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Higaki and Van Valkenburg honored at FPFC expo

ANAHEIM, CA — Longtime industry veterans Harry Higaki of Bay City Flower Co. Inc. in Half Moon Bay, CA, and Rich Van Valkenburg of Van Valkenburg & Associates in Capistrano Beach, CA, were honored with their respective industry’s top award at the Fresh Produce & Floral Council’s Southern California Expo, held here July 19 at the Disneyland Hotel.20-RichRich Van Valkenburg (right) of VVA was awarded the FPFC’s Norman H. (Buz) Bolstad Produce Award during the FPFC Southern California Expo. He is shown with Matt Christ of the Allen Lund Co. and Jason Paez of Cal Poly-Pomona.

Higaki is largely credited with opening up supermarkets to floral merchandising when he sold potted mums to Ralphs Grocery Co. in the 1950s. His son and past winner Harrison Higaki presented the FPFC Floral Achievement Award to his father, outlining his personal story and the vital role he played in transitioning the more than 100-year-old company from a cut-flower grower to a provider of potted blooming plants to the mass market.

When 95-year-old Harry Higaki strolled to the podium, he noted that he has been retired for 30 years and indicated that while the award was appreciated, he was a bit dumbfounded by its presentation at this point in his life. But he quickly revealed his continued interest in the floral industry, touting a technology currently being tested that will eliminate the wilting of roses. Higaki called it a “game changer.”14-HarryHarrison Higaki (right) of Bay City Flower Co., presented the 2016 FPFC Floral Achievement Award to his father, Harry.

Van Valkenburg received the Norman H. (Buz) Bolstad Produce Achievement Award, named after one of the founders of the FPPC, who was a longtime Southern California retailer. In fact, Bolstad was one of Van Valkenburg’s early mentors in the industry.

Besides a long career in produce retailing, Van Valkenburg has operated his own food brokerage business for the past decade. He has been a longtime supporter of the FPPC, first serving on the board and the Executive Committee in the 1980s. After increased workload required him to step down from the Executive Committee before serving as chairman in the late 1980s, Van Valkenburg continued to be a constant presence at FPFC events and once again made an appearance on that committee in 2012, serving as chairman of the council in 2014.

The one-day expo, which is the grandfather of the ever-expanding regional produce show movement, attracted 2,000 produce professionals to its location at the Disneyland Hotel Convention Center in Anaheim.

Chef Fabio Viviani gave the keynote speech at the opening breakfast, exhorting the crowd of many in-store produce and floral personnel to go way beyond the bare minimum in doing their jobs. He said that while everyone can’t and shouldn’t be an entrepreneur, everyone is the CEO of themselves and responsible for what they accomplish and how far they go in their careers and lives.

Viviani told of his inspiring career that began as an 11-year-old in a bakery in Florence, Italy. Forced to work at an early age because of a family financial crisis, he made the most of it and has emerged as a rock star in the restaurant business, owning many locations and being featured as a regular on many cooking shows.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

FPFC crowd sets record at charity luncheon

The membership of the Fresh Produce & Floral Council and guests went beyond themselves as they set a new record for charitable donations at the annual December Holiday Charity luncheon held in Cerritos, CA., on Wednesday, Dec. 10.

A total of $ 130,545 was raised for Caterina’s Club, an Orange County, CA, charity that focuses on providing a nightly dinner to underprivileged kids. Currently, the club provides about 1,000 meals a night at various locations in Southern California. 14 Chef-1165-600-450-80Chef Bruno Serato, owner of Anaheim White House Restaurant, who is the founder and chairman of the Caterina’s Club charity, with a family the charity helped to get a house. In addition, Chef Bruno Serato of The White House Restaurant in Anaheim, CA, has been spreading the message of “feeding the kids” throughout the country. Similar efforts are being launched in several other cities.

