I was honored to again participate in this year’s Organic Produce Summit in Monterey. Even though I no longer engage directly in trading organic produce, something draws me to this event like no other. What’s in it for me then? Why must I go?
Making the journey to beautiful downtown Monterey with sea otters and glistening waters isn’t the worst place to hang out in the heat of summer.
Or is it the delicious organic food and drink offered up at the opening reception? Burrito breakfast or the lovely organic lunch filled with scrumptious organic fare?
Could it be the morning anticipation when participants gather to gain insight from the educational sessions?
The discussions were certainly deep and relevant: The evolution of wholesaler distributors of organic fresh produce, the future of organic retail meals or tackling food waste; they offered something for everyone in the trade.
I landed at the two sessions featuring insights on organic produce production and marketing across the globe.
I chuckled to learn that one of the international panelists realized he had flown to Monterrey, Mexico, and almost missed his own session.
Walking away, I appreciate that organic consumption is growing across the globe, and more organic producers and products are needed now more than ever.
Could it have been Robyn O’Brien’s impassioned keynote address on food, health and longevity? After her child became ill from food allergies, she realized, “courage is so contagious, and when one person is brave enough to stand up and be a voice for change, other people will follow.” Stand up, she certainly did at this TED-like talk – the audience was in awe.
Or was it Dan Barber’s whimsical testimony on bread and butter and breeding for taste and place? His aspiration to seek deliciousness by knowing where and how his food has been raised. In order to do so, he realized he must support the entire farm.
Then again, the Retailer Roundtable provided incredible insight into the disruption online organic sales are having on retail.
Don Barnett believes that we may see home delivery become 25-30% of sales in the future. To support that thought, Greg Corrigan confirmed that Raley’s online sales are growing over 100% per year.
I must admit that when Tonya Antle asked retailers Vic Savanello, Greg Corrigan and Dan Barnett if they were “bi” it was a moment of pure insight. Each one on the Retailer Roundtable had to disclose if they purchased only organic or if they went both ways. They all went both ways.
Was it the buzz in the air when Tonya brought up CBD sales and admitted that in the old days some actually inhaled? Raley’s foresees CBD products coming to their stores by 2021 once the regulatory hurdles are cleared.
After the delicious organic lunch, the Trade Show opened up with a great flourish. With 148 organic fresh produce exhibitors, the afternoon was ripe for connecting with the organic community.
This, I realize, is the real reason I attend OPS. To sit down and break bread with my organic comrades.
To visit with old friends, previous colleagues and conspirators. To remember the days when we were the fast and few who peddled organic produce.
To walk the show floor and meet the young faces finding their place in category management, sales and marketing of organic fresh produce. These eager souls are now taking the lead selling health and sustainability through organic.
What a joy to shake hands with previous producers who had traveled from Chile, Argentina and New Zealand. To see them face to face again and remember their fruit in fields far from away.
To admire all the large produce companies who have incorporated organic production into their portfolio – they keep pushing the needle forward.
This summit is the only place that the fresh organic produce community can come together to discuss shared opportunities and vet challenges.
With over 240 retailers and 148 grower-shipper processors in attendance, there was a lot to catch up on.
This sense of community is the real reason OPS is my “go-to” show for organic produce – and it always will be.
I hope to see you there next year.