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PMA’s incoming chair gives thoughts on upcoming year

The next year is full of change and opportunity for the fresh produce and floral industries, and I’m eager to see how it all takes shape. So far, it’s actually shaping up to be a big year, and I’m excited and ready to move forward with PMA’s new vision and direction.

Though some things will be changing, the heart of PMA remains the same: connecting people, providing ideas and insights for businesses to flourish, and providing a platform for members to come together and work collectively on industry issues and make real impact. We will work to grow the future for all our members — building on our existing strength in areas most important to members and aspiring to even greater heights.Wash-Jun-2011-061Jin Ju Wilder (right) with Kathleen Merrigan, when Merrigan was deputy secretary of agriculture for USDA. Wilder has been involved in advocating for the produce and floral industries for years. She has contributed her insights, experience and leadership to the Produce Marketing Association throughout her career, and this October she takes the reins as PMA chair.

Though I’m taking on the title of PMA chair at this year’s Fresh Summit in New Orleans, it doesn’t feel “new” because the volunteer leadership team is truly that — a team. New members join the board of directors and others finish their terms, giving us just the right balance of history, continuity and freshness.

I see my role as chair, and that of PMA, as forging connections and growth. And I see this on multiple levels:

  • Our industry’s success: This is why people and companies come together in associations — so they can do things together that none of us can do separately. We see this in common resources to drive demand, like eat brighter!; or common technology solutions to make us more efficient and transparent, like PTI and coding initiatives around the world; or work around common food-safety solutions that protect consumers and our industry.
  • Our member companies’ success: Company success is a direct result of our work for the industry and a direct result of working with PMA. Every member company can grow by using those common tools. Every leader says it, but just because we’ve heard it a lot doesn’t make it any less true. Involvement with PMA benefits your business with what you learn and who you meet.
  • Our personal success: We are an association of companies, and companies are people. I’ve been involved in committees, task forces and most recently the board of directors. Personal growth is a significant benefit for anyone who gets involved. Each of us has an obligation to learn and grow for ourselves and our companies. We are also obliged to help others learn and grow and to contribute to our larger community. Some of my most important mentors have been people I have met and worked with through PMA.

I’ve been a volunteer with PMA for more than a decade, and I’ve seen the benefit that diversity of people can bring because diversity of experience, expertise and thought leads to stronger outcomes in everything we do. So I thank outgoing Chair John Oxford of L&M for his leadership and the entire corps of PMA volunteers, some 400 strong, for their vision to grow and develop this association and this industry. And none of it is possible without the work of the PMA staff. It all makes a difference.

We’ll be talking about that at Fresh Summit, where we will tell members about what’s ahead. A brilliant group of leaders has crafted the vision and direction for PMA. We will be building on our strength and reaching for the future at the same time, looking at ways to build greater demand for members’ products; at science, technology, sustainability and, of course, food safety; at taking even bolder steps to attract, develop and retain the best minds for our industry and our companies; and continue the bedrock of PMA value: connecting members to those people, ideas and insights we all need.

We’ll continue to deliver on all of that every day, not just at events like Fresh Summit or the Foodservice Conference. For many members, Fresh Summit is the most visible piece of value. In fact, some people still call it “The PMA.” Though the name changed more than a decade ago, the value proposition has not. Fresh Summit delivers ideas and insights, networking, best-in-class products and services. Beyond those three days in October, though, PMA offers year-round value in all those areas to all members all the time.

We recognize the importance of meeting face-to-face around the globe, and we’ll continue to offer those opportunities, including our Fresh Connections events worldwide. After all, our 2,700 members come from 43 countries. Our research library continues to grow and is a robust resource for members, with both information to help members stay up-to-date and insights from industry and staff experts on the impact that information has for their businesses.

As I’ve said before, the industry’s future is bright and the potential is limitless and we can best realize that working together. This is an exciting time to be a part of this industry and a part of PMA. As we build our industry, we build our companies and we build ourselves — a triple win.

Jin Ju Wilder, PMA’s chair-elect, is director of marketing for LA & SF Specialty in Los Angeles.