The concept began in 2005 when Chef Serato’s mother, Caterina, implored him to provide a meal for some local kids who were going hungry. Serato served up a free pasta meal that night for dozens of underprivileged kids and he has been doing so every night since. His group has served about 1 million meals to children in the past decade. Often these kids are living in rundown motels because their parents are scraping by trying to come up with enough money to make it through another day. Saving money to move is a virtual impossibility.

Serato, who spoke at the luncheon along with a young mother with two children who he has helped, said he has recently expanded his effort by helping many families move out of these motels and into more permanent residences. Caterina’s Club often provides the first and last month’s rent as is required by many landlords. This is often a huge barrier to moving for these families, who live a hand to mouth existence.

Auctioneers Bill Lalliberte of WJL Distributors and celebrity Frankie Avalon kept the crowd entertained and constantly reminded them to help “feed the kids.” The duo have provided this “auctioneering” service several different times over the years. Lalliberte’s irreverence combines well with Avalon’s celebrity to incite the crowd to be extra generous.The more than 350 attendees responded by bidding up every item, often well over its value.

Among the donated items were show tickets to a Frankie Avalon concert provided by the singer, as well as dozens of tickets to local sporting events featuring the Lakers, Dodgers, Kings and Clippers. The Produce News got in on the festivities by donating a full-page, four-color ad. The item led to a spirited bidding contests with two companies battling back and forth. Eventually Fernando Vargas of Cal Fresco LLC won the item with a $ 3,000 donation. He immediately donated it back, and for the same price Bill Brooks of Westlake Distributing won the ad. So in essence, the charity bucket received a double donation for the ad placement.

Also among the most popular items were outings with some of the local retailers, including Kent Kuwata of Smart & Final, Roger Schroeder of Stater Bros., Alfred Cano of Northgate Markets, Miguel Garcia of Ralph’s Grocery Co., Raul Gallegos of Bristol Farms, Tracy Ramirez of Ralph Grocery Co. and Mark Carroll of Gelson’s Markets.

Before the auction began, Chef Serato told the audience that he came this year to thank them for last year’s unbelievable donation of more than $ 100,000. The anticipation was that the $ 100,000 number would be tough to top.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Alliance outlines success against ‘Dirty Dozen’ list at FPFC Luncheon

CERRITOS, CA — Representatives for the Alliance for Food & Farming detailed the success they have had combating negative stories about fruits and vegetables at the June 19 luncheon meeting of the Fresh Produce & Floral Council in Southern California, here.

Marilyn Dolan, executive director of the Alliance, discussed the strategy the organization has used against the “Dirty Dozen” report issued by the Environmental Working Group each year.

1-MattMatt McInerney, executive vice president of Western Growers Association and chairman of the board of the Alliance for Food & Farming, with David Miroglio of Marzetti, and Marilyn Dolan, executive director of the Alliance for Food & Farming.EWG has been taking government statistics about pesticide residues and issuing what they call the “dirtiest” fruits and vegetables. It made no difference that each of the fresh products still had residue levels well below what is allowable, and would take the daily consumption of inordinate amounts for any negative impact whatsoever.

For the past several years, the Alliance, which is mostly made up of industry associations, has been proactively challenging the list with facts and research projects. Its efforts have even caused the EWG to issue a statement that consuming fruits and vegetables – both organic and conventional – is a more healthful strategy than consuming fewer fruits and vegetables because of any concern about pesticide residues.

While the attention to the list by the Alliance initially resulted in an increase in the number of reputable news organizations publicizing the EWG list, in the past couple of years fewer and fewer news organizations with national following have devoted any news space to the story.

Matthew McInerney, executive vice president of Western Growers Association, who is chairman of the board of the Alliance, detailed the structure of the Alliance and made a subtle plea for increased financial involvement by others in the industry.

He said the Alliance is often the go-to organization when food-safety issues concerning fruits and vegetables are in the press.

In fact, the organization was founded more than 20 years ago during the Alar apple scare involving that growth regulator, Washington State apples and Meryl Streep, who actively campaigned against the use of that product.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

PMA president touts healthy eating at FPFC meeting

CERRITOS, CA — Nearly 300 Southern California produce professionals turned out April 23 for the Fresh Produce & Floral Council’s membership luncheon, held at the Sheraton Cerritos Hotel, here.

