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NYAA says this year’s storage apple condition is ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’

Stored apple conditions in New York state are excellent this year, according to Jim Allen, president of the New York Apple Association, who said the fruit is moving quickly to the marketplace.

“It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy,” said Allen. “When fruit quality is good and markets are good, the fruit moves before quality can start to suffer. That’s what we’re seeing this year.”

Allen explained that apple trees generally don’t mind cold temperatures, and growers see problems when weather anomalies occur.Winter-Orchard-NYAA-2016Although New York apple trees look barren, the NYAA is not taking a break from its marketing and promotional initiatives.

“We have not had a normal winter this year,” said Allen. “The cold temperatures came on suddenly rather than gradually. It’s too early to tell if we’ll have any long-term issues with the coming crop.”

He added that this was a topic of conversation at NYAA’s winter board meeting, where growers adopted a wait-and-see attitude.

New York currently has between 550 and 600 primary apple producers, a count that has held steady over recent years.

“We are seeing more young folks coming back to their family businesses, which is a good sign,” said Allen. “And they aren’t afraid to take industry leadership positions. Three of these young leaders now serve on New York Apple Association’s board of directors.”

Apple acreage in New York has reportedly declined a bit in recent years, but Allen said that statistics indicating this are also deceiving. In fact, production is increasing across the state as growers replace older, bigger and less productive trees with high-density plantings.

“There is a lot of technology involved in orchards these days,” Allen pointed out. “New orchard systems get to commercial bearing age sooner and are more productive per acre. New York state produces an average of 29.5 [million] to 30 million bushels, and that average is nudging up over time as our orchards become more productive.”

He said it is also clear that there is a lot of optimism, as every grower he speaks with has new trees on order. The New York apple industry, Allen emphasized, is definitely growing.

Although it is the middle of winter and New York apple trees look barren and chilly, the NYAA is not taking pause of its always-aggressive marketing and promotional initiatives, which Molly Zingler, director of marketing, oversees with a keen eye.

“Just like in the fall, we continue to work directly with a number of retailers who are particularly supportive of New York state,” said Zingler. “We offer traditional retail support such as customized point-of-sale materials, as well as newer tools like online couponing and digital content. We’ve found that the best thing that keeps retail momentum going is high quality fruit. New York apples sell themselves, which is, after all, why we’re called the ‘Big Apple.’”

Allen further noted that the market this year is more orderly than last year. There is less pressure because growers in the west have a manageable crop, which helps to create a more favorable market for everyone.

Like every category of fresh produce, apple growers are faced with challenges such as minimum wage, H2A program changes, federal immigration reform, the Food Safety Modernization Act and export challenges.

“It isn’t getting any easier to be in the apple business in New York or anywhere else in the United States, that’s for sure,” stressed Allen. “Here in New York, our governor is pushing for a $15 per hour minimum page, which would be a huge burden for our labor-intensive apple industry.

“One grower told me that H2A program changes are going to cost his business $40,000 more to access the same migrant workers he’s been using for 40 years,” he continued. “Our growers do what they do because they want to farm, not fill out government paperwork. More and more barriers are being raised just to sell apples at the same price because we can’t pass those costs on to retailers or consumers.”

PBH names Green Giant Fresh a 2015 Role Model

Green Giant Fresh has been named a 2015 Role Model by Produce for Better Health for its support of the Fruits & Veggies More Matters brand and national health campaign.greengiant

According to PBH, these efforts helped contribute to an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption, which in turn helps improve the health of America.

Today’s consumers are label-readers and eager to learn more about what they’re eating and serving to their children, and how it will affect their overall health. In an effort to regularly help time-starved parents with usage ideas and recipes for their different vegetables and value-added products and vegetable blends, Green Giant Fresh packages features on-pack information and recipes.

“The nutritional features and benefits of our premium fresh vegetables are a natural part of our messaging,” Jennifer Fancher, vice president of marketing for Salinas, CA-based Green Giant Fresh, said in a press release. “But we also feel a great responsibility to help consumers understand the versatility of vegetables and the easy swaps that can be made to improve the overall nutritional value of dishes while eliminating some fat, calories and starches.”

Fancher continued, “Providing preparation suggestions and tips is an important step for us in continually innovating healthful products, and we always encourage our consumers to be imaginative and create their own in-home culinary masterpieces with our peeled, cut, chopped or prepared products that help eliminate prep, mess and clean up.”

New member named to BJ’s board of directors

BJ’s Wholesale Club Inc. has announced that Robert Steele will join its board of directors, effective March 24. Steele currently serves on an advisory board for CVC Capital Partners, which with Leonard Green & Partners are the principal owners of BJ’s.

Prior to joining CVC, Steele served as vice chairman of global health and well-being at Procter & Gamble Co. from  2007 until his retirement in 2011. Robert-SteeleRobert Steele

Steele brings rich industry expertise in his role as an adviser to CVC. “I am thrilled to have an executive of Rob’s talent and experience joining our Board,” Chris Baldwin, BJ’s president and chief executive officer, said in a press release. “I look forward to having the benefit of Rob’s expertise and guidance as we manage BJ’s going forward.”

Steele held numerous leadership positions in his 35 years with P&G, including group president of global household care, group president of North America, vice president North America home care, and a variety of brand management and sales positions. He has served on several boards of directors, including Kellogg Co., Beam Co., and for over 20 years served as a trustee of The St. Joseph Home for Handicapped Children.

In addition to his advisory role at CVC, Steele serves on the boards of directors of Keurig Green Mountain Inc. and Berry Plastics.

