Behind-the-Scenes of the SEPC's 2016 Southern Exposure Conference
HOLLYWOOD, FL - Looking to add a splash of tropical paradise to your life this March? I sure am. Kicking off on March 3, 2016, this year’s SEPC Southern Exposure is moving to Hollywood, Florida and what a better way to fight the chill as winter winds down, than with the “Produce in Paradise” themed event. SEPC is pulling out all the stops again this year, so polish up on your business acumen and get your luau gear ready. For those beach-deprived like myself, the event is taking place at the Diplomat Resort & Spa, steps away from the sand on Florida’s pristine southern east coast.
"We are looking forward to a change of scenery in South Florida this year. The beach will provide a great atmosphere to host our 'Produce in Paradise' theme and we can’t wait to see all of our produce family in attendance,” David Sherrod, SEPC Executive Director, tells me. “The conference will continue to provide an intimate environment this year, allowing everyone to form and cultivate one-on-one relationships with their customers and suppliers."
Southern Exposure will be hosting 278 booths in 2016, up from last year’s 267 exhibitors. The show will also bring in a variety of retailer and food service professionals that will exceed last year’s numbers, so stay tuned as the team at SEPC finalizes the attendee list.
“We can’t wait to welcome everyone to this year’s beachside conference. Southern Exposure is like a big family reunion for us every year. We couldn’t do it without the support of our sponsors and attendees,” said Faye Westfall, DiMare Fresh Tampa.
The conference weekend will kick off on Thursday, March 3 with 280 golfers at the annual Tom Page Golf Classic at the beautiful Jacaranda Golf Club. Thursday evening will host an invitation-only dinner for the new 2016 STEP-UPP and STARS classes.
The 2016 STEP-UPP (Southeast Training Education Program for Upcoming Produce Professionals) class has grown this year with 12 new participants, up from 10 in years past. STEP-UPP provides an enriched learning experience for potential retail and food service produce professionals to develop a greater understanding of the industry through strategic orientation, personal leadership and hands-on field experience.
Each year, individuals are selected through an application and interview process based on leadership experience and interest in developing a career in fresh produce.
The 2016 STARS (Southeast Top Agricultural Recruits Scholarship) class program students will also be introduced at Southern Exposure. The Southeast schools that benefit from the STARS program are:
- University of Georgia
- University of Florida
- Louisiana State University
- Clemson University
- North Carolina State University
A total of ten agriculture major students are selected each year from amongst these schools (2 from each school) and receive $2,500 toward their education - all will be attending Southern Exposure to network for job opportunities and for an introduction to the industry.
Friday morning will provide the educational component of the conference with two industry informative workshops. The SEPC has a great line up of topics, so stay tuned for more information after the new year.
“We will continue to grow our educational programs this year with outstanding seminars and keynote sessions,” stated Sherrod. “Our STARS and STEP-UPP classes are also shaping up to offer some of the best resources and training in the industry”.
Get ready to hula the night away at the annual Opening Night Gala on Friday night. The evening will be fun-filled with great food, music and networking.
On Saturday, March 5, Southern Exposure will welcome NFL football legend Jimmy Johnson to the stage as this year’s keynote speaker.
The SEPC will also be honoring Joe Klare of the Castellini Company LLC with the Terry Vorhees Lifetime Achievement Award at the keynote luncheon. The award recognizes an individual in the industry every year who has not only been a long-standing SEPC member, but has shown exemplary professional and personal integrity and business ethic across their entire career.
Immediately following the keynote luncheon, the ribbon to this year’s exposition will be cut and the show will officially be opened for some of the best networking in the produce industry. Hosting growers, shippers and buyers from all over the country, the SEPC prides itself on the wide variety, yet intimate environment the show has to offer attendees.
Be sure to kick back and relax after the show at the Gator Moon Closing Reception. Steel drums and a relaxing atmosphere outside on the water at the Diplomat Landing will be a great way to end a great weekend until next year!
For the full agenda and to register for the conference, visit seproducecouncil.com.
See you all there!