Jan 10, 2022
SE Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference has ‘pleasing’ attendance

After a virtual conference in 2021, the Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference was excited to be back in Savannah this year, Jan. 6-9, for the 20th anniversary of the South’s premier fruit and vegetable show.

“We are pleased with the continued attendance for this event,” said Drew Echols, President of the Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association.  “After our virtual event in 2021, it is encouraging to see our growers come to Savannah and start their year with more education and more resources, ready to move forward from a really hard year.”

The conference, coordinated and sponsored by the Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association (GFVGA) and the Georgia Peach Council, was held across three days at the Savannah Convention Center. From Thursday through Saturday afternoon, SE Regional offered 16 different commodity and production sessions totaling more than 70 hours of education. Session topics included specific commodities like blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, citrus, muscadines, peaches, strawberries and vegetables, and also vital operation topics like business operations, food safety, roadside markets and organic production.

Beth Oleson, GFVGA Director of Education and Food Safety, said conference educational coordinators continue to bring top-tier speakers to each session based on relevant needs of the industry. “These land-grant extension and research state specialists work to create applicable educational conferences that address specific issues on the farm and in packing facilities.”

The SE Regional conference continues to be such a gathering place for produce industry growers that allied organizations often co-locate their meetings during this event, including the Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training Course. “Having allied organizations co-locating at SE Regional provides great opportunities to extend the educational experience for attendees outside of production and handling issues, business operations and food safety” Oleson said.

The Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training course satisfied the FSMA Produce Safety Rule requirement 112.22(c) that requires “At least one supervisor or responsible party for your farm must have successfully completed food safety training at least equivalent to that received under standardized curriculum recognized as adequate by the Food and Drug Administration.”

“Food safety continues to be a very overwhelming topic to growers, packers and shippers,” Oleson said.  “They have to consider buyer requirements, audit requirements and now requirements coming out of the Food Safety Modernization Act and Rules.  We must be sure we take advantage of growers’ time here in Savannah to provide relevant, needed training.  Being able to partner with the Produce Safety Alliance allows us to address a regulatory need affecting the whole industry,” Oleson said.

SE Regional also held a Social Media Boot Camp, hosted by GFVGA, to help equip growers to tell their farm stories on social media. GFVGA also announced a new consumer-focused marketing plan for 2022.

Other commodity session speakers included specialists and top researchers from the University of Georgia, North Carolina State University, University of Florida and several others.

In addition to education, industry leaders were recognized at the annual Awards Breakfast. Those recognized included:

  • Jake Price. GFVGA Donnie H. Morris Award
  • Angelos Deltsidis, Fruit and Vegetable 40 Under 40
  • Albolfazl Hajihassani, Fruit and Vegetable 40 Under 40
  • Corey Harmon, Fruit and Vegetable 40 Under 40
  • Ashley Hopper, Fruit and Vegetable 40 Under 40
  • Clark Macallister, Fruit and Vegetable 40 Under 40
  • Kimberly Post, Fruit and Vegetable 40 Under 40
  • Sedrick Rowe, Fruit and Vegetable 40 Under 40
  • Robert “Bob” Hall, Southeast Farmer of the Year
  • Sonny Yonce, Mr. Peach
The 2023 SE Regional event will be held once again in Savannah, Ga. next Jan. 5-8, 2023.

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