Natural Foods Merchandiser

Expo Retooled To Please Produce Managers

Produce Perspectives

Ever wonder if people are paying attention? These days, it seems folks are so busy that as soon as you say something, they're already answering in their heads before you've finished the question. Well, I have some good news—if anyone is listening!

For several years, I've worked with New Hope Natural Media to educate retailers about organic issues through its magazines and trade shows. At the Natural Products Expos, I've given seminars on subjects ranging from running a 100 percent organic produce department to staff training. But these seminars alone weren't always enough of a draw for produce retailers to make the trek to California or Washington, D.C. We wondered why, so we asked; you spoke, and we listened!

This year at Natural Products Expo West, I'm glad to say that you will notice some positive and exciting changes in the education format that will likely make this an experience you won't want to miss. Thomas May, my editor at The Natural Foods Merchandiser; Sharon Cook, education coordinator at New Hope; Eva Shillo, tour director; and I have reorganized the schedule toward creating more opportunities for you to make the most of your time at the show.

Have you ever wanted to attend both the farm and store tours but couldn't because they were scheduled at the same time? Perhaps you wanted to attend the Organic Trade Association meetings or an organic seminar on Thursday morning but then had to miss visiting a working organic farm. Well, check this out: problem solved. Now you can do both because we've moved the farm tour from Thursday to Saturday.

May and I are leading this year's tour, which will visit Beck Grove in Fallbrook, Calif., a 30-acre farm certified by California Certified Organic Farmers and owned by Robert and Helene Beck since 1987. We'll taste some of the season's best citrus; they grow great blood oranges and kumquats. The tour is a perfect opportunity to make a connection with innovative organic farmers and view some of the behind-the-scenes intricacies involved in their operation, such as packing and handling.

Many of you asked for a more interactive bus ride, so May and I have come up with a sure-to-be-entertaining review of the new organic rule. Saturday's tour is scheduled from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. We will have you back in plenty of time to enjoy all the evening's activities.

I think it definitely makes Expo West a can't-miss show for organic foods and produce retailers.
So you may ask: "Saturday's covered, but what about Thursday and Friday?" We've added some seminars to the Thursday lineup that should get your Expo started off right. In the morning, rev up with a panel of industry elders who will discuss the importance of farmer/retailer relationships. Denesse Willey of T&D Willey Farms, Bill Brammer of Be Wise Ranch, Bob Scowcroft, and I will offer thoughts, ideas and solutions on how we can work together to promote the specific value of organic foods. The seminar is sponsored in part by the Organic Farming Research Foundation, which will host its annual luncheon afterward.

Now we come to what I think may be the most exciting part of this year's show. May and I will be teaming up with Melissa's World Variety Produce to take you on an Organic Produce Spring Fling. We'll spend the afternoon in an interactive, hands-on, taste-filled tour of springtime produce. You know that excitement you feel just before Christmas? Well, spring brings the same anticipation in the world of organic produce. This is a great educational opportunity for retailers. We will break down some misperceptions about mushrooms; quell some kumquat fears; and offer interesting anecdotes, along with fun, folklore and history. Come by and find out more than you ever wanted to know about mushrooms, carrots, artichokes, strawberries, asparagus, blood oranges and kumquats. And don't fill up too much at lunch, because we will be tasting the best spring has to offer, including a creation by Melissa's chef, Tracy Davis.

I hope you like what we've done with your suggestions. I think it definitely makes Expo West a can't-miss show for organic foods and produce retailers. I know I'm excited. I'm glad we asked for your input—and listened. I look forward to seeing you there.

Mark Mulcahy runs an organic education and produce consulting firm. He can be reached at 707.939.8355, or by e-mail at [email protected]

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIII/number 3/p. 50

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