairman's Roundtable provides extra support for programs in government relations, food safety, nutrition policy and other areas to help grow the produce industry. We are pleased to recognize the following companies who have committed to the 2011 Chairman's Roundtable:

  • Paul Marshall Produce, Inc., Elba, NY
  • A&J Produce Corporation, Bronx, NY
  • Naturipe Farms, LLC, Naples, FL

The Chairman's Roundtable is an opportunity for United Fresh member companies to contribute above and beyond their basic dues. Roundtable members are industry leaders who set the pace in building United Fresh's strength in areas that do not generate their own revenue. Members of Chairman's Roundtable enjoy special recognition throughout the year for their support.  For more information on the Chairman's Roundtable, please contact Director of Membership Miriam Miller at 202-303-3400 ext. 410.

New Member Welcome

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

  • DLJ Food Consulting, Yellow Springs, OH
  • Red Starr S.P.R. de R.L. de C.V., Tecoman, Mexico
  • Knutzen Farms, Burlington, WA

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.

Upcoming United Fresh Events
Upcoming Events