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TUBAC, AZ -- The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas honored two industry leaders, one of them posthumously, as Pillars of the Industry during its 42nd Nogales Produce Convention & Golf Tournament, held Nov. 4-6 at the Tubac Golf Resort, here.

It is the first year the award has been given, and FPAA President Lance Jungmeyer said that it is expected that Pillar of the Industry recognitions will be a "fixture" at future annual Nogales conventions.

Honored posthumously during the closing gala was Roy Lundstrom, who spent 25 years of his long produce career at GAC Produce prior to his death in 2008.

"During his time at GAC, he was a stabilizing force in the market for tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers," Mr. Jungmeyer said in presenting the award Nov. 6 at the convention's closing social. "His peers have called Lundstrom a 'marketing genius."

Mr. Jungmeyer quoted a "longtime Nogales businessman" as saying that Mr. Lundstrom "individually had more clout on the sales desk than anyone else in town."

Accepting the award on Mr. Lundstrom's behalf was his son David. Also recognized as a Pillar of the Industry was Jorge (George) Gotsis Cevallos, owner of Omega Produce. Mr. Gotsis first began to work for Omega, his sister's distribution company, in 1951. In time, he became a partner, and in 1961 he began buying the remaining shares.

FPAA Chairman Jaime Chamberlain, who presented the award, called Mr. Gotsis "a true leader and pioneer in the industry," and noted that he "is recognized for forging new directions in produce, importing mangos in the late 1960s and table grapes in the early 1980s." He is looked upon by Mexican growers as having "a character that is beyond reproach."

The convention was well attended, with more than 430 people at the opening fiesta and more than 270 at the closing gala -- almost double the number for the closing event last year, according to the FPAA.

A total of 104 golfers participated in the two-day golf tournament, which was held both at Tubac and at the Rio Rico Course. Both courses are located just a few miles north of Nogales, AZ, which is the main port of entry for the preponderance of the produce grown in mainland West Mexico for import to the United States.

Tournament prizes were awarded in three flights this year, giving more participants the opportunity of winning one of the prizes. The first place team in Flight A was Charlie Calixtro of Calixtro Distributing and Scott Danner of Liberty Fruit.

There was "a big turnout" for the "educational opportunities seminars" on Thursday, including "a lot of people that I haven't seen before" at previous seminars, said Allison Moore, communications director for FPAA. Prior to the seminars, guided warehouse tours gave conference attendees an opportunity to "see some of the facilities" and learn more about the Nogales produce industry, she said.

Among the seminar topics were border challenges, which focused mainly on the construction, currently under way, of new customs facilities at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales. Food safety and traceability also were covered during the seminars.

The convention gives produce buyers from around the country, distributors in Nogales, and their suppliers, including growers from Mexico, an opportunity to network prior to the peak season for shipments of vegetables and tomatoes from the state of Sinaloa. Production of melons, squash and some other products out of the more northerly state of Sonora was already in full swing.

"We enjoyed attending the functions and the networking that it brings to Nogales and the opportunity to see our customers and suppliers," said Brent Harrison, president of Al Harrison Co. Distributors in Nogales, a sponsor of the convention.

Luis Caballero, a partner in Grower Alliance in Nogales, said that it was helpful to have an opportunity to have conversations with some customers who were in town and also to talk to "other distributors around to learn about the situation on different items."

"I think the convention has had a very steady nice steady upward growth over the last five years," said Jerry Havel, director of sales and marketing at Fresh Farms in Nogales. "I think this was probably one of our most well-attended functions on Thursday night and one of our better-attended functions on Saturday night. I think it is very safe to say that the convention is gaining some speed."

Moving the convention to an earlier date than in past years has contributed to that growth, Mr. Havel said. "People want to come out and see what is going on and see what is we are seeing ourselves up for the coming season."