A visit to south Florida production areas helped strengthen relationships between future produce industry leaders from California and Florida, sponsors report.

Tour helps strengthen California, Florida produce industriesDuring the Jan. 22-24 tour, nine members of the Irvine, Calif.-based Western Growers’ Future Volunteer Leaders program and 11 from the Maitland-based Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association’s Emerging Leader Development Program interacted with grower-shippers and each other.

Each year, participants from the respective programs tour the other state’s production regions.

“We brought them here to Florida to show them the diversity of production in Florida as we help them compare and contrast each area’s production challenges,” said Cory Lunde, Western Growers’ policy analyst and project manager.

“The purpose of the tour is to help develop a network of leadership between the two states. This will help in the future when they’re the titans of our industry, they can band together and work to fight on behalf of the produce industry.”

The groups toured corn, bean, lettuce and other production areas in Palm Beach County and in southwest Florida.

On Jan. 24 in Belle Glade, Fla., they participated in a roundtable discussion that included Tom Stenzel, president and chief executive officer of the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association, FFVA president Mike Stuart, and Lunde.

Some of the region’s grower-shippers also packed the forum which included talks about produce industry issues including immigration reform, the farm bill and food safety, Lunde said.