FFVA Cracker Breakfast to host inspirational writer and speaker Andy Andrews

By Mick Lochridge

Best-selling author and popular inspirational speaker Andy Andrews will deliver his take on tackling personal challenges during the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association’s upcoming convention.

The traditional Cracker Breakfast on Sept. 26 will host the Alabama native, who turned a tragic struggle as a teenager into a successful career as a professional communicator with a Southern drawl. Andrews spins stories filled with folksy wit and down-to-earth insights.

Andrews, 58, has written more than 20 books, including three New York Times bestsellers:  “The Traveler’s Gift,” “The Noticer,” and “How Do You Kill 11 Million People?” Speaking requests have come from four U.S. presidents, military officials and business leaders.

Published in 2002,”The Traveler’s Gift” remained on the Times’ bestseller list for 17 weeks and has been translated into more than 40 languages. Subtitled “Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success,” the book grew from Andrews’ own search to set his life back on course.

When he was 19, his mother died from cancer and his father was killed in an automobile accident. He drifted to the Alabama Gulf Coast, homeless and sleeping at times beneath a fishing pier. During that period he visited the public library, where he read more than 200 biographies of great men and women to learn what made them successful. What he discovered became the foundation of his career as a writer and speaker.

Today Andrews lives in Orange Beach, Ala., not far from that pier. He and wife Polly have two teenage sons. FFVA asked him to answer a few questions in advance of his convention appearance.

FFVAWhy do you think your messages of personal success and inspirational living resonate with men and women today?

Andrews: Everyone wants and needs hope to navigate the life they have chosen, but hope is a vapor — a myth — unless we attach principles to our choices.  It’s a distinction I always make when I write and speak:  Hope without direction is meaningless.

FFVAThinking about Florida’s farmers, what messages do you hope they take away from your talk?

Andrews: I want Florida’s farmers to understand fully the difference they make in our lives.  I want them to feel appreciated, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to help in any way I can.

FFVAHow do your views on leadership, personal choices and consequences apply to farmers?

Andrews: Farmers are our nation’s ultimate entrepreneurs.  Any entrepreneurial effort lives or dies on leadership and personal choices.

FFVAGrowing up in Alabama, what did you see and learn from farmers that helped shape your outlook on life?

Andrews: I was aware from an early age that America’s farmers fed the world.  I have always been proud to be from a state that places such an importance on agriculture.  George Washington Carver is one of my biggest heroes.

FFVAWhat gets you down? What do you do about it?

Andrews: Being away from my family too much will do it.  I have to take charge of my schedule.  Home is certainly where MY heart is.

FFVAWhat role does your faith play in what you do for a living?

Andrews: I feel certain God put me on Earth to do what I do.  My faith is the part of me that leads all others.

FFVAHow do blend your messages and insights into strengthening your marriage and raising your kids?

Andrews: My wife and I have been married 28 years.  Austin is 17, Adam is 15, and Polly is now officially the shortest one in the family!  All my work comes tried and true directly from my family.

FFVAFinal question: What is your favorite vegetable?

Andrews: Corn!

FFVA’S 74th Annual Convention will be held Sept. 25-27 at The Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island. To see more about the convention and to register, go to ffva.com/convention. To download FFVA’s mobile app, search “FFVA” in the Apple Store or Google Play.

To learn more about Andrews, visit andyandrews.com, or watch a short video here.

FFVA convention to focus on trade, labor, and consumer perception issues

Trade issues are top of mind these days for specialty crop producers. Efforts have been underway since early this year to remedy damage to the state’s fresh fruit and vegetable industry from Mexican product being dumped into the U.S. during Florida’s harvest season. That’s a topic that FFVA will focus on in our upcoming 74thannual convention Sept. 25-27 in Amelia Island.

Carolyn Gleason of the Washington office of law firm McDermott Will and Emery and Sharon Bomer Lauritsen, who’s with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, will explain during one of the three  Issues Forums what’s at stake and what FFVA and other groups are doing to ensure the industry can stay competitive.

Another forum, titled “They just don’t understand: Consumer angst about food and what you can do about it,” will focus on consumer trust. As consumers become more interested in how their food is grown, processed and brought to market, the food system must ensure it builds trust. J.J. Jones of the Center for Food Integrity will talk about how to engage and connect with consumers, telling your story so it will resonate.

Access to a stable, legal workforce remains a top concern for producers, so we’ll focus on that at the convention as well.  With border walls and travel bans dominating the national headlines, where does that leave agriculture? Craig Regglebruge, National Council of Agriculture Employers, will discuss how our industry is strategizing to make sure the administration understands our unique workforce needs.

The convention will also feature two outstanding keynote speakers. State Rep. Jake Raburn will offer his take on the state of the industry during the opening luncheon on Sept. 25. During the annual traditional Cracker Breakfast on Sept. 26, we’ll hear from New York Times best-selling author Andy Andrews. Andrews, who has an interesting life story, wrote The Traveler’s Gift: Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success. The book stayed on the Times’ bestseller list for 17 weeks. The newspaper hailed Andrews as a “modern-day Will Rogers who has quietly become one of the most influential people in America.”

