Sophie Perreault, QPMA CEO, (top left), and Pascal Primiano, QPMA board president, hosted the annual meeting online. Afterwards at a virtual industry brunch, Vicky Blais, (bottom left) was named Next Generation Intern and Stephan Dolbec was named Pillar of Industry. ( Screenshots and illustration by Amy Sowder )

It was no Hotel Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth, but the 2020 Quebec Produce Marketing Association’s live online general meeting and industry brunch accomplished the basic goals: share what the association has been doing the past year and recognize industry leaders.

“I’ve been proud of the fact that we’ve been so quick to adapt and adjust,” Pascal Primiano, 2019-20 QPMA board president, said to almost 100 online participants through a translator. “In this globalized, competitive market with all these health concerns and the need to protect our families and to protect consumers, …. news travels fast.”

“The relationships we’ve gained over the years have realized their true potential during these times,” Primiano said.

QPMA moved to the new Montreal Food Terminal, or Place des Producteurs, bringing it and the Quebec Produce Growers Association under the same roof.

Organizations like QPMA have taken hits because much of their funding is based on event registrations, sponsorships and membership fees, said Sophie Perreault, CEO of the association.

“That’s been overturned, and we’ve had to design new opportunities, so this has given rise to a 2.0 of this plan,” Perreault said.

That includes gaining income from a media kit, webinars and publications via the QPMA website. Also, revenue streams included partnerships and government financial support, such as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, Canada Emergency Business Account and Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance.

QPMA also received non-pandemic-related subsidies, for projects such as the nutrition promotion program.

The Government Relations and Public Affairs Committee has been working long hours to answer the mountain of questions people have during uncertain times, Perreault said.

The association has 28 new members and increased American membership, Primiano said.

QPMA distributes a weekly newsletter, a monthly newsletter, and now a COVID-19 newsletter that was almost daily at first and now is about once a week — culminating in more than 70 COVID-19-related newsletters.

The association has increased followers on Instagram and Facebook and will offer a sixth webinar in September.

“Regardless of what happens in the future, we have to be more present,” Perreault said.

The Cultivating the Next Generation program is active, with young people invigorated by today’s challenges, she said.

At the industry brunch, which wasn’t translated from French, 2019 Next Generation intern Jane Collin, category manager at Sobeys in Montreal, reviewed her experiences.

The 2020 Next Generation Intern winner was announced: Vicky Blais, head produce buyer at Metro, where she’s worked for more than four years. 

When he revealed the 2020 Pillar of Industry, Primiano choked up with emotion.

Stephan Dolbec, president of Patates (Potatoes) Dolbec, accepted the award. Dolbec is the third generation of his family to run the company, which produces more than 40,000 tons of potatoes, according to the company website.

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