Guest speaker for the event was Catherine Burns, president of the Produce Marketing Association, who spoke on an array of subjects ranging from emerging retail trends to the produce industry’s fight against childhood obesity.

Changing the eating habits of today’s children is a top priority, Burns told the crowd, and getting them to eat more fruits and vegetables should be the goal of everyone. She said that no matter what one’s political affiliation, they should “feel blessed that they have an advocate like Michelle Obama in the White House” touting her “Let’s Move!” campaign while working with the Partnership For a Healthier America.

In addition, PMA and Sesame Street have unveiled a national movement called “Eat Brighter” in an attempt to get kids to eat healthier.

“There is no single lightning bolt that can change the world,” Burns said, “but we have to inspire the next generation to eat brighter. If kids see characters like Elmo and Big Bird eating fruits and vegetables, hopefully they’ll say, ‘If they like it, it must be good,’”

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

PMA president touts healthy eating at FPFC meeting

CERRITOS, CA — Nearly 300 Southern California produce professionals turned out April 23 for the Fresh Produce & Floral Council’s membership luncheon, held at the Sheraton Cerritos Hotel, here.

Guest speaker for the event was Catherine Burns, president of the Produce Marketing Association, who spoke on an array of subjects ranging from emerging retail trends to the produce industry’s fight against childhood obesity.

Changing the eating habits of today’s children is a top priority, Burns told the crowd, and getting them to eat more fruits and vegetables should be the goal of everyone. She said that no matter what one’s political affiliation, they should “feel blessed that they have an advocate like Michelle Obama in the White House” touting her “Let’s Move!” campaign while working with the Partnership For a Healthier America.

In addition, PMA and Sesame Street have unveiled a national movement called “Eat Brighter” in an attempt to get kids to eat healthier.

“There is no single lightning bolt that can change the world,” Burns said, “but we have to inspire the next generation to eat brighter. If kids see characters like Elmo and Big Bird eating fruits and vegetables, hopefully they’ll say, ‘If they like it, it must be good,’”

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

FPFC launches apprentice program

The Fresh Produce & Floral Council has begun a new apprentice program designed to train and develop the next generation of leaders in the fresh produce and floral industry. The nine-month program, commencing in May and concluding at the FPFC’s 2015 Dinner Dance, will include tours, seminars and panel discussions.

“Developing the next generation of industry leaders is a priority for the board,” FPFC President Carissa Mace said in a press release. “We’ve been discussing different avenues toward that goal and the apprenticeship program is what has evolved.”

In addition to education about and exposure to the complete supply chain, apprentices will also learn about laws and regulations impacting the industry, and will be assigned projects to be completed between meetings, which Mace says will take place every four to six weeks.

“We also feel that exposure to the industry’s social networks is an important part of professional development,” Mace added in the press release. To that end, mentors will accompany apprentices at FPFC’s networking events to facilitate introductions, and apprentices will also participate in service-related projects like Team Produce at City of Hope’s Walk for Hope.

The program was conceived, developed and is being implemented by a volunteer committee chaired by Andrew Bivens of Westlake Produce Co. and Kelly Craner of B&C Fresh Sales.

To qualify for the apprentice program, applicants must have fewer than seven years’ experience in the industry and be currently employed by an FPFC member company.

Applications for the FPFC Apprentice Program will be accepted beginning in January 2014. Further information will be available on the program in the coming months, or contact Mace at 714/739-0177 or Carissa@fpfc.org.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

Food safety the focus at FPFC luncheon

PLEASANTON, CA — Tom Stenzel, president of the United Fresh Produce Association, discussed the produce industry’s opportunities and challenges, including the all-important food-safety issue, as the keynote speaker at the Sept. 12 Fresh Produce & Floral Council luncheon, here.

Stenzel, who titled his speech “Growth or Stagnation,” said there are some factors that point to great growth on the horizon, but there are also challenges that threaten to derail that growth.

