Recently we gathered together to share notes, sample food and be inspired about the world of produce. Southeastern Produce Council’s Southern Exposure never disappoints on any level. With the fun, energy, and passion surrounding produce, SEPC’s Southern Exposure provides the perfect setting for all of us to share and compare our own missions, goals and hopes in produce. Of course, this is before the outbreak hit, and we were lucky to be together without the knowledge of what would be around the corner.
With that said, I want to share what is the most important thing that I always take away from attending the Southern Exposure in Tampa, Florida, and being around the members of the SEPC.
It is is that they treat the whole industry like family, and it has heart. The people at the top know the names of everyone, they are supportive, and they are invested on an emotional level in the well-being of everyone in the industry. That’s why I always feel like this event is like a family reunion of sorts, and I’m grateful to be a part of this family, a family that shares its love and its fruits of their labor (and even veggies!), with us all.
So, I want to highlight some of the fun and education that was experienced by all. We saw new products that would be hitting the shelves, new varieties of foods that would be exciting and different. Plus, a connection to the food and how it is grown. I'm always inspired to be more healthy, eat more of these delicious foods once I know who is actually behind these amazing foods I see in grocery stores all of the time, and I am motivated to share my passion with others - like you!
The women always join together for a special luncheon via Southern Roots, where the women of produce get together to discuss our own challenges and hopes as a minority trying to carve out our own platform and space in the world - a world typically dominated by men.
As Bob Dylan said, however, ‘times are a-changin’.” And they are. More women have joined the farming and food operations and they’re making an impact. The room used to be just about a dozen or so, and this year there was about 10x that. Southern Roots has been working hard to share a voice of unified women's interests to make sure that agriculture, produce specifically, has influence and input by us women. We see it transforming more and more every year, and these luncheons provide a chance for us all to compare notes and make sure that we’re being heard. And seen.
Our fearless female speaker Colette Carlson was so fun, and she reminded us all through humor and laughter that we often are overburdening ourselves with so many tasks, so many activities, so many stressors, that it’s no wonder that we’re spent at the end of the day. And having to care for our family and in most cases, children. Only having a dog to tend to, I tip my hat to these superwomen, but she reminded us that we do need to know our own boundaries. And tap into our own needs. We can’t do everything, and sometimes you just need to know when you’re reaching your max point. And we need to lean on each other for help. Hear that? All of you SUPERWOMEN, UNITE!
Our guest keynote speaker here was on the other side of the spectrum, a football coach, and he was marvelous! Former NFL player turned NFL Coach Tony Dungy reminded us that you can treat the people that you work with in a respectful way, and yet you can be as close - like family, but even in even tempered and mild, and keep the cool and calm during times of incredible stress and adversity, you can still accomplish what seems like insurmountable goals in a way that's even tempered and mild, and still rise to the challenge. You don’t have to yell and holler and act out, you can still lead and coach with an even keel. “Your only job as a coach is to help your players play better and to help them be better people,” said Dungy. That’s especially good to remember when given these uncertain times, as it is our humanity and support of one another that will get us through. It's how you treat people that really makes a difference in their lives.
This is another reason why I’m so grateful to be a part of this industry, because I’m standing alongside the people not only of the Southeastern Produce Council, but also the members that are working so hard in their different produce companies, working overtime to be here for us all and keep the grocery stores stocked. As Dan Davis of Starr Ranch Growers said, “we are all working to feed the need, and to make sure the American public has what they need to stay healthy.”
AMEN to that. XO - Farm Star Mary