Southeastern Agriculture Well Represented at PMA Fresh Summit

The Produce Marketing Association’s (PMA) annual Fresh Summit took place Oct. 17-19 in Orlando, Florida. Every year, this huge summit brings members of the global produce and floral industries together to make connections and mingle with fellow industry professionals.

Every year, southeastern agriculture has a huge presence at the summit, most notably in the Fresh from Florida and Georgia Grown pavilions.

Fresh from Florida Shows Off Florida’s Diversity

Within the Fresh from Florida Pavilion, Fresh Summit attendees could find representatives of several farms and associations promoting the different faces of Florida agriculture.

Olivia Wong, marketing manager for Fullei Fresh, was happy to be attending her first PMA Fresh Summit. Fullei Fresh grows conventional and organic sprouts in Miami. Wong said the size of Fresh Summit proves why it’s a great show to attend. “It’s a crazy big show, and we’re really excited to be a part of it,” she said.

A farm headquartered in Collier County, Oakes Farms, was proud to represent Florida agriculture at the Fresh Summit. According to Steve Veneziano, vice president of Oakes Farms, the company is really trying to promote Fresh from Florida. “We’ve grown in different states, but Florida’s our largest presence,” he explained.

Danny Johns of Bluesky Farms was also in the pavilion. Johns is a fourth-generation potato farmer in Hastings. While Johns was there promoting Fresh from Florida and the potatoes grown at Bluesky Farms, he was also excited to show some other alternative crops he is trying out, like purple sweet potatoes. Johns said the PMA Fresh Summit is the perfect opportunity to connect with the industry. “Anybody who’s anybody in the produce industry is here, so it’s a great opportunity, right in our backyard in Orlando, to present new things,” he said.

Researchers from the University of Florida and associations such as the Florida Strawberry Growers Association and the Florida Watermelon Association were also in the Fresh from Florida pavilion.

Georgia Grown Pavilion Promotes the Greatness of Georgia Ag

The Georgia Grown pavilion was a sight to be seen. Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (GFVGA), said the GFVGA and the Georgia Department of Agriculture work together to organize the pavilion, which took up 7,000 square feet on the Fresh Summit trade show hall. The goal is simple: Help promote Georgia Grown products to the attendees who come from around the globe.

Georgia Blueberry Growers Association President Brandon Wade attended his first Fresh Summit in 2017, and he was happy to. He said the association wants people to know that “it’s more than Maine, Michigan and Florida that produce. Georgia is part of it, too.”

The Vidalia Onion Committee put its focus on trying to appeal to the next generation of growers. Aries Haygood, vice chairman of the committee, said education is key when it comes to promoting Vidalia onions. “(We want to) educate people on what a Vidalia onion is and the difference between Vidalia onions and other onions,” he explained. One way the committee did that was through giving samples. Like many exhibitors at the Fresh Summit, the committee had samples of different dishes containing its onions, so attendees could taste the difference.

The Genuine Georgia Group is a collaboration of the five main farm families that grow roughly 96 percent of the peaches in Georgia. Will McGehee, founding partner of the group, said the PMA Fresh Summit “gives a great opportunity to show our wares against other peach producers around the country.” The summit also provided an opportunity to show off some of the group’s other products including pecans and apples.

Several other Georgia associations had a presence at the Fresh Summit, including the Georgia Watermelon Association and the Georgia Pecan Association.

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Dan Cooper

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