On the positive side, he listed some of the great benefits of fresh produce that position it perfectly as the nation fights the child obesity epidemic and runaway health-care costs. Increased consumption of fresh produce is part of the solution to both of those societal ills.

But the United executive said the food-safety issue is extremely important and the fear that produce recalls illicit from consumers is a real concern. He also said maintaining a sufficient labor force to harvest U.S. crops is another major hurdle for the growth of fresh produce consumption.

On the food-safety issue, Stenzel went through some of the proposed rules in the Food Safety Modernization Act and gave the audience some insight into which areas United and other produce representatives are going to push back against.

In general, the industry wants commodity-specific, science-based regulations that treat all producers of any specific commodity the same, regardless of size or location, he said.

“We oppose any exemption even for the smallest of growers,” Stenzel said, adding that harmful pathogens do not distinguish between the sizes of the ranches where they appear.

With regard to the rules regulating facilities, he said the FSMA proposals deal with all operations the same whether it is a processor of fresh-cut produce or a warehouse that merely is a transfer station for fresh produce.

The initial proposals require all facilities to put the same action plan in place. Stenzel said that would be extremely burdensome on the industry, and he indicated it is unnecessary. He said facilities with different purposes and much different levels of risk should have different rules.

On the food-safety issue, he implored all members of the industry to get their own facilities in order. He worries that current recalls, which he believes are inevitable, do not have any impact on the underlying problem and only serve to scare the consumer.

Stenzel revealed that produce industry recalls have become commonplace, with 33 in the last 18 months. He said the industry has to devise a better recall system than the one currently in place, which results in after-the-fact pulling of product from shelves that is not contaminated. By the time most recalls are initiated, the offending product has already moved through the system. The only result is a consumer that shies away from the recalled product.

“We need to learn to better manage recalls and outbreaks, because they’re not going away,” he said.

On the labor front, Stenzel said immigration reform that gives legal status to the industry’s current undocumented worker population as well as authorizes a guest worker system is a must if the produce industry is to have an adequate workforce to harvest its crops. He said that lack of labor is a huge problem and it will only get worse in the coming years.

Stenzel did leave the crowd with an optimistic view of the future. He said many programs, including the school snack program and efforts to feed impoverished Americans, are exposing more and more young people to fresh produce and hopefully putting them on the path of lifetime consumption.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

Food safety the focus at FPFC luncheon

PLEASANTON, CA — Tom Stenzel, president of the United Fresh Produce Association, discussed the produce industry’s opportunities and challenges, including the all-important food-safety issue, as the keynote speaker at the Sept. 12 Fresh Produce & Floral Council luncheon, here.

Stenzel, who titled his speech “Growth or Stagnation,” said there are some factors that point to great growth on the horizon, but there are also challenges that threaten to derail that growth.

On the positive side, he listed some of the great benefits of fresh produce that position it perfectly as the nation fights the child obesity epidemic and runaway health-care costs. Increased consumption of fresh produce is part of the solution to both of those societal ills.

But the United executive said the food-safety issue is extremely important and the fear that produce recalls illicit from consumers is a real concern. He also said maintaining a sufficient labor force to harvest U.S. crops is another major hurdle for the growth of fresh produce consumption.

On the food-safety issue, Stenzel went through some of the proposed rules in the Food Safety Modernization Act and gave the audience some insight into which areas United and other produce representatives are going to push back against.

In general, the industry wants commodity-specific, science-based regulations that treat all producers of any specific commodity the same, regardless of size or location, he said.

“We oppose any exemption even for the smallest of growers,” Stenzel said, adding that harmful pathogens do not distinguish between the sizes of the ranches where they appear.

With regard to the rules regulating facilities, he said the FSMA proposals deal with all operations the same whether it is a processor of fresh-cut produce or a warehouse that merely is a transfer station for fresh produce.