In between sessions, there will be ample opportunity for networking with colleagues and connecting with our many sponsors. The Florida Specialty Crop Foundation will again offer up a silent auction with loads of great items such as travel packages, fashion and jewelry, artwork, wine selections and more. Proceeds will benefit several of the Foundation’s priorities, including FFVA’s Emerging Leader Development Program and the Redlands Christian Migrant Association. The final dinner with music and dancing will also feature a spirited live auction.

To wrap up the convention, golfers can hit the fairways at the Omni Amelia Island Ocean Links Golf Course. Anglers will be treated to a great fishing excursion in the shallow back country saltwater estuaries, flats and inlets west of Amelia Island.

To see more about the convention and to register, go to ffva.com/convention . You also can download our mobile app by searching “FFVA” in the Apple Store or Google Play.

Research key to pomegranate success

By Vicky Boyd

Florida’s fledgling pomegranate industry will continue to sprout, growers and researchers say, although work remains to be done in managing the diseases that plague pomegranate trees.

After 10 years of conducting trials into suitable varieties and related cultural practices, Bill Castle remains optimistic, and research at the University of Florida’s Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred is tackling some of the challenges. Castle is a horticulture professor emeritus at the center.

At the outset of his research, Castle said, “I realized that diseases — not insect pests but diseases — were going to be a problem, and we can’t develop a commercial industry until we understand what the disease problems are and how to manage those. I think that is still true today.”

Cindy Weinstein, president of the Florida Pomegranate Association and owner of Green Sea Farms Pomegranate Nursery in Zolfo Springs, said she also remains hopeful.

“Yes, we do have hurdles to jump over. But yes, it’s doable, and we’re getting fruit. Our biggest handicap is getting (fungicide) labels,” she said.

Although Weinstein said she expects that the pomegranate industry will serve local and regional fresh fruit markets initially, she hopes it eventually grows large enough for international markets and related processing, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.

Pomegranates are not new to the state, with a small industry dating back to the late 1800s. With the challenges facing the Florida citrus industry and changing consumer tastes and nutritional demands, Weinstein said, pomegranates have seen a resurgence of interest from growers.

Know thine enemy

About four years ago, Castle enlisted the help of Gary Vallad, an associate professor of plant pathology at the UF Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, to identify pathogens and develop ways to manage them.

“Bill came to us because he was having issues with several diseases that were severely limiting his ability to assess their varieties,” Vallad said. “There are a lot of varieties that would do well in Florida if it weren’t for the diseases.”

With the aid of a specialty crop block grant, Vallad began surveying pomegranate plantings to identify diseases and determine which ones were economically important. He found Colletotrichum was causing the most economic damage, followed by Botryosphaeriaceae – nicknamed Bot — and a few others.

“The most important pathogen that’s out there by far is Colletotrichum,” Vallad said, referring to the organism also known as anthracnose. Not only does it cause blossom blight, fruit rot, leaf spots, shoot blight, twig cankers and defoliation, but in severe cases it can cause branch dieback.

Based on that newfound knowledge, Vallad and his colleagues began conducting trials on cooperating growers’ infected trees. Only a few conventional products are registered for use on pomegranates, and they’re mostly for post-harvest diseases. Instead, the researchers focused on fungicides already registered for use on other fruit crops.

A handful of products proved effective, and Vallad said they have worked with the IR-4 Project, which helps develop data to support new Environmental Protection Agency tolerances and labeled uses for minor-use crops. The trials also showed that applying a fungicide at bloom is the most important, Vallad said. Repeating applications at other times of the year didn’t significantly improve disease control.

Building on Castle’s work, Vallad also found that removing dead leaves, diseased branches and rotten fruit on which spores can overwinter are critical to an integrated disease management program.

Growers have taken note, Weinstein said.

“Our trees were infected with fungus, but because of research at GREC we now know what type of fungus we have and been able to clean up our trees for marketable pomegranates,” she said.

In addition, Vallad and his group are trying to determine if there are other hosts for the disease. Because Colletotrichum also affects citrus and blueberries, does having a pomegranate orchard near those crops increase the potential for or severity of infection?

“This becomes really important, because we have a lot of folks who are blueberry growers or citrus growers,” he said.

Breeding for success

As part of the block grant, Zhanao Deng, UF professor of ornamental plant breeding and genetics based at GREC, began a breeding program to develop varieties that could perform well in Florida’s climate and disease pressures. At the same time, the trees had to yield tasty fruit consumers will want.

Deng started with about a dozen different cultivars, including Wonderful, the most widely grown variety in California. He screened the seedlings, selecting for desirable traits. The young trees eventually were planted in a 3.5-acre orchard at Balm and will act as a material source for future breeding.

Another part of the research, led by GREC agricultural economist Zhenfei Guan, involves examining the economics of growing pomegranates.

Shinsuke Agehara, an assistant professor of horticultural sciences at GREC, received a separate specialty crop block grant to study and improve pomegranate tree nutrition.

“It seems pomegranates are really heavy feeders, and people weren’t feeding them nearly enough,” Weinstein said.

For more information, visit UF’s pomegranate website at http://www.crec.ifas.ufl.edu/extension/pomegranates/.


For updates on meetings and field days, follow the Florida Pomegranate Association on LinkedIn.com/floridapomegranateassociation/ or Twitter.com/flpomegranate/