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Wegmans holds kale-tasting event

All Wegmans stores will be holding a "Love Kale" tasting event Saturday, Nov. 1 to highlight the vegetable's versatility, flavor and health benefits. Kale-inspired foods will be distributed throughout the store, allowing each department to feature its own kale-centric recipe, loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.kaleuoa

“Kale tastes great in so many different ways that I think every customer who comes to the store for the ‘Love Kale’ event will be in for some nice surprises,” Executive Chef John Steinhoff said in a press release. “Every dish we’ll be sampling features kale as an ingredient, so customers will get a sense of its versatility. There’ll be a salad and side dishes, a vegetarian sushi roll, a pasta dish, a smoothie, and even sweets and snacks. We’ll have recipe cards for those who want to recreate some of these dishes at home.”

The featured recipes will be sautéed kale and kale chips in the produce department; Hail Kale Caesar salad in the self-serve bar in prepared foods area; 'Kale-elujah’ rolls at the sushi bar; Tuscan roasted squash and kale, paired with roasted honey-brined rib end of pork in the meat department; kale and cannelini cappellacci, a ravioli dish in the dairy department; Kandy Kale and Rhythm Chips in Nature’s Marketplace; and fruit and kale smoothies in the frozen foods area.

“Kale is really popping in my garden right now, and my kids love it,” Steinhoff said. “They’ll ask if I can make some kale chips for them, and then go pick some leaves for the chips. One day, after my son and I came home from a sporting event, I made ‘Hail Kale’ Caesar Salad. He ate it and liked it so much he asked for more.”

In fact, Steinhoff said, a good way to introduce kale to kids is to have it in foods with a familiar flavor — such as Caesar salad or a minestrone soup.

“Kale’s reputation as a superfood is understandable since it’s so rich in a number of important nutrients,” Jane Andrews, Wegmans nutrition and product labeling manager, said in the release. “But no one fruit or vegetable — even kale — offers all the nutrients our bodies need from this food group. So as our Eat Well, Live Well guidelines suggest, enjoy five cups a day of fruits and vegetables in many varieties, tastes, and colors.”

Kale grows best in cool temperatures, and its leaves grow sweeter with a touch of light frost, so its peak growing season, from fall to spring, is just beginning. Curly kale is the most popular and common variety. Tuscan kale (also known as Lacinato or dinosaur kale) has a slightly sweeter, more delicate flavor. Ornamental kales in shades of white, pink and purple are grown for their beauty in the garden and in floral arrangements — though edible, they have a somewhat bitter flavor.

Bill Gates linked to farmland purchases in north Florida; may be looking elsewhere in the Southeast

On the heels of news that billionaire Bill Gates is likely behind the purchase of two south Georgia farms comes news that another investment group linked to the Microsoft founder recently paid almost $28 million for more than 4,500 acres of farmland in Suwanee County, FL, a major vegetable production area in the northern part of the state.

There are also unsubstantiated reports from individuals familiar to The Produce News that entities representing Gates are looking at farmland in Mississippi and possibly other Southeastern states as well.

Court records show that Lakeland Sands Florida, headquartered on Gates' home turf in Kirkland, WA, and thought to be a subsidiary of Cascade Investments LLC, which represents Bill and Melinda Gates' personal fortune and is also based in Kirkland, made the north Florida purchase from Seldom Rest Inc., an agriculture and forestry company based in Donaldsonville, GA.

The Suwanee Democrat of Live Oak, FL, reported Oct. 22 that over the last two years, court records show Lakeland Sands has purchased numerous farm properties in other parts of Suwanee County and in nearby Hamilton and Madison counties, including Coggins Acres LLC; Coggins Farm Supply Inc.; Circle C Produce Inc.; Absaroka Holdings Inc.; Hamilton Land Investments Corp.; Hamilton Pine Trees LLC; Lake Clarke Holdings LLC; and Lee Peanut Farms LLC.

In the last 12 months, Gates' representatives purchased two south Georgia farms, Coggins Farms in Lake Park, GA and, more recently, Vidalia onion grower Stanley Farms and its subsidiaries in Lyons, GA.

Attempts by The Produce News to contact various entities involved in any of the recent Gates-related sales resulted in no information, though one Bridgitt Arnold sent an email reading, "Apologies for the delay getting back to you. I manage communications for Bill Gates' private office outside Seattle and your inquiry ... was forwarded to me by my colleagues at the Gates Foundation. We will take a pass on commenting for your story."

One South Georgia landowner involved in a recent sale told various individuals and media outlets that he had been instructed not to reveal the actual identity of the purchaser.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Cascade Investments, led by investor Michael Larson, has bought more than 100,000 acres of U.S. ranch and farmland, including a Wyoming ranch once owned by William F. (Buffalo Bill) Cody. The paper said, "Few people know much about Mr. Gates's assets or Mr. Larson's tactics — and the two men want to keep it that way. Real-estate investments ... are often cloaked in nondescript names to make it harder to trace the deals back to Mr. Gates."

