Celebrating 60 Years!

As many of you are reading this column at Produce Marketing Association’s (PMA) 2009 Fresh Summit International Convention & Exposition, I’ll extend my annual greeting: Welcome, welcome home to Fresh Summit.

The 2009 Fresh Summit marks a particularly noteworthy year, as the fruit and vegetable community gathers after a year spent largely under a cloud of the most difficult economic times in decades. Fortunately, most leading economic experts see this dark cloud beginning to lift, and the economic indicators appear to bear that out.

In my business travels and many conversations with industry leaders across the United States and all around the world, I listen to people share ideas that spur innovation. What I’ve sensed recently is the dawning of brighter days ahead. I’ve also been reminded how the community of fruit and vegetable industry members draws closer and proves even more important in times of crisis. It is this community that sets PMA’s Fresh Summit apart from other fruit and vegetable conventions, making Fresh Summit as much about the trade of ideas, best practices, and relationships as it is about the trade of fresh fruits and vegetables. The intangible value of insights and information shared there is today — and will be increasingly tomorrow — as critical as the products themselves.

As one of the largest international events solely dedicated to fruit, vegetables and floral, this year’s Fresh Summit is expected to draw an estimated 17,000-plus attendees from more than 50 countries spanning the globe. The scope and energy of the Fresh Summit community are astounding. It’s what makes being in Anaheim the best way to stay abreast of so many forces driving this business. So welcome home to the opportunities this convention offers, from business marketing and networking to learning and professional development.

But there’s yet another reason the 2009 Fresh Summit is particularly noteworthy. It’s PMA’s 60th Fresh Summit, and we’re celebrating. But we aren’t celebrating PMA. We’re celebrating you — our members. PMA members and volunteer leaders have helped make it the strong, responsive and growing organization it is today. Yes, I say growing. Because at this 60th Fresh Summit, PMA proudly announces the formation of the association’s first international affiliate: PMA Australia-New Zealand. This affiliate exemplifies PMA’s growth in direct response to member support, feedback, and needs.

PMA A-NZ rises in reply to our Australia/New Zealand Country Council’s request for a stronger and more structured PMA presence in the region. Simply put, the affiliate helps the association better serve its Australia and New Zealand members through enhanced resources and a formal structure. As I told the audience in May at our Fresh Connections conference in Sydney, our partnership is evolving into this next phase because there is no greater common interest for our industry than strengthening the global fresh fruit and vegetable supply chain and building better connections internationally.

PMA A-NZ is independently incorporated in Australia and will serve the entire supply chain, from seed to store to table. The affiliate will be run by an elected board of directors of industry leaders from Australia and New Zealand, offering programs and services targeted for PMA members in those two countries. Thanks to input on a needs-assessment survey given by our members there, the affiliate’s new board already has its main areas of focus, which include networking; global and domestic information and trends; and analysis and response to major issues pressing the industry such as scarce water resources, scarce talent, the impact of the global economic downturn and increasing supply chain costs. PMA truly is thinking globally and acting locally, whether in Australasia or in the United States, where our U.S. Fresh Connections events deliver the benefits of networking, information and business solutions close to home.

Speaking of building better international connection, the Perishable Pundit deserves a bit of credit. It’s wonderful to find his words attracting an increasingly global readership. This expanded readership further connects the world’s fruit and vegetable supply-chain circulates more ideas and best practices and helps strengthen our industry’s community. Let’s also not forget that Produce Business was launched at Fresh Summit more than two decades ago, and its growth has paralleled that of PMA’s flagship gathering.

Regardless of where on the globe you live and do business, you can count on Fresh Summit as your home for a 60-year tradition of business marketing, networking, learning and professional development. As we’ve experienced challenges through this tough economy, Fresh Summit is a place to which we draw closer in crises. It’s where ideas are discovered and developed, and it’s a place where we lay the foundation for a community — a community here at PMA’s Fresh Summit, and a community for our global businesses year-round. Welcome home to Fresh Summit, welcome home to all the support and opportunities this unique community offers during this week and throughout the year.