By Clint Thompson
COVID took the Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference’s live event away from farmers and industry leaders in 2021. Though the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (GFVGA) held the conference online, it was not the same.
When the conference reconvened this past weekend, Chris Butts, executive vice president of the GFVGA, reminisced about the situation two years ago at this year’s annual conference in Savannah, Georgia.
“I hate to always go back to COVID, but we learned not to take the opportunity to get together for granted. We see the enthusiasm of people to be here in person, shake a hand and rekindle those old relationships. That’s something you can do in person but can’t do on zoom,” Butts said. “Our attendance is actually up, so we’re thrilled and glad that people get a chance to be together in person.”
Who Showed Up?
Butts said there were 280 exhibitors and more than 3,000 in attendance for the Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference. It encompassed producers from southeastern states like Georgia, Florida, Alabama, South Carolina and North Carolina, as well as university scientists who provided updates on the latest research that will benefit the specialty crop industry now and into the future.
“If I’m trying to do business with growers, I know that any grower of size and substance is going to be here this week. It’s the best opportunity to hit that whole production side of the industry, all under one roof, all under one place, all in one day,” Butts said. “It’s the time of year with the least distractions, we like to say, right after the holidays.
“What we love is Savannah is such a great destination city and people still come here and bring their families and make it a week-long trip. There’s no better time of the year for these guys. They’re between crops. Some of our guys still have winter crops in the ground. But people are getting ready for spring and summer of ’23, so this is their chance to come here, see the latest research, the latest educational events, to get them up to date on things they can take back to the farm tomorrow and probably put into practice (this) week.”