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Gordon Hochberg to be honored at Southern Exposure

The tables will be turned in Orlando, FL, this March during the Southeast Produce Council’s Southern Exposure conference and trade show when the SEPC’s prestigious lifetime achievement award is presented to a familiar face.Gordon-3

Gordon Hochberg, vice president and an owner of The Produce News, will be honored with the council’s Terry Vorhees Lifetime Achievement Award. If witnessing Hochberg receive the award this year seems a bit out of place, that is because Hochberg has been the one to present the award to the honoree each year since its inception in 2004.

The award is given to an industry leader or icon that has promoted the consumption of fruits and vegetables in various capacities throughout the year. Some received it by starting produce companies, while others received it for being experts in selling or buying produce. One received it by becoming the top agricultural elected official in one of the key marketing states and others received it for having the vision to start the Southeast Produce Council.

In discussing the council’s rationale for choosing Hochberg as this year’s recipient, SEPC President and Chief Executive Officer David Sherrod said that various criteria are considered each year when selecting the honoree.

“This year the committee has chosen to honor a man that wielded his pen to promote our great industry and association,” said Sherrod. “The selection of Gordon was a unanimous decision as he exemplifies the traits of all the ones that have come before him. His quiet demeanor is never overshadowed, but his true and honest reporting speaks loudly throughout our industry.”

Gordon M. Hochberg was born in 1951 in New York City and raised in the suburbs in Westchester County north of Manhattan. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Lafayette College in 1973. After a short stint working on the Hunts Point Produce Market in the Bronx, NY, he started freelancing for The Produce News in the late 1970s. He quickly moved up the corporate ladder, first as assistant editor and then associate editor before being promoted to the top editorial position in the summer of 1985.

He joined the management side of the company as vice president and a co-owner in 1994. He stepped away from day-to-day responsibilities at the publication in the summer of 2011 but continues to report on a variety of topics, including industry meetings, conferences and conventions in the New England, mid-Atlantic and southeastern regions of the United States.

Hochberg served two terms (from 2012 to 2018) on the board of trustees of the New Jersey Agricultural Society, which was established in 1781 and is one of the oldest agricultural organizations of its type in the nation.

In 2017, he was appointed to the Southeast Produce Council’s board of governors, which serves as an advisory board to the SEPC’s chairman of the board and the board of directors.

"If friendships can be inherited, I received a wonderful gift of friendship with Gordon through our mutual friend Terry Vorhees,” said Sherrod. “Terry and Gordon had always been friends since the start of the SEPC. A trust and lifelong bond was instilled in both of them through the respect that each had for one another. When Terry passed away, their friendship transferred to me in a way that helped both Gordon and I grieve for an old friend and celebrate in the start of a new friendship. I truly do not think anyone is more deserving of this year's award, and the SEPC is honored to be associated with such a great man.”

“First and foremost, I am proud to say that Gordon is my friend, and he has been a great friend to the SEPC as well,” said Faye Westfall, director of sales for DiMare Fresh and a former chairman of the SEPC board of directors. “He has been connected to SEPC since the beginning and never fails to provide assistance in any area needed. Gordon has a passion for the produce industry while continuing to promote consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables. He is adamant about making sure he gets quotes, comments and information correct before he prints a story of any level. His honesty and integrity in the industry are well respected by everyone. I don’t think I have ever met anyone that is more of a gentleman than Gordon, and this is such an amazing tribute to him. Gordon is among the very elite members of the produce industry, and he is so deserving of this award.”

Bobby Creel, director of business development for L&M Cos. and chairman of the SEPC board of governors, on which Hochberg sits, said, “Gordon has spent his entire career supporting the produce industry and he has done so with remarkable professionalism, passion and poise. While he is a soft-spoken gentleman with an exceptionally inquisitive nature, he has vigorously supported the Southeast Produce Council since our humble beginnings, and we will be forever grateful for his contributions to our success.”

Al Murray, the former long-time director of marketing for the New Jersey Department of Agriculture and the current executive director of the New Jersey Agricultural Society, has known Hochberg for close to 35 years and agreed that he is well deserving of the award.

“Gordon is universally respected in the industry,” said Murray. “He takes his craft of journalism very seriously and painstakingly ensures that every word and every fact in his stories is correct.”

Murray said that when Hochberg’s second term on the board of the New Jersey Agricultural Society was coming to an end, he was unanimously elected as a trustee emeritus.

“To my knowledge, he is the only one who was ever bestowed the status of trustee emeritus, which speaks a great deal to the respect he had from the board,” said Murray. “The board really liked his thoughtful input about the topics that were discussed.

“On a personal level,” Murray added, “I consider Gordon to be a very close personal friend and I especially appreciate that he is a Renaissance Man, with such diverse interests as reading, art, theatre, music and, of course, his beloved New York Yankees. It makes it very easy to relate to him because he has such a broad array of pursuits.”

“I was absolutely floored when David and Bobby told me that the council had decided to present the Lifetime Achievement Award to me this March at Southern Exposure,” said Hochberg. "I am truly honored with this award for all that it represents. And the fact that it is named for Terry Vorhees — a truly great man and my friend — makes it very personal and special.

"I would like to express my deep gratitude to everyone at the Southeast Produce Council,” he added. “The SEPC is a unique organization, and to receive this honor is exciting and rewarding and humbling, all at the same time.”