YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. — Buoyed by another year of record membership and participation, the Southeast Produce Council welcomed new leaders at its fall conference, and announced a new name for the annual gathering.
On Sept. 25, the group elected new officers and formally named David Sherrod, former southeast regional business manager for Guadalupe, Calif.-based Apio Inc., as successor to Terry Vorhees, 64, the council’s executive director who died July 30.
On Oct. 15, the council plans to relocate its offices to Millen, where Sherrod works from his home.
“David Sherrod has really jumped in and had some big shoes to fill,” said newly elected council president Mark Daniels, senior buyer and general manager for the Savannah, Ga., division of Norfolk, Va.-based Military Produce Group. “He’s doing a great job in a short time over the last couple of months. He’s always had a passion to do that.”
During a Sept. 26 general session, Sherrod gave an overview of the nonprofit council and said it is financially sound.
Council leaders decided to rename the fall conference the Southern Innovation Symposium.
“I know it will be a tough road to follow behind Terry, but we’re going to give it a heck of a try,” Sherrod said. “I appreciate the confidence you’ve given me and I know I have to earn it.”
The council’s 948 members increased by 164 during the past year and membership since 2010 has grown 77%, said outgoing board member Kevin Dunleavy, president of Orlando, Fla.-based Super Marketing Promotions.
Among the 275 participants at the conference, Sept. 24-27, 50 were retail and foodservice buyers.
In his Sept. 26 state of the council talk, immediate past council president Andrew Scott, director of marketing and business development for the Atlanta-based Nickey Gregory Co. LLC, said the organization continues to experience attendance records.
“Our accomplishments have been many and impactful,” he said. “We have 80 would-be exhibitors on our waiting list to attend our Southern Exposure and we are adding more students to our scholarship program.”
Scott noted 2015 will be the fifth year of the council’s the Southeast Training Education Program for Upcoming Professionals, known as STEP-UP, which trains retail and foodservice managers.
“I know how to sell groceries and have sold them forever, but to get out of that box and see how the land actually works, is great,” said fourth year class graduate Scott Morrison, produce merchandiser for Food Lion LLC, Salisbury, N.C.
The council also officially launched Southern Roots, designed to cultivate and improve leadership and interaction among women in produce.
While the council remains actively involved in community benefit programs in Florida, Georgia and Virginia, it wants to broaden member community involvement in other southeastern states, he said.