That has certainly been the case in Georgia and Florida, where at least five entities — mostly based in Kirkland — appearing to link back to Gates and/or Cascade have been involved in farmland purchases.

According to the WSJ, Cascade's headquarters "are in an unmarked building in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland. Mr. Larson is so protective of his boss that he used to be nicknamed 'the Gateskeeper.'... Employees who leave often sign confidentiality agreements barring them from talking about Cascade."

After divesting himself of about half of his Microsoft stock 20 years ago, Gates hired Larson to manage his personal fortune, then about $5 billion. Under Larson's leadership, Cascade has since grown to about 100 employees — and Gates' net worth has soared to $82 billion. Larson also manages the $41 billion endowment of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

After he was hired, Larson opted to go "off the radar," one acquaintance told the WSJ. The paper said Larson "farms out more than $10 billion in assets at any given time to roughly 25 outside money managers, partly as a way to drum up new investment ideas. The outsiders aren't told any nonpublic details about the size of Mr. Gates's portfolio or its holdings."

In September 2013, brothers Chris and Allen Heine, owners of Oak Hammond LLC, sold 400 wooded acres in western Suwanee County to Lakeland Sands for $800,000 but told The Suwanee Democrat they did not know who was behind the purchase.

The reason for the secrecy seems simple enough: Potential sellers who realize the world's wealthiest man is interested in their property would be inclined to jack up the asking price.

Speculation as to where Gates' representatives may pop up next — and to what his intentions are for the farm properties he has purchased or may yet — runs rampant.

Some suggest the Gates/Larson strategy is simply an investment in land and water, commodities sure to increase in value and become scarcer in coming years. Others fear that Gates' deep pockets could provide him a competitive edge in ranch and farm product marketing. Still others believe the plan is to operate domestic farming operations profitably to fund charitable agriculture ventures elsewhere, a major focus of the Gates Foundation.

As the WSJ put it, "The arrangement is simple: Mr. Larson makes money, and Mr. Gates gives it away."

Fourth-generation Santa Maria grower dies at 84

Richard (Dick) Adam Sr., who grew vegetables in California's Santa Maria Valley for more than 50 years, died at his home Thursday, Oct. 23. He was 84.

The fourth-generation grower farmed with his brother Jack until 1994, when he and his sons struck out on their own. At Adam Bros. Family Farms, the fifth generation continues to grow broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, celery, Romaine, red leaf and green leaf.

Mr. Adam acquired two patents and invented many aides and process improvements to make farm work easier for those working the fields for him and others producing and harvesting the same crops. He also served his community on the Santa Maria Valley Water Conservation District board and was a member of numerous agricultural and civic organizations. He was instrumental in the adjudication of the Santa Maria Groundwater Basin, ensuring that his grandchildren and future generations would have water to farm with.

Mr. Adam was born Aug. 14, 1930 in Berkley, CA, to John and Hester Adam. He was a great-grandson of William Laird Adam, one of the founders of Santa Maria.

Mr. Adam attended the University of California-Davis and University of California-Berkley, where he graduated with a degree in agricultural economics. He also served in the Air Force before returning to Santa Maria to farm and raise his family.

He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Bernadette; sons Peter (Amy), Kerry (Diane), Richard Jr. (Carrick) and Dominic (Hala); and grandchildren Victoria, Joseph, Olivia, Mattie, Meryl, Audrey, Kate, Henry, Jacob, Austin and Luke. He is preceded in death by his parents, his brother Jack and his grandson, Carl Peter.

A Mass will be held Oct. 28 at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic Church in Orcutt, CA. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Wounded Warriors Project in his name.

10 tons of watermelon served at Marine Corps Marathon

At 92 percent water and chock full of nutrients, watermelon is a naturally hydrating food fit for the finish line. That’s the message National Watermelon Promotion Board, along with its entourage of watermelon queens from National Watermelon Association and mascot J. Slice, shared during the Marine Corps Marathon festivities in Washington, DC, Oct. 24-26, where it served a truckload of healthy watermelon to athletes and families.

“From watermelon queens decked out in crowns and sashes touring D.C. landmarks to hydration tips shared via social media and 10 tons of refreshing watermelon at the finish festival, watermelon made a showy appearance at the Marine Corps Marathon during the board’s second year as a sponsor,” Stephanie Barlow, NWPB director of public relations and social media, said in a press release.IMG 3986-QueenJenniferStephGeorgia Watermelon Queen Jennifer Leadie shares refreshing watermelon with Marine Corps Marathon finisher Stephen Kaputa.

Starting with the three-day health and fitness expo where runners picked up their registration packets, NWPB shared recipes and nutrition research showing why watermelon is nature-made for athletes — offering replenishing electrolytes, like potassium, and sore-muscle relief from the amino acid citrulline.

At Saturday's MCM Kids Run, nearly 3,600 Washington, DC-area youth ran one mile at the Pentagon parking lot. National Watermelon Queen Brandi Harrison and mascot J. Slice acted as official race starters for one wave of youth runners.

