The Maitland-based Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association awarded the following individuals for their contributions to the fresh produce industry during its 76th annual convention Sept. 24-26 in Palm Beach.
Customer of the Year
- John Alexander of Walmart
FFVA’s Customer of the Year Award recognizes the important role foodservice and retail merchandising play in the promotion and sale of fresh Florida produce. It is given to a valued partner that has worked with producers to promote Florida products. In nominating Alexander, Eric Hopkins of Hundley Farms said, “John Alexander and Walmart are huge year-round supporters of Florida sweet corn and many other commodities that Florida farmers produce. Without the ongoing support of Walmart, Florida producers would have to dramatically reduce their planted acres of crops.”
Legislators of the Year
- Florida Sen. Ben Albritton and Rep. Bobby Payne
Citrus grower Sen. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, was honored for devoting significant efforts to securing funding for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the University of Florida’s Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences during the legislative session. He was involved in the passage of the hemp bill (SB 1020) and helped prevent bills that would have been harmful to agriculture from passing.
Rep. Bobby Payne, R-Palatka, sponsored HB 973, the House version of a water quality bill that included many of the goals of Together Florida, a coalition of agriculture organizations and companies working toward solutions to harmful algae blooms in waterways.
“Both Sen. Albritton and Rep. Payne have a record of being supportive of grower issues,” FFVA President Mike Joyner said. “We look forward to working with both of these legislators in the future.”
Researcher of the Year
- Dr. Richard Raid, professor of plant pathology at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade
This award is given to individuals who have dedicated themselves and their work to improving Florida agriculture. Raid is a highly regarded researcher whose work in the integrated control of plant diseases in sugarcane, vegetable and herb crops has been critical to the well-being and future of Florida agriculture.
Raid’s research has focused on a variety of crops of economic importance in South Florida. For many of the specialty crops grown in the Everglades Agricultural Area, Raid is the only UF pathologist familiar with those crops and the diseases that affect them.
“Dr. Raid demonstrates a seeming inexhaustible capacity for working with area growers and helping them to solve the unique disease challenges that they face,” UF/IFAS County Extension Director Gene McAvoy and Dr. Gregg Nuessly, director of the Everglades center, said in their nomination letter. “His contributions have contributed enormously to the well-being and economic success of EAA and South Florida farmers and have undoubtedly saved them from multiple millions of dollars of losses each year.”
Karen and Mike Stuart Humanitarian Award
- Light House Café and Ella’s Closet
Recognizing organizations for charitable humanitarian work that improves the community and the lives of its residents, this award is named in the honor of the late Karen Stuart and her husband, retired FFVA President Mike Stuart.
Founded in 1993, the Light House Café’s mission is “to transform the Glades area through God’s grace, love, and peace by bringing together diverse groups to provide food, counseling and a helping hand to all,” according to its website.
Each day the Light House Café is open, volunteers prepare hot meals from food donated by the Feeding South Florida Food Bank, local farmers, local churches and individuals throughout the community. All meals served are free to anyone who comes in.
Ella’s Closet offers classes, workshops and events that provide training, knowledge and tips to families to help them better care for their young children. Upon completion of a workshop, the family has the opportunity to “shop” in Ella’s Closet and select items they need for their children.
In nominating the ministries, FFVA Board Member Jim Shine said the organizations “provide Christian ministry to local residents of downtown Belle Glade. The Café provides a meal and some tangible needs for personal hygiene and clothing, plus a Christian message to provide hope that there is a way out of the place they find themselves in. There are numerous success stories, and many of those who have gotten back on their feet continue to volunteer at the Café.”
Along with the recognition, FFVA made a donation to the Light House Café and Ella’s Closet.