An Inside Look at SEPC Southern Roots

An Inside Look at SEPC Southern Roots



ORLANDO, FL - Ever since I stepped foot into this industry almost eight years ago, I have been welcomed and supported by many people that I have come to call friends. Every year, every show, every conversation builds atop my foundation and fuels my own personal desire for growth. And, if I may say, the women in this industry are amazing. As this year’s SEPC Southern Roots luncheon at Southern Exposure, I was overwhelmed by the energy of the room and the faces, both old and new (me!), that carried a smile of welcome and friendship.

The women of the produce industry met for the annual Southern Roots luncheon at SEPC

Honestly, I took about three pages of notes at the event, but at the end of the day, I chose to ask a few of those strong and vibrant souls at the luncheon to share their words with me—so that I might share them with you.

But a little bit of background may be in order. Shannon Cassidy was the speaker and guest of the day and is a certified Executive Corporate Coach and an authority on behavioral modification and communication. She is also the Founder and President of bridge between, inc., a specialized coaching firm committed to understanding, influencing, and maximizing the human potential.

Shannon Cassidy was the speaker at this year's Southern Roots

That day, she brought us something we all need, and need to make more time forgratitude. The event themed Growing in Generosity, brought us delicious bites, rich conversation, and a look into how we can be more effective and impactful together as women and how we can grow our own sense of generosity and pay it forward. Whether it be through communication and engaging each other to giving back with our time, talent, and treasures—there is no end to the opportunities we have each day.

Here are some of the women who shared their words with me...


Teri Miller, Senior Category Manager, The Fresh Market

Teri Miller, Senior Category Manager, The Fresh Market“Gratitude is a wonderful state of mind – with gratitude comes peace and calmness. With most work environments, peace and calmness can take you through the day without the negative anxiety and emotions that go along with that. I think too often our state of mind is the expectation. We expect to be handed to, and to be provided for. That type of expectation strips us of the true connection with one another and the ability to truly grow as a person.

Southern Roots is committed to providing opportunities to our women in produce to improve leadership skills individually and collectively. Gratitude is a strong leadership skill that will positively affect organizational effectiveness at all levels. Some of the best leaders I know have always shown sincere gratitude to all levels. I admire that trait and I aspire to become that same type of leader.”

Leslie Simmons, Vice President, Dave’s Specialty Imports

Leslie Simmons, Vice President, Dave's Specialty Imports“I remember the first Southern Roots meeting had around 30 women brainstorming on what the group could be. Seeing all of the women in attendance, Friday, was a reminder of far the group has come. These are women who genuinely want to connect and make a difference. This lunch has become an excellent opportunity to reflect on important topics at hand and also to network with women who are facing the same challenges that you are.”

Stephanie Hilton, Marketing & Business Development, Tom Lange Company

Stephanie Hilton, Marketing & Business Development, Tom Lange CompanySouthern Roots was designed as a place for women in the produce industry to come together for support, encouragement, and mentorship. From the first event to last week’s luncheon, I have met more amazing women than I could have ever imagined. I think that sometimes we take for granted and minimize our life experiences and, whether or not, someone else might find value in them. But through the Southern Roots events, I have found so many women I am eager to learn from and that are eager learn from me, and that is a wonderful and fulfilling experience.”

Karen Caplan, President & CEO, Frieda's Specialty Produce

Karen Caplan, President & CEO, Frieda’s Specialty Produce“I attend Southern Roots to connect with other women in the industry. It always amazes me to see so many new faces, so many younger faces and the great camaraderie and support between all the women in our industry. When I first started the Women in Produce Event at PMA in 1993, it was to provide a place for women in the industry to connect. It’s great to see that the SEPC has expanded this concept and put a 'southern touch' on it!“

Nicole Hulstein, Fruit Category Manager, Food Lion

Nicole Hulstein, Category Manager, Food Lion“Southern Roots provides the platform to create meaningful connections among female leaders in the produce industry. I have made new connections and met some amazing women in this industry at Southern Roots! The events always seem to ‘speak’ to me at the exact place that I am on a personal and professional level. I loved the Gratitude focus of this year’s event; the impact that a leader can have on those around them is exponentially advanced by recognizing the value of that person.”

Dan’l Mackey Almy, President & CEO, DMA Solutions, Inc.

Dan'l Mackey Almy, President and CEO, DMA Solutions“Each time the women of produce gather, it feels special. The Southern Roots luncheon has that 'something special' that I can’t quite describe. Mainly, because I believe they have found a way to grow into a widely popular, sold event, and still maintain a sincere authentic experience.”

Kim Andreason, Produce Program Coordinator, Jason's Deli

Kim Andreason, Produce Program Coordinator, Jason's Deli“Shannon's session was a powerful message to get in the habit of showing gratitude. It's very easy to feel how much someone has affected your life and/or career; but when was the last time you wrote a thank you note just to tell someone how grateful you are for them? I've got a lot of cards to write!”

Anna Burch, Marketing Manager, Southeast Produce Council

Anna Burch, Marketing Manager. Southeast Produce Council“The Southeast Produce Council’s Southern Roots program is a valuable opportunity in which women within the produce industry can make meaningful connections through our events, education, and mentoring. Our most recent Southern Roots Luncheon during Southern Exposure featuring Shannon Cassidy of bridge between, inc. was no exception. Entitled ‘Growing in Generosity’, this session provided our members with an essential reminder to not only be thankful but also to express gratitude as often as possible. I strive to follow the message found within 1 Thessalonians which reminds us to ‘be thankful in all circumstances’, and Shannon provided wonderful tools to remind me and my fellow Southern Roots members to do just that.”

Amanda Keefer, Managing Director of Produce for Kids

Amanda Keefer, Director Marketing Communications, Produce for KidsThe message of gratitude delivered by this year’s Southern Roots speaker truly had everyone at our table thinking and even shedding a few tears. Year over year, I marvel in the way the women of Southern Roots embrace each other and share stories so openly. I even took the message home with me and now my daughters, and I have pledged to send one thank you card per week through Easter.”

Faye Westfall, Director of Sale, DiMare Fresh

Faye Westfall, Outgoing Chairman, SEPC“I have been in the produce business for many years and feel that I have helped pave the path for upcoming women, and watching these young ladies attend Southern Roots events, gaining knowledge and confidence in their careers makes me smile… albeit while a little jealous that I didn’t have this tool in the beginning of my career. The “Southern Roots Committee” is doing a spectacular job and it just keeps getting better."


Thank you to SEPC for the warm invite, and I look forward to more events like this—that speak to the heart of the matter: relationships.

Southeast Produce Council



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Southeast Produce Council

We strive to be the premier produce resource in the Southeast by providing networking, innovative, community, and...