TUBAC, Ariz. — Growers of Mexican fresh produce practice social responsibility and sustainability because that’s who they are, not just to sell the consumer, said Alicia Martin of Wilson Produce, at the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas annual convention.

An education session featuring a panel of growers and growers representatives was the highlight of the event, Oct. 30-Nov. 1.

FPAA meeting addresses social responsibility“We have a well-kept secret in Mexico, and we have to make it more well known,” said Martin Ley, president of Fresh Evolution.

Martin said she’s proud to be a farmer, and that’s why her family company started a program called “comprometido,” which means “committed.”

Farm workers at Wilson Produce take care of the soil, which keeps the crop healthy, which keeps the company healthy, which gives back to the workers in benefits and stability, Wilson said.

“With comprometido, we’re trying to build community,” she said.

Juan Laborin, general manager of AALPUM, which represents Mexican table grape producers, said each grower has its own social responsibility program, and they couldn’t afford to wait until government regulations forced them to do it.

“We’re working on our carbon footprint now because that is what’s coming (next),” he said.

In other sessions of the education program of the annual conference, Bruce McEvoy, director of global affairs for Seald Sweet/Univeg, gave ideas for global sourcing, saying “There is no right model. We must always adapt to the market.”

McEvoy said it’s a good idea to do strategic planning to try to anticipate market changes. He said if his company didn’t do that before citrus greening devastated the Florida citrus market, Seald Sweet’s business would be way down, but it’s global diversification kept it a strong company.

Also Jim Kolbe, senior transatlantic fellow for the German Marshall Fund, and former Arizona congressman for 18 years, talked about Arizona/Mexico trade.

In its Oct. 31 award banquet, the FPAA honored Margie Emmermann, executive director of the Arizona-Mexico Commission with its lifetime achievement award. Emmermann plans to retire at the end of the year.

Lance Jungmeyer, FPAA president, said “The FPAA has seen first-hand the dedication Margie has to strengthening the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico time and again.”

The annual Pillar of the FPAA award went to Eddie Stoller, who was known for his work at Ritclo Produce and the association that later became the FPAA. He died in 2008.

His children accepted the award: Eddie of Frank’s Distributing; Danny of Malena Produce, David, customs official in Eagle Pass, Texas; Elizabeth, elementary school teacher in Rio Rico; and Debbie, substitute teacher in the Nogales school district.

Jungmeyer said next year’s event is scheduled for Nov. 5-7.