GREENSBORO, NC -- The Southeast Produce Council raised $85,000 to help two organizations at its third annual Terry Vorhees Charity Golf Classic, held May 17-19 at the Grandover Resort & Conference Center, here. The two beneficiaries, which each received $42,500, were the Produce for Better Health Foundation and Victory Junction.
About 175 registered for the event, according to SEPC Executive Director David Sherrod. The event honored the memory of Mr. Vorhees, the Southeast Produce Council's first executive director and one of its founders, who died July 30, 2014.
Following a meeting of the SEPC board of directors Wednesday morning, May 18 and the opening luncheon, SEPC President Mark Daniels of Mountain King Potatoes welcomed attendees to a PBH workshop entitled State of the Plate: America's Consumption of Fruit & Vegetables.
PBH President Elizabeth Pivonka talked about the role that fruits and vegetables play in fighting a variety of health concerns, especially hypertension, heart disease and strokes. She also showed a short video that provided information about the foundation.
Pivonka, who has been integrally involved with the foundation's efforts since it began in 1991, said that it was important to "motivate people to eat more fruits and vegetables because it matters to their health." The foundation does this "by working with industry, consumer influencers and thought leaders to encourage them to be advocates for fruits and vegetables and the Fruits & Veggies — More Matters Program."
She also said, "We must always focus on the needs of women," since women still do the majority of the meal planning, shopping, preparing and cleanup. Among the other subjects that Pivonka discussed were consumer demographics and how they have changed over the years and continue to change, the future of fruits and vegetables and the population effect.
On the topic of what to focus on next, she offered four ideas: reposition fruits and vegetables, cross promote, remember pricing strengths and advance away-from-home opportunities.
That evening, following a silent auction and live auction to help in the process of raising money, Mark Schumacher, chief development officer at Victory Junction, told attendees a little about his organization, a camp for kids with serious medical conditions based in Randleman, NC.
Built in 2004, its formation was spearheaded by the well-known Petty family (of racecar fame) after 19-year-old Adam Petty tragically lost his life in a racing accident. Adam's father, Kyle, is very involved in Victory Junction, and met with golfers prior to the tournament Thursday morning.
The winning foursome in the golf tournament, with a score of 60, were Scott Fisher of Food Lion, Ryan Sugrue of Robinson Fresh, Doug Johnson of Robinson Fresh and Chris Elmer of Del Monte Fresh Produce Co.
"This event has been as much of a blessing to us as it is to the organizations that receive the money," Sherrod told The Produce News at the conclusion of the event. "I'm humbled by the support we get from our sponsors."
However, as the Southeast Produce Council continues to fine-tune its events, the board of directors voted in Greensboro to discontinue the Terry Vorhees Golf Classic as a standalone event, Sherrod announced.
Starting at the council's Southern Innovations Symposium this fall, the Terry Vorhees Golf Classic will be rolled into the existing Ken Lanhardt Memorial Golf Tournament in a tentatively named Founders Memorial Golf Classic, which will honor Mr. Vorhees and Mr. Lanhardt, both of whom were instrumental in the founding of the Southeast Produce Council back in 1999.
The 2016 Southern Innovations Symposium will be held Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 at the Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, VA.
Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers will see another early start of its stone fruit season, which much like 2015’s will kick off with tree-ripened apricots from Gilbert Orchards on June 1. The apricots will go through early August, according to Scott Marboe, director of marketing at Wenatchee, WA-based OSRG.
"The new apricot crop looks to be close to last year’s statewide,” Marboe said in mid-May. “Here at Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers we are expecting a 15 percent increase in our crop due to new production, and we’re looking ahead to the peak windows to set up promotions as volumes ramp up.”
Marboe said the apricots have a smaller profile this season, and he noted, “That provides good opportunities on the 12/1# pouch. We’ll start with the Robada, which is a high-color apricot, and follow with the later Gourmet variety, also a great high-color piece of fruit.”
Demand is anticipated to be good following California’s crop, which was down by 25 percent. The California season is wrapping up a week earlier than normal, and Marboe said, “We’re expecting a small gap between the end of their apricots and the first shipments of our crop — an indication the Washington market should be strong through the first two weeks until the pipeline is full.
“Our organic apricot season will start around June 5 and we should have good volume until the June 20,” Marboe said, adding that organic apricots will be available through July 1.
“Washington’s organic market will also be strong as California will be finished, and there should be a five- to seven-day gap before Washington starts production,” he said.