“The Kids Run fosters a healthy family lifestyle. To that end, NWPB is sponsoring five 'Jump with Jill' shows — a music-based health program — next spring for five local schools that had the most participation and won the ‘Healthy School Award,’” Barlow said.

During the event, watermelon queens met with families and handed out 1,200 pounds of fresh watermelon slices while distributing recipe cards, coloring sheets and stickers. At the Mascot Games, J. Slice joined the Marine Corps’ bulldogs Miles and Molly and others to compete in the 100-yard dash.

Known as the “People’s Marathon” and the third-largest marathon in the United States, more than 30,000 athletes participated in the Marine Corps Marathon this year. On Sunday at the MCM Finish Festival in Rosslyn, VA, NWPB served 20,000 samples of refreshing watermelon to athletes and their supporters.

“At the end of a grueling race, watermelon not only puts smiles on people’s faces, it supplies needed fluids and restores important electrolytes and nutrients,” Barlow said in the release.

“It’s very rewarding to supply finishers and veterans with watermelon at the end of a job well done," Don Hiller, NWA president and The Class Produce supplier, said in the release. "We cut up 30 bins of product this year — and it was all gratefully accepted.”  

Many runners consider watermelon the perfect post-race food. Several regional watermelon grower organizations have picked up on the opportunity to tout watermelon’s restorative, hydrating properties and sponsor local runs.

Keynote speakers urge the produce industry to look ahead

ANAHEIM, CA — Thinking ahead and not trying to imitate past successes was the common theme of the two breakfast keynote speakers during the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit, held Oct. 17-19, here.

Complacency, repetition and protecting what you have achieved are three “traps” that businesses fall into, admonished Jeremy Gutsche, founder of and the main speaker at the Oct. 18 general session.

The biggest marketing mistake companies make is not “marketing in the year we live in,” Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of Vaynermedia, said at the Oct. 18, general session.

The message during each of their hour-long presentations was that if you are not looking at what’s coming next and act upon it, you are doomed to fail.

Gutsche said some of the best, and even most forward-thinking companies, have failed because they were too busy protecting their current niche to create a new one. In fact, he spoke of several companies, such as typewriter icon Smith-Corona, who actually guessed right about the future but then fell into protection mode, and instead of innovating it reinvested in its core business before eventually failing.  

Smith-Corona developed a word processor well before anyone else, but the company’s senior management decided it wasn’t going to catch on and it stuck with the typewriter, largely because it was successful and was the company’s cash cow, Gutsche indicated.

He said a successful company has to be willing to destroy last year’s success and focus on the next success. “You have to break free from your past success,” he said.  

He told the crowd to carefully look for opportunities and scour the world for new ideas. His message was that the opportunist is often successful.

Gutsche, whose still-short life has resulted in several huge successes, said most “competitors are lazy,” so the road to success is lightly traveled.

Vaynerchuk’s message was similar but his method of delivery was a bit more abrupt. He constantly told the audience that there was a lot of wasted effort and resources being spent out there as more than 90 percent of marketing dollars are misspent, according to this man who made Forbes’ list of powerful CEOs under 40.  

He told the crowd that he had spent considerable time looking at how the produce industry markets its products — and for the most part he found it to be lacking. He told the crowd of what he perceived to be business owners to take control of their own communications to the end-users. Do not leave it up to retailers, he advised.

Vaynerchuk said we are living in during the biggest communication shift in the world, adding that the Internet and social media enable companies to have intimate interactions with the end-users.

For example, he told the audience that during a five-minute period that morning, 10,000 people around the globe had said something about apples on Twitter. Not one of those tweets, he said, was followed by a message from an apple company.

He believes these are lost opportunities for companies to be interacting with consumers and telling their own story.  

Vaynerchuk said at least once a day every company should be searching Twitter to see what is being said about their product or their company, and they should be responding.  

But he said if you are going to respond, it is important to be truthful and put information out there that is consumer centric, not just propaganda about your firm.

He advised, however, against hiring the closest 23-year-old to run the social media department. Remember, he said, “they use the internet to hook up!”

Because most companies are not forward-thinking, Vaynerchuk believes they are “massively vulnerable” to being replaced by a firm more in tune with what’s going on today. Most people, “make decisions based on how they want it to be rather than how it is,” he said.

Seemingly speaking of many consumer products, Vaynerchuk said fragmentation is at an all-time high and questioned whether mainstream media is reaching the masses anymore. He was especially critical of television advertising, asking for a show of hands of how many people watch television shows via a box or some other delayed method and then fast forward through the commercials.  

Most in the audience said they do, which led the speaker to opine that television advertising is grossly overpriced. He also discounted the influence and price of free standing inserts as an advertising mode.

Vaynerchuk opened his speech rattling off his own many accomplishments but then asked how many people had heard of him. Few had, which made his point that connecting with people through traditional mainstream media is not effective.

He concluded his talk stating that a company might have the best message, but before they can tell it to the right person they have to find him.