Georgia Agriculture Well Represented at PMA Fresh Summit

Abbey Taylor Produce, Top Posts

Several Georgia organizations, associations and growers were represented at the recent PMA Fresh Summit in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Fresh Summit is a great place to mingle with growers, consumers and industry professionals, and Georgia seemed well represented.

Bo Warren, Maggie Hart, Jen Erdmann

The Georgia Grown Pavilion
The Georgia Grown Pavilion is a cooperative effort between the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (GFVGA) and the Georgia Department of Agriculture. According to Charles Hall, executive director of the GFVGA, the pavilion has been at the Fresh Summit for nearly 20 years. “(There’s) great representation here. All our commodities are represented,” he said.

Bo Warren of the Georgia Department of Agriculture raved about the Georgia-grown crop representation in the pavilion. “We’ve got about 6,000 square feet of space representing Georgia’s blueberries, watermelon, peaches, Vidalia onions and pecans — all represented here today,” Warren said.

Cliff Riner and Bob Stafford

Vidalia Onions
Vidalia onions were well represented at the 2017 Fresh Summit. According to Bob Stafford, manager of the Vidalia Onion Committee, the committee’s goal during the event was to release its new logo and slogan. Stafford said the committee is very happy with the new logo. He believes the new slogan, “Only Vidalia,” is strong.

Looking into the next year, Stafford thinks Vidalia onions have a big season ahead of them. “We’re going to be more of a presence this coming year,” he said. He added that the onions will be featured in more retail stores, and he is looking forward to having new varieties.

Will McGehee, a partner of Genuine Georgia Group, represented Georgia peaches at the Fresh Summit. At the booth, McGehee said he was at the Summit to represent the five Georgia farms that are packing peaches: Fitzgerald Fruit Farms, Taylor Orchards, Lane Southern Orchards, Dickey Farms and Pearson Farms.

Brandon Wade

Brandon Wade, president of the Georgia Blueberry Growers Association, attended the Fresh Summit to spread the word about blueberries grown in Georgia. He said not many people know how many blueberries are produced in the state. Now, he is using opportunities like the Fresh Summit to raise awareness. “Georgia is a huge blueberry-growing state, and we want people to know it,” Wade said.

The Georgia Watermelon Association prides itself on being an industry representative and resource in Georgia. Samantha Kilgore, executive director of the Georgia Watermelon Association, believes conferences like the Fresh Summit are great opportunities to connect with others and promote products.

Samantha Killgore

While at the Fresh Summit, Kilgore worked to promote the Georgia watermelon industry and the association’s growers. “We promote our growers so retail distributors can get in touch with them and know the value of Georgia watermelons,” Kilgore explained.

The Georgia Pecan Growers Association attended the PMA Fresh Summit with a specific goal in mind: raise awareness about the health value of pecans. Samantha McLeod, executive director of the Georgia Pecan Growers Association, said that people always think of pecan pie when they think about pecans. However, McLeod and the association are working to broaden the scope of the product. “We want (pecans) to be up there with all the other nuts as a healthy option to put in your kid’s lunch or just grab a handful when you’re out running on the road,” McLeod said.

Samantha McLeod

McLeod added the association was also attending the Fresh Summit to promote Georgia pecan growers. She said she talked to many retailors about Georgia pecans to try to get them on the shelves. Although McLeod’s goal was to promote the health value of pecans, she also realizes the market in the bakery industry. “We’re talking to a lot of people who work directly with high-end bakeries who are looking for a high-end nut. With Georgia being the number-one producer of pecans in the United States, we have some of the highest quality nuts in the United States. So, we’re really sought out by those high-end bakeries,” McLeod concluded.

About the Author

Abbey Taylor

Editor of VSCNews magazine and farm broadcaster

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