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Southern Exposure 2018 ready for Tampa, FL, ‘where produce is king’

The Southeast Produce Council is getting “all shook up” over Southern Exposure 2018: “Where Produce Is King,” its annual conference and expo set to take place March 1-3 in Tampa, FL.

As always, Southern Exposure will be packed with events both educational and entertaining, including the Tom Page Golf Tournament, three workshops, the Southern Roots luncheon, the opening gala, the keynote luncheon, the trade show and the Gator Rock Closing Reception.SE18-Gator

A very big crowd is expected for this year’s event, and a few events (like the golf tournament and the expo) have been sold out for some time, according to David Sherrod, the council’s president and chief executive officer.

Following a board of directors meeting and VIP dinner Wednesday, Feb. 28, Southern Exposure kicks off the following morning with the Tom Page Golf Tournament (which is named for one of the founders of the council) at the Saddlebrook Country Club, about 20 minutes from the Tampa Convention Center. There were 288 golfers registered for the sold-out tournament, Sherrod told The Produce News on Jan. 18.

The STEP-UPP & STARS Dinner will be held Thursday evening at the TopGolf entertainment and recreational center for those involved in two of the councils programs: the Southeast Training Education Program for Upcoming Produce Professionals, and the Southeast Top Agricultural Recruits Scholarship program.

On Friday morning, March 1, Dan’l Mackey Almy, president and CEO of DMA Solutions, will address the STARS breakfast.

Three educational workshops are scheduled to take place after that.

The first, Fresh from the Farm Field Trips, will take place from 8 a.m. to 9:15 a.m., with virtual visits to the farms of B&W Quality Growers, Florida Classic Growers, Nickey Gregory Co. LLC and Robinson Fresh. Speakers will be Michael Jenks of ReedTMS as the “Elvis tour guide,” along with Todd Gosule of B&W Quality Growers, Al Finch of Florida Classic Growers, Andrew Scott of Nickey Gregory Co. and Michael Castagnetto of Robinson Fresh.

In the second workshop, from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., SEPC is providing the platform for the presentation of Food Marketing Institute’s “The Power of Produce.” Rick Stein of FMI will moderate the session, with Anne-Marie Roerink of 210 Analytics LLC as presenter plus panelists Monica Garnes of Kroger, Jacob Krempel of HelloFresh and John Ruane of Giant/Martins.

The third workshop, from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., is titled “Connecting the Dots: Traceability & Transparency through Blockchain Technology,” with speakers Brendan Solan of Driscoll’s, Brigid McDermot of IBM, Frank Yiannas of Walmart and Melanie Nuce of GS1-U.S.

The Southern Roots luncheon will take place on a cruise from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on the Yacht StarShip, boarding at noon. Southern Roots is the council’s leadership program for women, chaired by Stephanie Hilton of Tom Lange Co. Grace Killelea of Grace Killelea Consulting, who “mixes honesty with humor to provide advice on leadership development, personal branding and professional development,” notes the SEPC website, will speak at this luncheon.

Next up from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. will be the LINKS Summit. LINKS, an acronym for Learning, Interaction & Networking with Key Players in the Supply chain, is an educational leadership program where exceptional, qualified individuals in the grower-shipper community connect with retail-foodservice providers in the Southeast.

This “pilot program” is also designed to “keep the lines of communications open” between the two segments of the produce industry,” explained Sherrod.

Also, the STARS Cocktails & Careers, which Sherrod described as a “mini job fair,” will be held (by invitation only) from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. for the 12 STARS scholarship recipients. Sherrod estimated that 15-20 “progressive produce firms with hiring capability” were expected to take part.

“The main goal is to retain top talent,” he stated. “We’re concerned about these students, and we want to help them find jobs. We need to retain these people for our industry. We’re excited about that.”

The annual Produce for Kids reception (by invitation only) will be held from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., and the retail/foodservice reception (also by invitation only) will take place from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The opening gala, from 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., will conclude the day’s activities.

On Saturday, the keynote luncheon will take place from 10 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Dave Stornetta, who was instrumental in helping establish the Southeast Produce Council’s vision and mission statement, will receive the Terry Vorhees Lifetime Achievement Award during the luncheon.

John Mackey, co-founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, will deliver the keynote address during the luncheon, and Alison Kosik, business and general assignments correspondent for CNN, will be the moderator.

The ribbon-cutting for the trade show is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. As of late January, there were 270 booths signed up for the sold-out trade show, which will take place from 12:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., according to Sherrod.

Southern Exposure 2018 will conclude with the Gator Rock Closing reception, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.