YOUNG HARRIS, GA — The Southeast Produce Council’s 15th annual fall conference will be remembered for a simple and very moving tribute to its co-founder and longtime executive director. But it will also be remembered for the election of new officers as well as the introduction or rebranding of some new and exciting programs.
The council opened its fall conference Thursday evening, Sept. 25, at the Brasstown Valley Resort & Spa, here, with its traditional get-acquainted opening party.This year’s opening party was dubbed the Get Acquainted Hoedown at Brasstown, in keeping with the theme of this year’s event: the Hoedown Touchdown Throwdown in Brasstown.
But before the festivities got under way, David Sherrod, who was officially named executive director during the fall conference, led a ceremony honoring Terry Vorhees, the council’s co-founder and its first executive director. After Sherrod read one of Vorhees’ favorite passages from the Bible, attendees released 64 purple balloons — Vorhees was 64 years old when he died July 30 — and the SEPC directors released 15 crystal balloons — to mark the council’s 15th anniversary. The ceremony brought tears to the eyes of Sherrod and many others that evening.
The conference held two workshops on Friday morning, Sept. 26, one on “Defining Locally Grown” and another on the “Future of Online Grocers.” Both workshops were very well attended.
After the workshops, attendees gathered for the general session and luncheon, which featured keynote speaker John Smoltz, a former Major League Baseball pitcher best known for his years with the Atlanta Braves, and one of only 16 pitchers in MLB history to record 3,000 strikeouts during his career.
Smoltz told the large crowd about his childhood and how he got into baseball, and he gave a good deal of credit to his parents, who “allowed me to pursue my passion,” and who instilled in him the discipline to help him succeed throughout his life.
Outgoing President Andrew Scott of Nickey Gregory Co. and incoming President Mark Daniels of Military Produce Group both addressed the luncheon attendees, as did Sherrod, who had been serving as assistant executive director of the council during Vorhees’ illness and who had just been officially named executive director.
“It’s a tough road to follow behind Terry,” said an emotional Sherrod, thanking the board of directors and everyone at the Southeast Produce Council for their strong support as he carries on Vorhees’ work in moving forward. He also announced that beginning Oct. 15, the council would have a new address in Millen, GA, Sherrod’s home where he will be working.
Attendees also heard reports from the chairpersons of all the committees during the luncheon.
In one of those reports, it was announced that beginning next year, the name of the fall conference would be changed to Southern Innovations Symposium. That event is scheduled to take place Sept. 17-19, 2015, at Wild Dunes in Charleston, SC, a new venue.
After the general session, the council’s new leadership program for women in produce, known as Southern Roots and chaired by Teri Miller of Delhaize America, held its first official reception. (See separate story on page 82.)
At the President’s Dinner Dance Friday night, the council recognized the 10 members in the graduating class of the Southeast Training Education Program for Upcoming Produce Professionals, known as STEP-UPP and spearheaded by Faye Westfall of DiMare Fresh Tampa, who serves as chairperson, and Tom Page, retired from Supervalu, who serves as vice chairperson.
Another highlight at the President’s Dinner Dance was the introduction of the four new members of the board of directors: Raina Nelson of Renaissance Foods, Barb Anderson of DNE World Fruit LLC, John Williams of L.G. Herndon Jr. Farms and Daniel Klausner of Apio Inc. The four members of the board who were re-elected were also introduced: Brian Rayfield of J&J Family of Farms, Tommy Wilkins of Grow Farms, Brandon Parker of Shuman Produce and Mike Ryan of Bayshore Produce. All serve for two-year terms.
The new officers were also introduced during the dinner dance. They are Mark Daniels of Military Produce Group as president, Teri Miller of Delhaize America as first vice president, Sheila Carden of the National Mango Board as second vice president, Faye Westfall of DiMare Fresh Tampa as secretary and Steve Pinkston of Walmart Stores Inc. as treasurer, along with David Sherrod as executive director.
On Saturday morning, Sept. 27, golfers enjoyed the 15th annual Ken Lanhardt Memorial Golf Tournament. The foursome of Steadman Taylor, Matt Howell, Allen Dalton and Kevin Taylor, all of Progressive Freight, took first place with a score of 14 under par.
As always, the fall conference ended with the Ultimate Tailgate Party.
Contacted Monday afternoon, Sept. 29, Sherrod offered his first impressions of the event.
“We were very happy the way things worked out,” he told The Produce News. “We had great attendance at all the functions. Our workshops were at max capacity. Our panelists and speakers were excellent. We had very informative seminars. The Ultimate Tailgate Party was probably the biggest we ever had.”
Sherrod said that 275 people had attended the just-completed fall conference, “almost exactly the same as last year,” which took place in Myrtle Beach, SC.
“The golf tournament was excellent,” he said, and referring to the perfect weather conditions, he quipped, “Terry was looking down and handled the weather.”
Sherrod concluded by saying that throughout the fall conference, “We felt the absence of Terry, but we felt that his spirit was still there. Everyone I spoke to said that.”