Page 89 - January_2019
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‘If you want to work with students, you have to give them absolute freedom ... We have to get out of our boxes.’
— Nic Jooste, Cool Fresh International
For produce professionals with less than  ve years in the industry, participating in the Foundational Excellence program is like getting a mini-Ivy League education in one day. Every year since 2015, professors from Cornell University’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management have spent the  rst day of the New York Produce Show and Conference updating future produce specialists on current trends.
“I enjoyed the entire show and all of the forums,” says Sophie Calhoun, who works at Markon Cooperative’s customer service division in Salinas, CA. “As for the Foun- dational Excellence program, Ed McLaugh- lin’s presentation on Amazon’s segue into the food/produce industry really stood out. He was a very engaging speaker, and I appreciated his emphasis on audience interaction.”
New York Produce Show founder Jim Prevor, who moderated the program, said the day is also an opportunity to network. Calhoun, 26, took his advice, feeling priv- ileged for the opportunity to spend time with her company’s president, Tim York, who sat on several panels during the show.
In between the lectures, industry profes- sionals formed a panel in which each person told stories, offered advice and answered questions.
Hannah Caswell, 27, received lots of guidance from industry professionals who were “very helpful and excited to talk to the next generation of the produce
industry. Many individuals offered to give me a tour around their facilities or farms, so I could have a deeper understanding of the industry from seed to store.”
Caswell, associate sales and marketing manager for AeroFarms in Newark, NJ, was impressed with the presentations from the Cornell professors. “It is a great way to understand the macro trends in the produce industry and future implications.”
As one of 14 members of the Eastern Produce Council’s (EPC) young leadership division, Caswell feels fortunate to have attended the session. “Today’s content was relatable to my current jobs, and I can directly apply my learnings to current plans and future strategies for my companies.”
Each year, the EPC chooses a new crop of industry up-and-comers. “The bene t of the Foundational Excellence program is that it is aligned with our program’s target audience,” says Susan McAleavey Sarlund, executive director of the Eastern Produce Council. “The EPC’s Leadership Program is aimed at future leaders with 10 years or less in the produce industry, so it meshes with Foundational Excellence’s mission. The professors who run the program are used to dealing with younger people, so their approach speaks to that generation.”
Participants listened to lectures from Kristen Park, who spoke about the role of fresh produce in the U.S. food system; McLaughlin, who educated the audience about omni-channel and its changing
effects on produce; Brad Rickard, who addressed key consumer trends and issues for food retailers; Rod Hawkes, who talked about how economics, opportunities and trends can affect the produce world; and Bill Drake, who spoke about career devel- opment and leadership.
“Having come from the farming side of the produce industry, I tend to be produc- tion-focused,” says Silas Conroy, 33, supply chain manager at Headwater Food Hub in Ontario, NY. “This program was helpful in making me more customer-focused. I learned about consumer preferences and the issues and trends that are increasingly affecting the end-user.”

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