FFVA presented its Karen and Mike Stuart Humanitarian Award to Belle Glade ministries Light House Café and Ella’s Closet. Here, representatives of the group express thanks to FFVA for the recognition. ( Tom Karst )

PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association recognized lawmakers, a charitable group, a big customer and a Sunshine State researcher on the second day of its 76th annual convention.

FFVA presented the Karen and Mike Stuart Humanitarian Award to Belle Glade ministries Light House Café and Ella’s Closet.

The award, presented by FFVA vice chairman Aaron Troyer, recognizes an organization for humanitarian work that improves the community and the lives of its residents, according to a news release, and is named in the honor of the late Karen Stuart and her husband, retired FFVA president Mike Stuart.

FFVA Board Member Jim Shine said in a news release that the organizations provide Christian ministry to residents Belle Glade. The charity served 6,000 meals in the last month, including 2,000 meals to those who are homebound.

“There are numerous success stories, and many of those who have gotten back on their feet continue to volunteer at the Café,” Shine said in his nomination. FFVA also made a donation to the Light House Café and Ella’s Closet.

In other awards presented Sept. 25, the FFVA named John Alexander of Walmart as its Customer of the Year for 2019. The annual award recognizes the role that foodservice and retail merchandising play in the promotion and sale of Florida produce, according to the release.

“John Alexander and Walmart are huge year-round supporters of Florida sweet corn and many other commodities that Florida farmers produce,” Eric Hopkins of Hundley Farms said in the release. “Without the ongoing support of Walmart, Florida producers would have to dramatically reduce their planted acres of crops.” 

Florida Sen. Ben Albritton and Rep. Bobby Payne were named by the association as Legislators of the Year for 2019 at the Palm Beach convention.

Albritton, a citrus grower and Republican from Wauchula, helped secure funding for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the University of Florida’s Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) during the legislative session, according to the release.

Payne, Republican from Palatka, sponsored HB 973, the House version of a water quality bill that included many of the goals of Together Florida, a coalition of agriculture organizations and companies working toward solutions to harmful algae blooms in waterways.

“Both Sen. Albritton and Rep. Payne have a record of being supportive of grower issues,” FFVA President Mike Joyner said in the release. “We look forward to working with both of these legislators in the future.” 

The FFVA’s Researcher of the Year Award was given to Richard Raid, professor of plant pathology at the IFAS Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade.

“Dr. Raid demonstrates a seeming inexhaustible capacity for working with area growers and helping them to solve the unique disease challenges that they face,” IFAS County Extension Director Gene McAvoy and Gregg Nuessly, director of the Everglades center, said in their nomination letter. “His contributions have contributed enormously to the well-being and economic success of South Florida farmers and have undoubtedly saved them from multiple millions of dollars of losses each year.”

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