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epc4480CARLSTADT, NJ — As it has for decades, the South Carolina Department of Agriculture hosted the April dinner meeting of the Eastern Produce Council.

The meeting, held Tuesday evening, April 25, at Il Villaggio, here, was the 46th year that South Carolina has sponsored an EPC meeting, according to EPC President Vic Savanello, senior director of produce and floral at Allegiance Retail Services LLC. "That's just outstanding," he said in his welcoming remarks to the well-attended meeting.

Kurt Zuhlke (center) of Kurt Zuhlke & Associates with Joe Atchison and Tom Beaver of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.

Martin Eubanks, the state's assistant commissioner of agriculture, was the emcee for the state's presentation.

Lori Anne Carr of Titan Farms spoke about peaches, noting that the severe mid-March freeze in parts of the state would mean a sharp reduction in production. She said that there would be "little to no volume in May, limited volume in June," and "shippable volume" in late July and August. "We hope to come back strong next year," she stated.

Kori Davis of Jerrold A. Watson & Sons LLC spoke about vegetables. Gilbert Miller of Clemson University and president of the South Carolina Watermelon Association spoke about melons, saying that while "there's a lot of time between now and harvest, the crop is looking very good this year." Matt Cornwell, a marketing specialist with the SCDA, spoke about merchandising.

In a longstanding tradition at the April meeting, Eubanks introduced the EPC's new directors and slate of officers. Savanello begins his second two-year term as president; Marianne Santo of Wakefern Food Corp. begins her second two-year term as first vice president; George Moskal of GVM Consulting begins his first term as second vice president; and Rob Goldstein of Genpro Inc. begins his first term as treasurer. The office of secretary is currently vacant.

OppyAUSTIN, TX -- The Texas International Produce Association held its third annual Viva Fresh Expo at the Hilton Austin & Convention Center in Austin, TX, April 20-22. This year the exhibitor space was maximized to 178 booths, with a waiting list of about 40.

Bret Erickson, outgoing president and CEO of the Texas International Produce Association, with Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Fresh Produce Association of Americas, and Dante Galeazzi TIPA's new president and CEO.

IMG 8775SUFFERN, NY -- In 2006, Roxanne Watson felt a slight twinge in her back while at work. Thinking it was nothing more than a pulled muscle, she carried on with life.

But after six weeks, the twinge was still there, prompting Watson to consult her physician.

"He asked me when I had first felt the pain, and I told him six weeks earlier," she said. "He replied, 'You had a heart attack then.'"

Incredulous, Watson tried to get back to work, but was too weak. She sought advanced cardiac care in New York City and learned that her heart was failing and she would eventually need a transplant.

The Big Idaho Potato Truck was a popular highlight of the organ donor awareness drive, held April 18 on the campus of Rockland Community College in Suffern, NY.

In July of 2010, after 104 days in the hospital, Watson received the gift of life when 23-year-old Michael Blain Bovill, a Coast Guard cadet, was killed in a motorcycle accident. Watson received the young man's heart, while four other patients received his lungs, kidneys and liver.

Watson knew she wanted to give back, and just nine days after receiving her new heart, she did her first donor awareness event. Eleven months later, she met Bovill's family on "Ask Oprah's All Stars."

Her advocacy for heart disease prevention and organ donation took yet another turn four years ago when she saw a television commercial for the Idaho Potato Commission's Big Idaho Potato Truck. She contacted the commission and learned about the annual tour and its charitable component, and pitched the idea of including a stop at Rockland Community College, here, to participate in her 2016 organ donation drive.

"I knew that the IPC was promoting a heart-healthy message, so I contacted them and they said they supported my cause and would come," said Watson.

The first year was a success, said Watson, with 200 people signing on to become organ donors. The truck returned for a second year April 18, delighting the student body and visitors to the campus on a brilliant spring day.

The day featured a baked potato bar, interactions and photo ops with the popular IPC mascot Spuddy Buddy, and the opportunity to learn more about health and wellness, including organ donation.

Many visitors also took the time to sign the Big Helping board, for which the IPC will make a donation of $1 for every signature to Watson's Live On NY organization, up to $500.

"The IPC has been a generous partner, and I look forward to doing this again next year," said Watson. "It's a fun way to bring awareness to an important cause."

4AUSTIN, TX -- The Texas International Produce Association kicked off its third annual Viva Fresh Expo with an opening reception at Maggie Mae's on the iconic Sixth Street in downtown Austin. The reception drew a capacity crowd that feasted on Texas barbecue and live music in a festive setting the evening prior to the expo.

Ed Bertaud of IFCO with Trent and Veronica Bishop of Lone Star Citrus.

pma 4The Produce Marketing Association unleashed the UnConference format at Fresh Connections Retail in Philadelphia April 6, turning the traditional workshop model upside down by allowing participants to determine session topics as well as guiding the individual conversations.

The sold-out event attracted approximately 180 attendees, with its focus on bringing together all parts of the supply chain to dig into industry issues. Fresh Connections Retail kicked off with a networking reception the night before the sessions.

Frank Manfredi, Adam Lewis and Jaclyn Basciani of Manfredi Cold Storage.