This week Meijer opened new 192,000-square-foot supercenters in Evansville, IN, and Owensboro, KY. The stores are the first of nine new Meijer supercenters to open -- and part of an investment of more than $400 million in new and remodeled stores -- this year, which will create 3,000 new jobs across the Grand Rapids, MI-based retailer’s six-state footprint.
With more than 40 stores located throughout Indiana and Kentucky, the new stores are built to Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design standards and will be open 24 hours a day. The supercents offer more than 600 varieties of farm-fresh produce.
“Investing in Evansville and Owensboro was an easy decision for us,” Hank Meijer, chief executive officer, said in a press release. “We’re excited to serve new friends and neighbors. We’re looking forward to working with both communities and growing alongside the families of the tri-state area.”
Opening celebrations began with a ribbon-cutting event at each store, followed by remarks from Meijer leadership and local officials. The stores also demonstrated their commitment to the community by making donations to local organizations. Store Director Kelly Agler presented $25,000 to the Goodfellows Club of Owensboro to provide funding for local children in need. Evansville Store Director Gordon Venema presented $25,000 to the Tri-State Food Bank, an organization dedicated to the fight against hunger that helps provide more than 8 million pounds of food each year in 33 counties in Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky.
As part of its ongoing community support, Meijer donates more than 6 percent of its net profit to charitable organizations annually, and each of its stores works with local food pantries and banks to help fight hunger at the local level. Since 2008, the retailer’s Simply Give program has generated more than $21 million for its food pantry partners throughout the Midwest.
“Our teams have exceeded expectations every step of the way as we prepared for these openings,” Meijer President Rick Keyes said in the release. “Our No. 1 priority is to serve customers, so we’re ready to provide our neighbors in Owensboro and Evansville the shopping experience they deserve.”
US Foods has agreed to acquire Freshway Foods, a fresh fruit and vegetable processor, repacker and distributor serving customers throughout the eastern half of the United States. The transaction is expected to close June 10. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Established in 1988, Freshway Foods is owned by brothers Phil Gilardi and Frank Gilardi and is based in Sidney, OH. The company has built a strong reputation for providing value-added fresh-cut produce that includes the cutting, cleaning, chopping and packaging of raw produce resulting in a product that can be customized to meet any customer’s preferences and delivered ready for immediate use.
In addition, Freshway Foods has established a robust farm-to-fork food-safety approach that ensures food-safety compliance from the grower through consumption.
US Foods will be keeping the Freshway Foods building open and said it is pleased to welcome its employees to US Foods.
“We are very excited about this new partnership with US Foods,” the Gilardi brothers said in a press release. “Since we started this business, our success has been built upon our commitment to our associates and our customers and we are looking forward to the next chapter for Freshway Foods as part of a well established and reputable company like US Foods.”
Bloomberg News reported May 19 that the Mexican peso slid 6.7 percent in value against the dollar and is down 18 percent in the past 12 months. On May 20, 18.4 pesos were trading for one U.S. dollar, nearly matching a low of 18.9 in early February. But the peso has generally been on a slide since early 2012.
For the Mexican fresh produce trade, the falling peso is mixed news for their business.
Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, based in Nogales, AZ, noted that Mexican growers who borrowed in pesos at the beginning of the season and then are paid in dollars do well when repaying their debt in pesos. Of course, depending on growers’ early-season currency strategy, the reverse might also have happened.
Jungmeyer said the declining peso makes an investment in Mexican agriculture more appealing to those who may be eyeing expansion in Mexico, such as California growers.
Omar Cabrera, president of Nogales-based Agri Packing, which exports packaging materials and a plethora of other inputs to Mexican growers, said a declining peso would affect his export business because Mexican manufacturers would become more price-attractive.
“But, there is not a lot of (packaging) manufacturing there,” he said, adding that while Mexican packaging prices may be lower, those companies have a difficult time competing with his quality.
There are so many trade-offs regarding agriculture and exporting to the U.S., Cabrera said. “I’d say the growers are in good shape.”
There was a time when the Mexican export deal would be winding down in May, making exchange rate discussions now mostly a moot point. But the industry’s calendar has greatly expanded and this is no longer the case.
On May 19, Cabrera said that the Mexican deal is still going strong in Nogales.
“There are still all the grapes coming in May and June,” he said. “And now Nogales is full of squash, cucumbers, late [Bell] peppers and hot peppers. I even saw eggplant the other day. We have organics, watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe.”