The initial proposals require all facilities to put the same action plan in place. Stenzel said that would be extremely burdensome on the industry, and he indicated it is unnecessary. He said facilities with different purposes and much different levels of risk should have different rules.

On the food-safety issue, he implored all members of the industry to get their own facilities in order. He worries that current recalls, which he believes are inevitable, do not have any impact on the underlying problem and only serve to scare the consumer.

Stenzel revealed that produce industry recalls have become commonplace, with 33 in the last 18 months. He said the industry has to devise a better recall system than the one currently in place, which results in after-the-fact pulling of product from shelves that is not contaminated. By the time most recalls are initiated, the offending product has already moved through the system. The only result is a consumer that shies away from the recalled product.

“We need to learn to better manage recalls and outbreaks, because they’re not going away,” he said.

On the labor front, Stenzel said immigration reform that gives legal status to the industry’s current undocumented worker population as well as authorizes a guest worker system is a must if the produce industry is to have an adequate workforce to harvest its crops. He said that lack of labor is a huge problem and it will only get worse in the coming years.

Stenzel did leave the crowd with an optimistic view of the future. He said many programs, including the school snack program and efforts to feed impoverished Americans, are exposing more and more young people to fresh produce and hopefully putting them on the path of lifetime consumption.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

Casazza, Higaki honored at FPFC Expo

ANAHEIM, CA — Apio’s Mike Casazza and Harrison Higaki of Bay City Flower Co. were honored with the annual Fresh Produce & Floral Council produce and floral awards, respectively, at the FPFC’s Southern California Expo, held Tuesday, July 16, at the Disneyland Hotel, here.

The 1,400 attendees were also treated to a rousing keynote address by former National Football League Quarterback Joe Theismann during the awards breakfast. Theismann preached a message of “embracing change and seizing the opportunities when they are presented. He relayed a story of how his career took a drastic turn during one Monday Night Football game when he suffered a compound fracture that ended his playing days.

Marty JoeMarty Craner of B&C Fresh Sales representing DLJ Produce, with former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, who was the breakfast keynote speaker.At the time, which was the mid-1980s, he said he was an arrogant egotist heading in the wrong direction as a person. He was forced to embrace the change and he has carved a very successful post-player career. Today he owns, controls or is a partner in 14 different businesses.

Theismann urged the crowd to write down their personal, professional, spiritual and financial goals, and he is clearly a big believer in visualization as a path to achieving those goals. He told the crowd that enthusiasm and confidence are important keys and that he has never tasted failure, “only educational experiences that didn’t go my way.”

FPFC Chairman Casazza, who served as the emcee of the morning session, told the crowd it was the “best keynote address” ever at this event, which is more than two decades old, and the crowd clearly agreed.

Just prior to Theismann’s speech, Casazza became the first-ever current FPFC chairman to receive the Norman H. (Buz) Bolstad Produce Award. Last year’s recipient, Connie Stukenberg of CS Sales and Marketing For Results, cited Casazza’s devotion to the industry, the FPFC and his family, and said he “firmly believes in the adage that a man’s word is his bond.”

The award is presented annually to an industry leader that is materially involved in both the success of the industry and the FPFC.

Casazza has had a long career of innovation for several companies, including Apio, where he has spent more than a decade and is currently the executive vice president of sales and marketing. His mark has also been left on the FPFC where he has worked to alter and improve several events and has been a board member and officer for a half-dozen years.

Casazza was surrounded by his family at the podium and said he felt truly blessed to have such a great family and be in such a great industry.

Higaki received the FPFC Floral Achievement Award, which was presented by last year’s winner, Chris Robinson of The Pinery. Robinson said that Higaki is a “perfectionist” where “quality is job one.” He said he has a passion for flowers and his innovative ways have changed retail floral. He added that he truly lives the company slogan, which is to “bring beauty to life.”

“I am very touched and very moved at my core” in receiving the award, Higaki said. He called it a “deep privilege and honor to sell flowers,” adding that while running a business is important, the true calling of the floral industry is to “enrich and bring beauty to the lives of others.”

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines