Of all the holidays we celebrate each year, Thanksgiving is a uniquely fresh produce experience — after all, that first celebration marked the Pilgrims’ first harvest.

As we head into this Thanksgiving, here are a few of the many things our industry can give thanks for and can build upon.

Produce industry has a lot to be thankful for

Bryan Silbermann
Produce Marketing Association

The common thread? Our tradition-bound industry is embracing innovation.

The innovation that is necessary to build and sustain the relationships that we need to grow into the future — with consumers, with government, and among the links of our own supply chain.

Sharing our spirit

Despite the continuing worst economic downturn in nearly a century, our supply chain came together throughout the year to celebrate our community, to share our strengths and to work together to grow our businesses. We saw it in record numbers from around the world at Fresh Summit, and ranging across the nation from the well-established Fresh Produce and Floral Council expo earlier this year to the first New York Produce Show earlier this month.

At the heart of those gatherings is the growing awareness that to thrive we must move beyond business built on short-term transactions to focus on the long-term relationships — both with each other, and with the consumers we ultimately serve.

During their general session addresses at Fresh Summit, PMA chairman Mike O’Brien, a retailer, and chairman-elect Rich Dachman, a foodservice distributor, called for the supply chain to come together to meet consumer demands.

Telling our story

One leading example of the power of telling our story to consumers is the “bunch of carrot farmers” who have come together to position baby carrots to compete with snack foods. Another is the tie-in Vidalia onions engineered with Shrek. Our industry doesn’t often make the national business headlines as these stories have.

On the foodservice front, the supply chain-wide Foodservice 2020 Initiative is working to grow produce use through great-tasting, healthier menus and is getting attention all the way to the White House.

Consumers aren’t the only stakeholders we’ve been working to build better relationships with — even government is working differently, with your help.

Our industry is also coming together to fight back against misleading information about produce. For example, we now have a broadly supported effort led by the Alliance for Food and Farming to challenge the innuendo of Dirty Dozen-type claims with sound science, to promote open dialogue with consumers.

Because of our industry’s work daily, Americans are able to take for granted the wide variety of low-cost foods. The bounty of our global industry’s wares will be evident on Thanksgiving tables across this nation and on market shelves and restaurant tables all year round. We deliver that bounty with fewer inputs, leaving a smaller footprint on the environment with each generation.

Looking forward

When I sit down with my family at our home this Thanksgiving, I will also have much to be hopeful for. I hope for:

  • civility among our nation’s elected leaders as they begin the work of governing our nation with a different balance of power in Washington;
  • those same leaders to have the courage to make better choices for our children’s better health;
  • the continued sparks of innovation that will help lift the economy and help our businesses grow.

On behalf of the entire PMA family in Newark, Del., around the country and around the world, I wish you and yours a delightful Thanksgiving.

What are you thankful for this year? Please let us know. Post your comments to PMA’s Facebook page.

Bryan Silbermann is president and chief executive officer of the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del.