The Council Connection May 2021


Registration is now open for Southern Innovations 2021 which will be held September 9 – 11 at the Savannah Convention Center in Savannah, GA.

We invite you to join us for our annual tradeshow and conference focused on highlighting the latest innovations within the fresh produce industry, from organics and new product developments to technology and unique brand approaches.

Educational sessions led by industry leaders complement our tradeshow, offering an opportunity to hear how to elevate your brand in an increasingly competitive field and receive valuable fact-based data to strengthen and improve your business. And as always, you’ll be able to sample a taste of true Southern hospitality as you fellowship with friends and colleagues.

Be a part of an event designed by buyers for buyers!

Interested in exhibiting at Southern Innovations?

To reserve your space, please register before July 23, 2021.

Please note that Southern Innovations allows eight (8) booth associates as part of the exhibitor registration. To maintain our intimate space, additional booth associates will not be allowed. All exhibitor registrations require approval.

Short for “Learning, Interacting and Networking with Key players in the Supply Chain,” LINKS is an educational leadership program where exceptional Southeastern growers and shippers can connect with Retail/Foodservice providers in the region in a non-competitive environment. By enhancing each side’s understanding of the retail supply chain, we can facilitate our mutual goals to better service consumers and drive Southeastern produce consumption. The SEPC will provide a meeting space at Southern Innovations to participating Retail/Foodservice members who facilitate the program with invited Growers and Shippers.

LINKS Reservation Options for SEPC Retail/Foodservice members*

  • LINKS Meeting Platform Options: Onsite LINKS Meeting | Virtual LINKS Meeting within the SEPC Virtual Garden
  • LINKS Meeting Description Options: LINKS Meeting(s) with Grower/Shipper Companies (Note: if hosting onsite, due to safety precautions, we recommend hosting separate individual meetings with member companies) | Internal Company Meeting
  • A La Carte Menu: A/V options (projector/screen & PA system) | Food & Beverage Service (at reserving company's expense)

*LINKS Meeting Reservations must be submitted/approved through SEPC by August 9th to ensure we have ample time to accommodate your meeting setup needs.

Southern Exposure 2021 Recap

In case you missed it or would like to reminisce or catch up on the latest info, we’ve added to our photo gallery and uploaded the following videos from Southern Exposure to our Southeast Produce Council YouTube channel:

You may download your copy of The Power of Produce 2021 report with our discount code: SEPC4021 to receive a 40% discount from FMI (valid until 5/7/2021)

Southern Roots Luncheon – available upon request by women in produce only

Each of the above sessions are also available on demand within the SEPC Virtual Garden.

Mark your calendars!

Cultivating Ideas – Growing Relationships – Producing Results

Each year, the SEPC strives to curate an impactful series of industry programs and networking events for our members. The SEPC Virtual Garden is our newest platform through which we will continue to keep members abreast of the latest developments in produce—whether those are happening in the soil, in the cloud, or anywhere in between.

Through the SEPC Virtual Garden, we have begun planting the seeds from our founding pillars – Networking, Innovation, Community, and Education – so that our members will reap the benefits of harvesting quality experiences guaranteed to increase the value of their membership.

Join us in the garden for these current and upcoming SEPC Virtual Garden sessions:

STEP-UPP Virtual Classroom

Produce Inspection Training

SEPC University Educational Sessions

Southern Innovations 2021 Hybrid Experience

In case you missed them, several of these sessions are already available on demand and are now located on January 1, 2021 within the schedule!

The key to the success of our SEPC Virtual Garden is the community who tends it, and we are eager to serve alongside our SEPC family to see what we can grow together!


We will be accepting nominations for our Next Generation Award beginning May 10, 2021. Nominations will only be accepted for SEPC members 39 years or younger who have been employed in the produce industry for at least four years and have made a significant contribution to the industry. To qualify for the Next Generation Award, members must also be in “Good Standing” with the SEPC through regular attendance and contributions to our council.

NOTE: Neither SEPC employees or contractors or their immediate family are eligible for the award. The term “immediate family” includes spouses, siblings, parents, children, grandparents and grandchildren, whether as “in-laws”, or by current or past marriage(s), adoption, cohabitation or other family extension, and other persons residing at the same household, whether or not related.


Community Updates

Our featured charitable partner for May is Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. In the SEPC’s continuing effort to help fight childhood obesity and educate the public about the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables, we are proud to partner with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta’s Strong4Life program, a wellness movement designed to ignite societal change and reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity and its associated diseases in Georgia. Strong4Life reaches families through public awareness, policy change efforts, school programs, healthcare provider programs, community partnerships and more, with a goal of improving family nutrition, making physical activity habits fun, and providing parents and caregivers the support they need to accomplish their goals.

The SEPC supports the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Strong4Life Superhero Sprint each year in Atlanta through the donation of volunteer hours, products, and fundraising. We are always in need of products for our tent, hands-on help at the event, or participants/fundraisers!

Through the COVID-19 pandemic, we have gained valuable insight into SEPC’s theme for 2021 – Produce: Powered by People. The produce industry has been deemed essential during this pandemic, and whether companies are serving from the fields or delivering to our tables we have all felt the tremendous impact. We would love for you to share how you have witnessed essential workers from your company or others within our industry who have risen above the challenges to make a difference in the communities we serve.

Share your support of Produce: Powered by People!


The Southeast Produce Council held its first STEP-UPP Virtual Classroom within the SEPC Virtual Garden on Wednesday, April 28th. STEP-UPP, which is an acronym for Southeast Training Education Program for Upcoming Produce Professionals, is SEPC’s flagship program giving retail and foodservice produce professionals a greater understanding of the industry through an emphasis on strategic orientation, personal leadership, and hands-on field experience.

