Midwest Produce Show fills industry need - The Packer

Midwest Produce Show fills industry need

08/17/2012 09:26:00 AM
Tom Karst

Tom Karst, National EditorTom Karst, National EditorCHICAGO — There is a proverb that begins, “For want of a nail, the shoe was lost.”

In a similar way, it seems the Midwest Produce Conference & Expo fills a definite need in the industry that may portend larger implications down the road.

The intimate feel of small booth sizes, an easily traversed expo floor and the chance to engage in sustained one-on-one conversations with Midwest area buyers were major pluses.

The niche filled by the show for buyers and sellers of produce in the Midwest was mentioned several times in discussions with exhibitors and participants at The Packer’s Chicago event.

One participant pointed out there hasn’t been a produce show in the middle of the country.

“There is a lot of produce bought and sold in Chicago,” he said. “I think it makes sense.”

For the want of a conversation, a sales opportunity was lost.

Of course there were other “for want ofs” to be satisfied with the show, and thankfully most can be easily corrected.

For example, some exhibitors were peeved about the lack of a table and chairs during booth set-up. That won’t happen again.

And, of course, everyone was interested in seeing more retailers. More independent retailers, more Midwest retailers, more retailers, period.

“If things continue to go where people are looking for alternatives to the high-dollar PMA show, that’s why this show is important,” one exhibitor told me.

The Packer’s new show will be judged like the Southeast Produce Council show and other regional shows.

If the Midwest Produce Expo gives the nail for the shoe, a shoe for the horse, the horse for the rider, the rider for the message, and the message for the battle to expand produce consumption, it will succeed.

Let it no longer be said, “For want of a Midwest produce show.”

Food for thought

There is pie in the face for the heralded use of food stamps at farmers markets.

One Boston-area whoopie pie maker has refused to allow her pies to be purchased with food stamp electronic benefit cards at a local farmers market.

The story about the controversy published on the Boston Herald’s website pulled in a whopping 700-plus comments in just 10 hours.

The gist of the story is that the baker, a vendor at the Braintree Farmers Market, refused to take EBT cards for her baked treats.

Why?

From the story:

“‘I don’t think American taxpayers should be footing the bill for people’s pie purchases,’” said Andrea Taber, proprietor of the Ever So Humble Pie Co. in Walpole, who peddles her wares at the Braintree market on Fridays and now finds herself in the middle of the state’s raging fight over welfare benefits.”

The beautiful truth is Taber thinks it is OK to use taxpayer-funded welfare benefits for fruits and vegetables, but not for sweet, fatty pies.

Remember, she sells the pies.

Because of the pie maker’s stubbornness, the story said the farmers market is considering putting in a requirement for all vendors to accept EBT payments next year. If that happens, Taber says she will be gone.

“I’m not going to sacrifice my principles and standards for the sake of a few more sales,” she told the Herald.

So far, most of the reader comments appear to be in favor of the modern-day patriot.

One example:

“Michelle Obama talks about banning fat foods but has she or her husband once threatened to restrict the same poor obese from using their government EBT cards from making purchases of junk food? No, because the votes matter more than the fluff campaign she leads.”

Michelle Obama has used the White House bully pulpit to advocate for the better eating habits for Americans, and fresh produce marketers owe her a debt of gratitude for the political will and personal investment she has made in the issue.

And President Obama recently admitted that the first lady won’t let him eat fried Twinkies at the Iowa State Fair.

Now that’s progress.

The government needs to take the healthy eating message to a point where it really matters.

Using food stamp benefits for purchases of fruits and vegetables at farmers markets is a good idea.

In contrast, allowing food stamp recipients to buy sweet and fatty pies at farmers markets falls short of “providing for the general welfare.”

Andrea Taber, pie maker and patriot, makes the argument more effectively than any.

tkarst@thepacker.com

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