FPAA Annual Nogales Produce Convention 2019 Highlights and Awards
TUBAC, AZ - As Mexico continues to grow as one of the top suppliers and agricultural producers for fresh fruits and vegetables on the global stage, events like the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas (FPAA) Nogales Produce Annual Convention and Golf Tournament become more essential than ever. Produce trade at the U.S.-Mexico border and across the country is front of mind in industry discussions today and the FPAA is promoting the conversation around the impact and challenges of the region as well as the potential yet to come.
“The FPAA Fall Convention was a great kickoff to the fall/winter season of Mexican fruits and vegetables. We were pleased to host visitors from across the nation and discuss important issues, as well as to reconnect,” Lance Jungmeyer, President of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, told me as he reflected on the event. “Chuck Ciruli, Jr., as the 2019 Pillar of the FPAA, was hugely influential on the association, helping expand the influence of the organization, not to mention helping launch the National Mango Promotion Board. His contributions will be appreciated by many future generations.”
Chris Ciruli, Chief Operating Officer of Ciruli Brothers, shared with ANUK what this award means to both him and his father.
“I am incredibly proud of my dad.
This year, the FPAA celebrated 75 years at the 51st annual event, which took place November 7-9, 2019, at the Tubac Golf Resort and Spa. The show brought buyers, growers, distributors, and allied industry partners to the table for the three-day extravaganza. One of the key highlights of the event for many was when Chuck Ciruli, Jr. was presented with the Pillars of the FPAA award at the Friday Gala for his involvement, dedication, and contributions to the produce industry—but that was not all.
“This year, I certainly felt that we drilled down into how the politics, challenges, advantages, and benefits of Nogales as a key agricultural resource and region would impact each other’s businesses,” Tommy Wilkins, Director of Sales at Grow Farms, told me. “In addition, we received a cold facility update from Georgina Felix, which set the tone for the growth in the area, and Keynote Speaker Rick Stein, Vice President of Fresh Foods at the Food Marketing Institute, also had a great overview of the power of fresh in our industry. Friday was a key highlight as Mr. Chuck Ciruli, Jr., received the Pillar of the FPAA Award and what an evening it turned out to be. He is a man I have looked up to for many years and is now being recognized for a lifetime of achievement. Thank you to the team at FPAA for another amazing event!”
The convention kicked off Thursday with the Welcoming and Networking Lunch and with Master of Ceremonies Mikee Suarez, Sales Manager for MAS Melons and Grapes, who brought vision and enthusiasm to the stage.
“This year, we celebrated 75 years of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas and 51 years of the annual Nogales Produce Convention. I was humbled to receive the invitation to be the Master of Ceremonies at this great event and at such an important time in the produce industry,” Mikee shared with me. “Between trade wars, tomatoes wars, the wrongful threat of seasonality, and countless other issues, the FPAA and companies who represent Mexican produce play a pivotal part in how we and our families will eat in the future. It’s important now more than ever for us to share our truths and stories to keep strengthening the produce industry as a whole.”
Lance also addressed the crowd, keeping the message of the event front and center as the event officially got underway. This year, storytelling was a huge theme for the FPAA as a long history of innovation and passion can inform the exciting future ahead for the industry.
Jim Cathey, Sales Manager at Malena Produce, also shared his thoughts on the convention as he looked back on the recent show.
“FPAA hosted another great event, bringing together the best and most connected in our industry to discuss the relevant topics that are impacting our business today,” Jim noted. “I would like to offer a big thank you to the FPAA team and to all those who came out to further our industry's voices on the international stage. It was amazing to celebrate the 75th anniversary and a nice way to showcase Nogales as well.”
The conversation was rich and contributors were many. A welcomed leadership of key produce voices shared their stories about how they became part of the produce industry and their experiences during their tenure—a theme which really brought home the message that we do not only work in fresh produce, we live it. These industry voices included Raquel Espinoza from Produce House, Walter Ram from Giumarra Companies, and Jaime Chamberlain from Chamberlain Distributing. And don’t think the Hot Topics panel drew any less of a crowd! Additionally, Rick Stein’s Power of Fresh keynote had the attendees all eyes and ears, to echo Tommy, as a professional who has worked as an executive in retail for over 20 years, leading marketing, merchandising, and operating sectors for several companies. Stein touched on many things including new and evolving issues in the industry.
The Veg-Fresh Farms team was one of many companies that also raved about the event with team members Adam Cancellieri, Esther Hernandez, Mario Yubeta, and Diego Ipema in attendance for the annual convention.
“Having the FPAA event the week after Halloween was great as it allowed the opportunity for more people to attend,” Adam, Partner, Veg-Fresh Farms shared. “The layout of the booths was much better this year having it spread out. And this allowed more networking and facilitated conversations with our growers, retailers, and partners. The entertainment and dinner were fantastic and, as always, it is great to connect and spend a few days with our friends in Nogales.”
The evening provided even more opportunities to grow relationships as the Opening Fiesta and Networking Event generated dialogue that brought together new acquaintances and old friends.
To commemorate a milestone year, the FPAA also showcased the 75th-anniversary celebration of the association itself with a historical gallery that shared the legacy and growth of the association. With artifacts dating back to 75 years, the gallery took attendees on a journey from 1944 when the FPAA laid its roots as the West Mexico Vegetable Distributors Association to the present.
The first round of golf on Friday morning at the Tubac Golf Resort launched day two and also generated excitement from early morning through to the Culinary Showcase. The evening brought many industry friends together with the coveted gala event and Pillars of the FPAA Award.
Saturday brought together the event’s avid golfers for the second round followed up by a lunch and award presentation for the golf tournament’s winning teams! Drumroll, please…
- 1st Place: Jimmy Munguia and Earl Bekins
- 2nd Place: Mike Nuñez and Ernie Manzo
- 3rd Place: Kyle McGrath and Scott Kosnik
- Closest to the Pin: Harold Myers
- Longest Drive: Scott Kosnik
- 1st Place: Mike Nuñez and Ernie Manzo
- 2nd Place: Jimmy Munguia and Earl Bekins
- 3rd Place: Adam Cancellieri and Jeff Young
- Closest to the Pin: Ivonne Maldonado
- Longest Drive: Edgar Duarte
“The FPAA Convention is an excellent way to start the produce season in Nogales with its educational sessions and social activities such as the opening Fiesta and its gala dance,” Jorge Ruiz, Sales at Agri-Packing and long-time attendee expressed. “And a what better way to end the convention than with the golf tournament. This is an awesome opportunity to talk to our friends and customers and to know what all of us expect from the season and the industry. To feel the industry and to talk about new products is a great opportunity. We love and always support this event!”
“We had more than 600 attendees at the convention, and it was a great way to celebrate 75 years with our membership,” said FPAA Vice President Allison Moore in an FPA press release. “Our guests enjoyed exceptional speakers, entertainment, networking opportunities, and great food. Events like this are a great way to celebrate this tight-knit industry.”
Produce industry events like this are essential to the health and evolution of the future of fresh—across borders, oceans, and demographics. Congrats to FPAA, on another wildly successful event and to all the attendees who take part in the continued success of the fresh produce industry today!