The Southeast Produce Council will honor Sheila Carden of the National Watermelon Promotion Board with the 2017 Terry Vorhees Lifetime Achievement Award at the council’s Southern Exposure 2017, set for March 9-11 at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort in Orlando, FL.
The award, the council’s highest honor, will be presented during the keynote luncheon and general session on Saturday, March 11. Carden will be the first woman to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.
The award has been presented every year since 2008, beginning with Joe McGee of the L&M Family of Cos., followed by Ferdinand S. Duda of A. Duda & Sons Inc. in 2009; Peter Pero III of Pero Family Farms in 2010; Tommy Irvin, a former Georgia’s commissioner of agriculture, in 2011; Reggie Griffin, retired from The Kroger Co., in 2012; Paul J. DiMare Sr. of DiMare Inc. in 2013; Tom Page, retired from Supervalu, in 2014; Terry Vorhees, SEPC executive director (posthumously) in 2015; and Joe Klare of The Castellini Co. in 2016.
Sheila Lynn Tucker was born May 31, 1951, in Lynchburg, VA, about 100 miles or so from Richmond. She graduated from Henerica High School in Richmond in 1969, then attended the University of Richmond before going to work at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond while still taking classes at the university.
It was at the university where she met Brad Carden. The two were married July 21, 1972. Their son, Corey, was born in 1976, and their daughter, Kelli, was born in 1985. Corey is currently a chef at Salisbury Country Club in Richmond, VA, and Kelli works for the U.S. Department of Defense in Fort Lee, VA. Sheila and Brad have one grandson, Caleb Carden, who was born in 2008.
Sheila has two sisters, Sharon and Brenda; another sister, Barbara, died a number of years ago. Her mother is 96 years old.
Sheila’s first major career move came in the mid-1980s when she and another woman launched Advantage Travel. She maintained this successful business for about 10 years before making a decision that put her on a path to produce. She began to assist her father, who was the head produce buyer for Richfood Inc., a cooperative that supplied produce and other food products to retail food stores.
Sheila’s big break came in the early 1990s when Dave Parker of the California Tree Fruit Agreement hired her to represent peach, plums and nectarines.
Since May 1994, Sheila has owned her own company, providing the produce industry with a wide range of promotional marketing, advertising and training seminars, including consumer programs, ad campaigns, demos, and introducing new products to retailers and wholesalers in the mid-Atlantic and Southeast, as well as military commissaries across the country.
During her distinguished career, Sheila has marketed a wide variety of produce items, including mangos, California avocados, California pistachios, Washington asparagus and Supersweet corn, and she has worked with many well-known organizations, such as Produce for Kids, The Oppenheimer Group, the Produce for Better Health Foundation, TexaSweet, the California Kiwifruit Commission, the Florida Tomato Committee and SunBlush Technologies.
Sheila undoubtedly has left her mark on the Southeast Produce Council, with which she has been involved since its earliest days. In 1999, when Terry Vorhees started to think about the formation of a council to represent the produce industry in the southeastern United States, Sheila Carden was one of the key people he reached out to. And she has been directly involved with the council ever since.
She was the first woman to serve on the SEPC board of directors, she was the first woman to serve as one of its officers, and she served as chairperson on the council’s Rockin’ Appalachian Mom’s Project, known as RAMP.