The Southeast Produce Council 2018 Southern Exposure tradeshow and expo is underway in Florida at the Tampa Convention Center (above photo) through the weekend with a jampacked agenda and more than 2500 produce growers, sellers and buyers in attendance.

Faye Westfall of DiMare Fresh took the reins as SEPC Chairman of the Board at the Southern Innovations Organics & Foodservice Expo in Hilton Head, SC in September. Southern Exposure marks the midpoint of her term. We caught up with Faye for an update earlier this week:

Southeast Produce Weekly — Well here we go — time for The Big Show! Exciting, crazy times no doubt getting ready for all of this…

FAYE WESTFALL — Oh my goodness there are so many new and exciting things going on! I know I will be walking around checking the SEPC Southern Exposure App all day so I don’t miss anything. I want to experience all of it!

SPW — You’ve been at the helm since September now — halfway home. How’s the experience been so far?

WESTFALL — Still very humbling and exciting at the same time. It is such an honor to be involved in any capacity with the council. I guess the downfall is… yes, I am halfway — I don’t want it to end. Trying to absorb all I can.

SPW — We continue to see SEPC programs grow and prosper — new scholarships, increasing community involvement everywhere you look. How does SEPC keep growing and doing more?

WESTFALL — With David Sherrod as our President & CEO, with the great Board of Directors along with guidance from the Board of Governors, how can we not keep growing and excelling? We have an amazing driving force. Not to mention the input of the members of the council and their willingness to help in any way possible. We try to make them feel like they are not just members but a huge part of the success of SEPC — they’re what it’s all about.

SPW — Despite all the growth in other areas, SEPC has done a great job managing the size of Southern Exposure. That must be a challenge — so many want to exhibit but you have to draw lines.

Lurking in Tampa?

WESTFALL — It is challenging, but a welcome challenge. Growth in any organization can be an issue, but once again with the Board of Directors and their hard work, along with understanding members, we have been able to keep the intimacy in our events, which is what we are known for. I guess you could say we prefer quality, not necessarily quantity.

SPW — While exhibitors are limited, attendance is still growing. It seems every time around there are more quality buyers walking the show floor.

WESTFALL — Buyers look forward to our events because they do have the room they need to walk the show floor and have quality time to visit each booth.  We offer a lot of take-away value also with the workshops and educational programs that we offer.

SPW — It also seems that there is more and more national and international participation and attendance — we’re starting to see a lot of faces from California, Canada — that appeal for doing business in and with the Southeast seemingly continues to grow as well.

WESTFALL — Yes we are seeing a lot of faces that we didn’t see in the past.  Once again I think that is due to all the events we have to offer and we strive to make Southern Exposure better and better, year over year.

SPW — What are you proudest about of all that SEPC does?

WESTFALL — I think it’s a toss-up between our educational portion and our outstanding outreach programs.

SPW — What are you most looking forward to at the show?

WESTFALL — My first thought is getting another year off the ground with the Step-Upp group! Seeing many wonderful friends in the industry that I may only see during Southern Exposure or the Southern Innovations Organic & Foodservice Event in the fall. And with this year’s theme being “Where Produce Is King” — my goodness I am anxious to see just how many Elvis impersonators show up!

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