“It is an honor.” That’s what Peter Pero IV of Pero Family Farms said about winning American Vegetable Grower®‘s 14th annual Grower Achievement AwardSM. The award was presented at United Fresh’s Washington Conference on Sept. 29 in Washington, DC.
“I’m proud of the dedication and hard work of my family and employees and the work they have done to bring our vegetables to market,” he added.
Based in Delray Beach, FL, Pero Family Farms grows a variety of crops including peppers, beans, cucumbers, squash, and other vegetables. In fact, the Peros are noted for their mini sweet peppers and the recently created pepper snack pack. The farm also is know for its creativity in bringing new products to market.
According to Pero, the future plan for the farm, now with the fifth generation entering the business, is to continue to promote healthy eating with new and fresh snack options.
The Grower Achievement Award is sponsored by Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers, and the company’s Lonny Smith, senior marketing manager, was on hand to help present the award. Smith said he is glad to be a part of highlighting the achievements of an operation demonstrating excellence in the industry.
The 20th United Conference
This may have been the 14th grower to receive American Vegetable Grower’s Grower Achievement Award, but it marked the 20th Annual United Fresh Washington Conference. This year the conference focused on several issues, including school nutrition programs, the drought in the West, and immigration reform, with many conference attendees marching on Capitol Hill to discuss these issues with their respective senators and congressmen.
It might be hard to believe, but the half-cup of fruits or vegetables that is currently required in school lunches is coming under fire. Attendees were encouraged to tell their representatives to keep the half cup in school lunches and keep the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program “fresh.”
In fact, Donna Martin, the director of the School Nutrition Program at the Burke County Board of Education in Waynesboro, GA, told the crowd before the march on Capitol Hill that the school lunch program is working, especially her area of Georgia.
“We cut up the fruits and vegetables and the kids can get three [fruits and vegetables] for their trays,” she said.
Also during an address to conference attendees, Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio took it one step further. “We need a salad bar and a garden in every school,” he said. “And, we need kitchens in these schools to show the kids how to cook. They need to know how to grow it and cook it.
“This goes so much further than selling produce to schools,” Ryan continued. “It will help to bring down the cost of health care in this country.”
No matter what topic you are taking up with Congress, it is important to make sure your voice is heard. In fact, Tom Stenzel, CEO of United Fresh, told the group at the Rising Leaders Seminar on Monday, Sept. 28, that there are times you need to “disrupt” what is going on to make sure you get your message out.
He also pointed out how critical it is to be present in Washington, DC, or have a group, such as United, working on your behalf.
You will make a difference in ways unlike my generation,” he told the group. “I hope all of you are able to make a difference, and a big part of that is making a difference in DC.”