It’s easy to take for granted how special our industry is and the incredible impact we have the opportunity to make each day, and nothing serves as a more meaningful reminder than the feedback we receive from the Aggies for Fresh attendees after Viva Fresh each year. Not only did the 2019 show exceed expectations on a professional level, but also on a personal level according to the students, who provided us with a bounty of inspiration during and after the show. Here’s a recap of the Aggie’s experiences at the 2019 Viva Fresh show:
Viva Fresh According to the 2019 Aggies for Fresh Students
Being that Viva is an event mainly geared toward making new commercial relationships and doing business, it amazed me how willing everyone was to talk to the only 9 students present to walk around the show floor. Many people even participated in the Aggies for Fresh reception to meet—and potentially hire—new “fresh produce blood.” I could not appreciate more this type of exposure to the industry, which we enjoyed throughout the experience. The expo’s organizers always made sure that attendees and exhibitors knew that we were here looking for jobs. Dante said at one point that “the first interview had already been done” for them, which showed how much he trusted Dan’l’s recommendations.
After my experience with Aggies for Fresh, I have a new and better understanding of—and appreciation for—the fresh produce industry. My career focus is marketing, and the experience I had at Viva solidified my decision to focus on a path to fresh produce. I want to be able to make an impact and work to bridge the misconceptions that a disconnected population may have about the industry, and really, about agriculture as a whole. Aggies for Fresh has provided me with a great platform to to see firsthand the individuals who serve this industry, the many different roles available, and where I could fit in.
The expo was a great taste of how fulfilling a career in fresh produce could be, and it was very clear that the people I interacted with care deeply about their work and recognize that it is making a difference in the world, making it worth the work hard. Overall, my experience gave me direction in finding a career in the fresh produce industry and provided meaningful connections at the same time. This conference was such a people-oriented event, and by the end that made sense because that is clearly the nature of this industry.
Viva Fresh was a phenomenal, well-organized, and very diverse conference. As I walked the expo floor, there was one thing that really captured my attention. Companies, firms, growers, packers, transporters, and everyone else in attendance was working to benefit not just themselves, but the entire produce industry. Those involved in the fresh produce industry work so hard to ensure that their product is the best product that they can make it and there was so much innovation and creativity. While I did learn about the fresh produce industry specifically, I truly believe that during this experience I also saw the standard for what all sectors of agriculture should aspire to.
At Viva Fresh, I and eight other Aggies who received scholarships to attend, were the only students at this conference. This gave us the opportunity to stand out in the crowd of industry members, and to have a voice on our perception of the fresh produce industry through the eyes of a student. I could not believe how many opportunities I was given to talk with professionals in the industry, from growing and packing to distributing—and everything in between. The DMA team took the time to hear each of our personal fresh produce stories and get to know the desires that we each have to make a mark on the industry. Dan’l even personally introduced us to executives of companies we were interested in learning about, giving us an automatic connection and setting us up with future contacts in the industry.
Last year, I had the privilege of being selected as an Aggies for Fresh scholarship recipient and was able to attend the Viva Fresh Expo for the first time. I fell in love with the industry and found an internship, and I was then fortunate enough to attend a second time this year. Besides seeing familiar faces, which I loved, I also made new valuable connections and learned about other types of companies in the fresh produce industry. The Aggies for Fresh program is an initiative that provides positive contributions to the produce industry not just in the short-term, but also the long-term.
The expo itself was all high energy, bright colors, and fresh fruit and vegetables as far as you could see. I got to enjoy the enthusiasm of the grower community, from farmers and packers to shippers, all the way up to retail. While I am an enthusiastic consumer, I have a much better appreciation for all the preparation it takes to put good quality food onto the shelves. This experience has made me fall in love with food all over again. As Dan’l said, “Without the farmers, there wouldn’t be anything to eat.”
It did not take me long to see the passion all across the industry. It was not about making money or being the best, it was about helping feed the world and making the world a better place. There was a deep sense of camaraderie across all verticals of the industry. The whole event felt like a family reunion! There were many times during Viva that sales managers, chief operating officers, and marketing directors would come up to one the Aggies for Fresh scholars to tell us how great it was for us to be there and what an asset we were to the industry. They made us feel welcome, which is something that cannot be said for all industries.
From a professional development standpoint, I felt attending Viva Fresh allowed me to practice marketing myself and feel more comfortable building professional relationships. It was my first time attending an expo, and it easily could have been overwhelming, but the DMA team provided us with a great strategy for navigating the event. I felt confident going into the expo because I had a plan. Overall, attending the Viva Fresh Expo was an inspiring experience that left me with a new sense of appreciation for all that goes into fresh produce as an industry, as well as for the uniqueness of everyone’s story. In fact, Viva might just be the experience that becomes the start to my own fresh produce story.
We continue to be impressed by and incredibly grateful for all of the industry leaders who take the time each year to meet with these students and introduce them to fresh produce. If you would like more information on the 2019 Aggies for Fresh scholarship recipients, or to learn more about getting involved with the Aggies for Fresh organization, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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