PMA Foundation for Industry Talent leaps into 10th anniversary with new name and refreshed mindset

The Produce Marketing Association Foundation for Industry Talent took advantage of Leap Day by announcing that it will be leaping into its milestone 10th anniversary this year by launching a new name, website, logo and an even stronger commitment to the industry’s greatest asset — its people.pmafound

“As we looked at this milestone of our 10th anniversary, we realized the need to sit down, reflect and rebrand,” Leonardi Batti, PMA Foundation chair-elect and president of Taylor Farms Florida, told The Produce News, adding that the Leap Day timing of the announcement was deliberate.

In an effort to revitalize its purpose and mission to encourage more young people to get involved in the fresh produce industry, the PMA Foundation’s Board of Directors have developed a “deep-dive” strategic plan, which led to the rebranding of PMA Foundation as the Center for Growing Talent by PMA.

“We are evolving into the Center for Growing Talent by PMA to better communicate to our industry what we can do for them,” said Dick Spezzano, board chairman for the Center for Growing Talent by PMA and president of Spezzano Consulting Service Inc. “The new name also emphasizes that the strong relationship with PMA continues.”

As part of its overall rebranding efforts, the Center for Growing Talent by PMA is scaling up its “Attract” strategy by increasing its reach to more universities and students; calibrating its “Develop” strategy so that its leadership programs meet the mission and are suitable; and defining its “Retain” strategy by positioning itself to help companies better understand what it takes to keep and advance the right employees.

“Simply put, that means we are pushing the organization to a new level to meet our industry’s ever-growing demands for talent, and to respond to competitive forces that are threatening our industry’s ability to retain our essential people,” said Jim Leimkuhler, the organization’s immediate past chair and Progressive Produce president. “We listened carefully, and are leaning into our industry’s most important priorities — for today and tomorrow.”

The Center for Growing Talent by PMA can now be found online at It is also launching a social media campaign, called the “10 for Talent” challenge, to draw more attention to its revamped brand, and collect donations to help support its mission.

“On the occasion of this group’s 10th anniversary, we are inviting industry members to demonstrate their energy and commitment to talent, both for our industry and for their companies,” said PMA President Cathy Burns. “Our ’10 for Talent’ challenge is a fun and social media-oriented fundraising effort that calls on 10,000 industry members to give $10 each to the Center for Growing Talent by PMA, to fun and accelerate our important work.”

Participants can simply contribute $10 online at or text 10forTalent to 41444. The organization is encouraging people to have fun with the challenge by sporting some orange (the Center for Growing Talent by PMA’s official color) and posting photos to your social media channels, showing that you participated. Photos can be shared on Facebook and LinkedIn; and submitted at for a chance to win a free registration to one of its programs, including PMA Fresh Summit and the Emerging Leaders Program. You can also tweet using the hashtag #10forTalent.

“We are incredibly proud of how far we’ve come in only 10 years, but we aren’t the kind of people to celebrate our anniversary by just sitting back and eating cake,” said Margi Prueitt, executive director for the Center for Growing Talent by PMA. “We’re refreshing our brand, clarifying our messaging, and are ready to meet our industry’s growing talent needs for the next 10 years and beyond.”

Indiana Grown launches program to support local veterans

The Indiana State Department of Agriculture’s Indiana Grown initiative announced the Indiana Grown Homegrown By Heroes program, which gives Hoosiers a new, tangible way to support local veterans with an agriculture business. Gov. Mike Pence will attend the announcement at the Indiana War Memorial and will be joined by Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, ISDA Director Ted McKinney, Executive Director of the Farmer Veteran Coalition Michael O’Gorman and representatives from Indiana Grown.indiana

“Helping our Hoosier veterans, who have selflessly served our state and nation, is a pillar of my administration,” Gov. Pence said in a press release. “As our economy continues to grow, the Homegrown by Heroes program will help ensure that our Hoosier heroes have every opportunity to succeed when they return home from serving our state and nation. After putting their lives on the line for our freedom, helping them achieve success in their civilian affairs is the least we can do.”

The Indiana Grown Homegrown By Heroes program gives local producers who have served in the military the opportunity to use an exclusively designed logo on their business signage and/or product labels. This will help consumers who wish to show their support easily identify products made by Hoosier veterans.

“Indiana Grown is proud of have members of the military as part of the program, and we welcome others to join,” McKinney said in the release. “With this new distinction, we are giving back and supporting those who have served our country, and continue to serve by providing quality agricultural products to Hoosiers.”

Homegrown By Heroes is a national program administered by the Farmer Veteran Coalition and has grown to include more than 250 members in 43 states, including Indiana. The program not only supports members of the military while working to address the veteran unemployment rate, which continues to rest above the national average, but also uplifts the agriculture industry.

“I’m thrilled to be in my home state launching a new chapter of Homegrown By Heroes and celebrating the program partnership with Indiana Grown,” Sara Creech, owner of Blue Yonder Organic Farm, said in the release. “As a veteran and local agriculture business owner, I see great value in the Homegrown By Heroes program and look forward to seeing its impact on my fellow veterans and Indiana Grown members.”

To be eligible for the Indiana Grown Homegrown By Heroes logo, the producer must meet all Indiana Grown membership criteria, as well as the following:

  • Have veteran, active duty, National Guard or Reserve member of the U.S. Armed Forces status, without regard to age or era of duty.
  • Provide a copy of their Department of Defense Form 214 or equivalent.
  • Have characterization of service of Honorable or General (under Honorable conditions).
  • Provide a letter of support from their commanding officer or designated representative attesting to their service under honorable conditions if they are an active duty member.
  • Maintain 50 percent or greater veteran ownership of their business or operation and 50 percent or greater veteran management control.