March 2019 - 12

Food safety critical topic at SE Regional event
By Samantha T. Kilgore and Ellie Watson
Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers
The 2019 SE Regional Fruit and Vegetable
Conference welcomed more than 3,400
members of the fruit and vegetable industry
to Savannah, Georgia for its annual event.
" We are pleased with the continued
attendance for this event, " said Aries
Haygood, president of the Georgia Fruit &
Vegetable Growers Association (GFVGA).
" After a year like we had in 2018, it is
encouraging to see our growers come to
Savannah and start their year with more
education and more resources, ready to
move forward from a really hard year. "
The conference, coordinated and
sponsored by GFVGA and the South
Carolina Peach Council, was held over three
days at the Savannah International Trade
and Convention Center. From Thursday
through Saturday afternoon, SE Regional
offered 13 different commodity and
production sessions totaling more than 70
hours of education.
Session topics included specific
commodities like blueberries,
blackberries, raspberries, muscadines,
peaches, strawberries and vegetables, and
also vital operation topics like business
operations, food safety, roadside markets
and organic production.
Beth Oleson, GFVGA director
of education and food safety, said
conference educational coordinators
continue to bring top tier speakers to
each session based on relevant needs
of the industry. " These land grant
Extension and research state specialists
work to create applicable educational
conferences that address specific issues
on the farm and in packing facilities. "
The SE Regional conference continues
to be such a gathering place for produce
industry growers that allied organizations
often co-locate their meetings during this
event. This year, those included the Produce
* Shane Curry, agricultural
Extension agent in Appling
County, Great American
Publishing's Fruit + Vegetable 40
Under 40 Award.
* Bhabesh Dutta, UGA assistant
professor of Vegetable Pathology,
Great American Publishing's Fruit
+ Vegetable 40 Under 40 Award.
* Drew Echols, co-owner of
Jaemor Farms, Great American
Publishing's Fruit + Vegetable 40
Under 40 Award.
Despite the inability of several speakers with federal ties being unable to appear at the Southeast
Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference due to the temporary government shutdown, many
sessions attracted a full house. Photo: SE Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference
Safety Alliance Grower Training Course
and the North American Raspberry and
Blackberry Association's annual conference.
" Having allied organizations co-locating
at SE Regional provides great opportunities
to extend the educational experience
for attendees outside of production and
handling issues, business operations and
food safety, " Oleson said.
The Produce Safety Alliance Grower
Training course
satisfied the FSMA
Produce Safety
Rule requirement
112.22(c) that
requires " At least
one supervisor or
responsible party
for your farm must
have successfully
completed food
safety training at
least equivalent to that received under
standardized curriculum recognized
as adequate by the Food and Drug
Administration. "
" Food safety continues to be a very
overwhelming topic to growers, packers
and shippers, " Oleson said. " They have
to consider buyer requirements, audit
requirements and now requirements
coming out of the Food Safety
Modernization Act and rules. We must be
sure we take advantage of growers' time
here in Savannah to provide relevant,
needed training. Being able to partner
with the Produce Safety Alliance allows us
to address a regulatory need affecting the
whole industry. "
Other commodity session speakers
included specialists and top researchers
from the University of Georgia (UGA),
North Carolina State University, University
of Florida and several others.
Special guests in attendance included
USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, U.S.
Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Georgia, and
state commissioners of agriculture Gary
Black (Georgia) and Hugh Weathers
(South Carolina).
In addition to education, industry leaders
were recognized at the annual awards
breakfast. Those recognized included:
Joe Watson, South Carolina peach
grower at Jerrold A. Watson &
Sons, Mr. Peach Award.
* Timothy Coolong, associate professor
of horticulture for the University of
Georgia, Donnie H. Morris Award
for Excellence in Extension.
* Beth Oleson, GFVGA Director of
Education and Food Safety, Great
American Publishing's Fruit +
Vegetable 40 Under 40 Award.
* Troy Bland, Chief of Operations
at Bland Farms, Produce Business
Magazine's 40 Under 40.
* Laureen Dees, Sales and Marketing
Manager at Generation Farms,
Produce Business Magazine's 40
Under 40.
* Brandon Parker, Sales Manager
for Shuman Produce, Produce
Business Magazine's 40 Under 40.
* Natalie Adan, Georgia Department
of Agriculture Food Safety
Division Director, Elliot O.
Grosvenor Food Safety Award.
The 2020 SE Regional event will be held
once again in Savannah next Jan. 9-12.
GFVGA is a trade association
representing farmers, packers and
shippers producing fruits and vegetables
in the southeastern United States. The
organization provides a viable and united
voice to represent the industry. Through
support for educational programs,
agricultural research, member services and
marketing activities.
The South Carolina Peach Council is an
association of growers, packers, researchers,
allied industry, and produce buyers who
seek to protect and advance the production
and marketing of peaches in South
Carolina. VGN
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March 2019

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