In this Memorial Day Weekend edition of While You Were Working (which we suspect most of you won’t read until next week when you get back to work): Thousands turn out for the Got to Be NC Festival; Wal-Mart continues to boost its market share; Southern Innovations officially opens registration; Shuman Produce talks Southern accents; Mango Love; Florida’s top school gardens. Just another week in the produce biz:

It’s Got To Be NC At Annual Ag Festival

RALEIGH, NC – Thousands turned out in the blistering heat here last weekend to celebrate the best of North Carolina agriculture with the annual “Got to Be NC” Festival featuring local products, rides, exhibits and a peek at North Carolina’s agricultural history.

Commissioner Troxler got excited over this and other antique tractors on display, noting the importance of acknowledging agricultural roots. (Photo by Chip Carter)

“We’re celebrating agriculture and agribusiness in North Carolina,” state Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler told SPW. “We started this I guess some 10 years ago and it has grown and grown and grown. It’s just a wonderful day for us to be able to celebrate and bring people together and have this much fun and it’s all about North Carolina.”

An old-time Shell gasoline truck. (Photo by Chip Carter)

“One of the things I’m excited about, especially for our younger people, is the antique farm equipment for people to see how we started and where we are today,” the commissioner said. “We have tractors now guided by GPS but those old tractors didn’t have power steering so it took a lot of muscle even to just drive one of those things. But it was much better than being behind and mule and plow.”

Wal-Mart Market Share Rises Again To 21.5%

Wal-Mart is preparing to take on German value operators Aldi and Lidl by testing new pricing strategies at some stores; meanwhile the company is gaining ground on all other competitors with a 21.5% market share of the $800 billion market.

Same store sales beat other U.S. chains by 2.9% in Q1 — well above the 1.6% differential from fourth quarter of 2016.

Meanwhile, Kroger and Wal-Mart are readying to do battle with Amazon for online grocery share.

Wal-Mart’s strong performance in the first quarter was helped in part by lower deflation but primarily by pre-emptive price cuts ahead of growing competition.

Go here for detailed video on the numbers.

Southern Innovations Registration Officially Opens

Registration is now open for the Southeast’s premier fall produce event, the Southeast Produce Council’s Southern Innovations Organics and Foodservice Expo, scheduled for Sept. 28-30 at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa in South Carolina.

Southeast Produce CouncilThe event was known as the SEPC Fall Conference for the first decade of its existence, then evolved into the Southern Innovations Symposium. This year, SEPC is taking advantage of growing opportunities in organics and foodservice to rebrand and further define the fall show.

“With organic and foodservice markets taking produce to a whole new level, this industry-setting event will provide retail and foodservice professionals with the best of organics and foodservice that produce has to offer while maintaining an intimate setting to build meaningful industry relationships,” said SEPC Executive Director David Sherrod.

In addition to networking and educational opportunities, there will also be a tradeshow component.

Site of Southern Innovations 2017

The fall conference/SIS “has really grown to the point where now we’re going to add a miniature tradeshow,” said former SEPC President Andrew Scott, director of marketing and business development for Atlanta’s Nickey Gregory Company. “We’re going to have booths – less than 100 — and be at a small convention center real close to the Westin, just a mile away.”

The Friday schedule will include educational and networking opportunities, lunch and the tradeshow. That evening will feature the semi-formal President’s Dinner Dance, along with the changing of the guard as a new slate of SEPC officers is announced, Scott said.

Saturday morning will bring a golf tournament and fishing tournament, along with a spouses excursion for those who choose neither.

Saturday afternoon is reserved for the legendary tailgate party. College football fans start gathering shortly after the golf tournament ends, wearing school colors and watching the games on about 15 TVs, Scott said. “We’ve been doing that for about 10 years; instead of sneaking off from other events to watch football we just turned it into a networking opportunity.”

Scott remembers the first fall conference, which drew between 100-125 people to Georgia’s Lake Lanier Islands in the early 2000s. “Last year there were 325 attendees and we’ll beat that for sure this year,” he said. “This will be the biggest and best this coming September, no doubt about it. We’re going to have a lot more retail and foodservice people there than we have had in the past.”

Scott believes the focus on organics and foodservice will be welcomed in an industry that’s changing due to demands from both those sectors.

“The show will be geared towards organics and foodservice, two important and growing areas,” he said. “At the Nickey Gregory Co. probably half our business or more is foodservice sales. And we’re going to be getting into organics in a big way later this year when we move into 42,000 square feet of additional space on the Atlanta State Farmers Market. SEPC is always listening to its members and paying attention to their needs, and this is just another example of that.”

National Mango Board Announces ‘Share. Mango. Love.’ Recipe Contest

The National Mango Board (NMB) invites professional chefs, dietitians, onsite managers and directors working in commercial and non-commercial foodservice operations to enter its Share. Mango. Love. Foodservice Recipe Contest.