The session, which began at 9am that morning and concluded at 3:30pm that afternoon, included a welcome by STEP-UPP Committee Co-Chairs Mike Roberts of Harps Food Stores and Gary Baker of Merchants Distributors, followed by an amazing series of virtual farm and facility tours hosted by Shenandoah Growers, Shuman Farms, Southern Valley, Fowler Packing, Giumarra Companies, and Chelan Fresh. Then after a break for lunch, the session resumed with an informative Farmers P&L segment by Adam Lytch of L&M Family of Companies. The session culminated with a testing period in which the 10 participating STEP-UPP Class members answered a series of questions drawn from the virtual tours followed by a review period to discuss the results and consolidate their learnings for the day.

“Our first Virtual Classroom day was a huge hit with this year’s class. I cannot say enough how great the content was that the selected companies provided. What was even better was the engagement the class had with each presenter and the hard questions they asked! I think this new session within the SEPC Virtual Garden was another great platform that the SEPC & STEP-UPP can add to educate and invest in the future leaders of our great industry.” ~ Mike Roberts, Director of Produce Operations for Harps Food Store
“The SEPC’s first Virtual Classroom was a great experience and day for our STEP-UPP class! I thought it was a great way for these produce professionals to gain knowledge and communicate with our vendor community who gave great presentations. The level of engagement from each student was a true testament on why these students were selected as members of STEP-UPP. I truly enjoyed the day and look forward to continuing to use this format in the future for other classes.” ~ Gary Baker, Sr. Director of Fresh at Merchants Distributors
Presenting Companies

The graduation ceremony for the STEP-UPP Class of 2021 will be held during Southern Innovations on September 10th in Savannah, Georgia. For more information about the STEP-UPP program as well as other SEPC educational offerings, please visit the Education page of the SEPC website.

SEPC’s upcoming Produce Inspection Training courses will be held within the SEPC Virtual Garden. The spring course will take place May 12, 2021. In order to receive your certificate of completion, you must complete both the spring and fall courses. Registration is complimentary for SEPC members.

The deadline to register is Monday, May 10, 2021.

Mr. Paul Manol of International Produce Training will conduct the training for the spring session. This course is intended for quality control personnel, produce buyers, produce inventory control personnel, and other company associates involved in the receiving, handling, buying and shipping of fresh produce to learn more about the supplier side of the business.

Scholarship Details

Recipients of the SEPC Member Scholarship will each receive a scholarship of $1,000 towards their educational goals for the upcoming school year. The SEPC awarded 74 scholarships ($148,000) in 2020 thanks to the dedication of our members.

The application deadline for the 2021 SEPC Member Scholarship was April 30, 2021 at 5pm EST. Recipients will be announced May 21, 2021.

Nolan Family Foundation Scholarship

This scholarship was established to memorialize Jim Nolan, who took an ethical stand on a business matter at great cost to himself. As a result of his professional ethics, Nolan was ostracized by colleagues and remained isolated in his efforts to maintain moral integrity in his workplace. It would have taken only a few others with the courage to speak out to change the course of events. Tragically, Jim died before the trial that finally vindicated his actions by a judge and a jury of 13 who found in his favor. Our sincere thanks to Theresa Nolan for providing this scholarship to the members of the Southeast Produce Council. She is a lifetime member of the SEPC and is always available to lend a helping hand wherever needed.

Scholarship Details

One college-aged student (graduating high school senior or current college student) will receive a one-time scholarship of $5,000 to their enrolling college/university. The scholarship will be awarded based on GPA (3.0 or higher), references, and quality of essay.

The application can only be submitted online through our link which will be provided beginning May 17, 2021. The application deadline is July 2, 2021 at 5pm EST.

2021-2022 SEPC Annual Membership

Join the SEPC Today and Thrive

As an SEPC member, you’ll join a diverse group of like-minded produce professionals, from farmers to distributors and retailers to chefs. It’s about growing your knowledge, sharpening your skills, sharing your passion with others, and enjoying what makes this corner of the country extra special: its long tradition of bringing people together through food that is grown, distributed, and cooked with love.

Please review the membership information on our website and select which annual membership* best suits your company's needs.

*Please note that our annual membership period runs June through May of the following year. We do not prorate our membership fees.

**All conference attendees are required to be SEPC members in order to attend any events. Exhibitors are required to maintain a corporate membership.**

Our Sponsors

SEPC sponsors are a vital part of our existence. Simply put, sponsor contributions help us bring more to the table for everyone. Like better networking and education events, fresh talent, and a broader awareness of best practices throughout our industry. And of course, when you help us promote produce, your organization will gain crucial exposure at our events and engagements throughout the year.

Interested in becoming an SEPC Sponsor?

We thank you for your support and look forward to boosting your business in return.

Check out this month’s Sponsor Spotlights on our social media platforms to learn more about each of our SEPC Level Sponsors!


SEPC Fruit & Veggie Trivia

Congratulations to Terry Cook of Trucco for being the first to answer our April SEPC Fruit & Veggie Trivia Question correctly!!

May Trivia Question

For centuries, Native Americans gathered “star berries” from forests and fields and ate them fresh or dried them for later use. The modern version of these berries is a 20th century invention when scientists started to unlock the secrets of cultivating them – and we’re glad they did!

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $25 gift card!

Contact us

315 Hwy 17 North | Millen, GA 30442 | 877.720.SEPC (7372) | info@seproducecouncil.com