The seven-year challenge

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March 25, 2019

Spring is a time of new beginnings and growth, no matter where you find yourself in the world. In April, I’ll be embarking on a new life journey as I relocate to the Houston area with my partner, who was offered a great career opportunity at his company’s location there. We’re excited for the possibilities and prospects down south, but unfortunately, it means I’ll be stepping down from my post as editor of Produce Grower.

I joined parent company GIE Media in April 2012, and have been your editor on Produce Grower for the past four years. As I reflect on my time in the produce world, I can’t help but think of the recent “10-year challenge” on several social media platforms. Users post a photo of themselves from 10 years ago alongside one from this year. While I didn’t partake in the photo challenge, I did my own “seven-year challenge” and took a trip down memory lane, reflecting on continued themes and changes in the produce industry.

I remember walking through PMA Fresh Summit in 2014 and being absolutely amazed by the new fruit and vegetable options out there — grape-flavored apples, anyone? During a keynote, PMA president Cathy Burns and then-CEO Bryan Silbermann highlighted the fact that no country has successfully lowered their obesity rate in the previous 33 years. That’s not surprising, since they also cited a study that said kids were seeing 5,500 ads for junk food per year, compared to 100 ads for healthier options. Children and adults would still benefit from incorporating more fruits and veggies into their diets in 2019, just as they would have in 2014. And we need produce growers like you to fulfill that demand.

Looking at changes, seven years ago I would avoid eating tomatoes and greens during the winter, as most of the ones you could buy at the grocery store were watery and flavorless. In recent years, several hydroponic operations have popped up in the Cleveland area and started providing delicious, fresh produce year-round — a testament to the continued growth of our industry. We’ve seen previously unpopular produce experience a renaissance; seven years ago, no one had even heard of avocado toast, Brussels sprouts were unpleasant, and a salad was made of iceberg lettuce and shredded carrots, not the fancier blends being grown now.

I could fill another 10 pages with more thoughts on produce, but suffice it to say that I’ll still be keeping up with the industry, as it interests me personally. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to serve as your editor for the past four years and I wish you all the very best this spring and beyond. I hope our paths cross again one day!

kvarga@gie.net | (216) 393-0290
Twitter: @Karen_GIE