Designed to showcase the versatility of fresh mango in savory applications, the Share. Mango. Love. recipe contest will award four (4) cash prizes, three (3) first prizes of $1,000 and one (1) grand prize of $2,000. Submitted recipes can be an existing menu item or a dish created specifically for this contest.

Entries will be accepted for one or more original savory recipes in the following categories: appetizer/snack, salad/side, and entrée. Entries will be accepted through August 31, 2017. Interested foodservice professionals can visit to enter or get more information about the contest.

“Educating the foodservice industry on how fun and versatile it is to cook with mangos is key to increasing mango usage on menus,” stated Valda Coryat, Director of Marketing at the NMB. “Through this contest, we want to inspire foodservice professionals to try different varieties of mangos in new and exciting ways; and explore the mango flavors and textures that complement many menu options.”

For more information about fresh mangos, as well as tools and resources for foodservice operators and distributors, visit

Shuman Rolls Out How To Speak Southern 2.0 Campaign

Shuman Produce has launched the second installment of its hysterical “How to Speak Southern” marketing campaign. This social media-driven promotion, which runs through June 30, is aimed at educating consumers on the uniqueness of Vidalia onions while also highlighting some of Shuman Produce’s favorite true Southernisms. How to Speak Southern 2.0 combines a quiz, recipe videos and Vidalia onion facts to engage consumers in the story behind Vidalia onions.

“Consumers are interested in learning more about where and how their produce is grown. Vidalia onions are extremely unique in that they can only be grown in a 20-county region in Southeast Georgia and are only available a few months out of the year. This promotion is a great way for us to share our story and build excitement around RealSweet® Vidalia® onions,” said John Shuman, President of Shuman Produce. ‘The goal of this campaign is to increase brand awareness and incremental sales associated with Vidalia sweet onions,” added Shuman.

The highlight of this campaign is the“ Can You Speak Southern” quiz which tests knowledge of phrases used throughout the Southeastern United States. After taking the quiz, consumers can enter to win weekly giveaways along with the grand prize – a Big Green Egg grill. The Big Green Egg grand prize is a great fit for this campaign as it ties in grilling season and Vidalia onions. The quiz is housed on a dedicated campaign website and URL that contains engaging and informative content such as delicious summer recipes featuring Chef & The Fatman, personal farmer profiles, informative Vidalia onion facts and a sign-up for the RealSweet® consumer newsletter.

“Shuman Produce is excited about the potential of this promotion. After tremendous success in 2015, we expect our social media followers to engage all season long,” said Susannah Lanier, Marketing Coordinator of Shuman Produce.

To test your own Southern knowledge and learn more about RealSweet Vidalia onions, visit

Florida Ag Department Recognizes Best Florida Farm To School Gardens

TALLAHASSEE, FL – The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services this week announced the winners of the third annual Florida Farm to School “Golden Shovel” Awards, which recognize Florida students, educators and community members for their extraordinary school garden efforts. The five award categories include: Best New Garden, Best Revitalized Garden, Best Use of Produce, Most Community Involvement and Most Creative Learning Environment.


Tallahassee School of Math and Science in Leon CountyApplicants to the “Golden Shovel” Awards implemented numerous innovative gardening methods, including: irrigated raised beds, hoop houses, hydroponic towers, fruit tree orchards and aquaponics systems. Produce from the school gardens was featured in student and teacher meals, donated to the community and taken home for the weekend. The program received applications from 20 counties.

Numerous schools showcased fully integrated school garden programs that featured outdoor classrooms with decorative pergolas and arbors, butterfly gardens and atriums, as well as native wetlands and shoreline restoration projects

The recipients of the 2017 “Golden Shovel” Awards are:

Best New Garden

Primary Division: Loughman Oaks Elementary, Polk County

Secondary Division: Tallahassee School of Math and Science, Leon County

Best Revitalized Garden

Primary Division: Palmetto Elementary, Miami-Dade County

Secondary Division: Santa Fe High School, Alachua County

Best Use of Produce

Primary Division: West Melbourne School for Science, Brevard County

Secondary Division: Osceola Middle School, Marion County

Most Community Involvement

Primary Division: Dommerich Elementary, Orange County

Secondary Division: Osceola Middle School, Marion County

Most Creative Learning Environment

Primary Division: Lawton Elementary, Seminole County

Secondary Division: Sickles High School, Hillsborough County

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services operates the state’s school nutrition program, including school breakfast, lunch, Summer BreakSpot and the HealthierUS School Challenge certification program, in all 67 counties. In the past four years, the department has worked with dozens of schools across the state to implement and support school gardens. In addition, the department began its own garden in Tallahassee that helps educate students, teachers and parents about how to start and maintain a school garden.

For more information about the school garden program at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, please visit






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