FFVA 2013 – Celebrating 70 years of service

It’s been a long time since a group of Florida vegetable growers decided to form a new trade association to deal with wartime problems, regulations, marketing, transportation, labor and other issues.  FFVA 2013, the association’s 70th annual convention, will celebrate the organization’s formative years while taking on today’s challenges.

Returning to a Monday-through-Wednesday format, FFVA 2013 will be held Sept. 23-25 at The Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island.

Following board and membership meetings, the convention will kick off Monday with the Opening Luncheon and State of the Industry Update featuring Phil Lempert, who is best known as the Supermarket Guru.  Lempert, an expert analyst on consumer behavior, marketing trends, new products and the changing retail landscape, identifies and explains impending trends to consumers and some of the most prestigious companies worldwide.

FFVA 2013's opening luncheon features Phil Lempert, best known as the Supermarket Guru.

The first Issues Forum of the convention will be Monday afternoon. “The Labor Landscape” will cover immigration reform legislation as well as the intricacies of the Affordable Health Care Act and how it will affect the agriculture industry.

Tuesday swings into gear with an outstanding speaker at the convention’s traditional Cracker Breakfast.  Lt. Col. Robert J. Darling, USMC (Ret.) happened to be in charge of organizing all logistical aspects of travel for the George W. Bush White House when terrorists struck our nation on Sept. 11, 2001. He acted as a liaison between the vice president, the national security advisor and the Pentagon, working directly with the National Command Authority. Darling authored the book “24 Hours inside the President’s Bunker: 9/11/01: The White House,” which describes his experiences as a key player in the White House after the terrorist attacks.

The second Issues Forum, “A Focus on Food Safety,” will feature Leanne Skelton, chief of the Fresh Products Branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Marketing Service. Skelton has been with the Fresh Products Branch at AMS for more than 20 years, working in inspections, grading and certification, standardization, training, and managing the branch’s financial and information technology activities. Skelton also was on detail with the Food and Drug Administration for six months as she helped the FDA develop new safety regulations for produce.

Joining Skelton will be Dr. Samir Assar, director of the produce safety staff in FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Since 2008, Assar has managed the development of FDA’s policy, regulation, and guidance on produce safety, including those mandated by the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act.

Breakfast speaker Lt. Col. Robert J. Darling, USMC (Ret.), authored the book “24 Hours inside the President’s Bunker: 9/11/01: The White House,” which describes his experiences as a key player in the White House after the terrorist attacks.

The third Issues Forum, “New Varieties, New Markets,” will introduce participants to the Florida Foundation Seed Producers, a not-for-profit corporation and direct support organization that helps the University of Florida in the commercialization of plant inventions, including new varieties of fruits and vegetables. The relationship between FFSP and grower-producers varies from crop to crop, as do the commercialization mechanisms. This forum will provide an overview of the commercialization process and highlight the unique aspects of programs established with blueberries, strawberries, tomato and citrus. Learn more about the Florida Foundation Seed Producers here.

Throughout the convention, items from the 15t h Annual Benefit Auction will be displayed. Proceeds this year go to the Florida Specialty Crop Foundation, which supports the Redlands Christian Migrant Association, the FFVA Emerging Leader Development Program and the George Sorn Scholarship.

The auction raised more than $17,500 last year. To date, the auction and “Above and Beyond” donations have generated $461,058 for deserving causes. FFVA hopes to make this a very successful year to support these programs that are important to our industry.

To participate by donating an item for the auction, please contact Sonia Tighe at 813-975-8377. FFVA will be happy to suggest donation ideas or put together a gift basket on your behalf.

The Annual Awards Luncheon will honor leaders important to the Florida specialty crop industry. Awards for Legislator of the Year, Researcher of the Year and Merchandiser of the Year will be presented.  Recipients of the Syngenta Scholarship and the George F. Sorn will also be announced, and recognition will be given to FFVA members celebrating significant membership milestones.

Tuesday night’s banquet will offer an opportunity to honor members of Class 2 of the Emerging Leader Development Class as they graduate. The evening will be capped off with a chance to socialize and unwind with live music and dancing.

And wait, it’s not over yet. Wednesday dawns with participants in the fishing excursion meeting bright and early to try their luck on the water. Players in the golf tournament will also tee off at The Golf Club of Amelia Island.

Register now for FFVA 2013 online or call 321-214-5200 with any questions.  Additional information, speaker backgrounds and agenda are posted at ffva.com. Registration materials also have been mailed.

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