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For the first time in seven years, John Shuman of Shuman Produce, Inc. in Reidsville, GA, one of the nation’s larger providers of sweet onions via its “RealSweet” brand, will actually get a chance to enjoy the Southeast Produce Council Southern Exposure trade show, scheduled for Feb. 28-March2 at the Caribe Royale Resort in Orlando, FL.

As immediate past-president of the council, Mr. Shuman has mixed feelings about being an observer and exhibitor at this year’s festivities. For the last seven years, he has either served on the executive committee or been an SPC officer with a plateful of duties at the expo.

Shuman-2John Shuman (right) with his father, Buck Shuman, who was inducted into the Vidalia Onion Growers Hall of Fame at the Vidalia Onion Committee annual awards banquet Feb. 16.“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Mr. Shuman told The Produce News. “It’s such a great organization and I loved my tenure there and I loved serving the council and I want to and will continue to be part of it. But it’s going to be different going to the show and not having such a busy schedule I guess. But I’m sure I’ll find something to fill it up with. I just may have a little bit more time for the expo events and I’m looking forward to going to the show and seeing it from the outside. But I’m going to always remember and always have great memories of serving the council and I’m looking forward to serving on the advisory board.”

Mr. Shuman was recently appointed to the council’s advisory board, where he will serve a two year term. The difference is he will move from an active leadership role to one of wise counsel.

“I’m only 43 and it was such a blessing to be a part of it,” Mr. Shuman said. “It went by really fast. We had a lot of fun, we really enjoyed ourselves and every time we got together it was sort of like a family reunion, a lot of great people focused on a common goal and very likeminded in our approach and it ran very smoothly and continues to. It was just something you looked forward to being a part of. You serve out of a sense of wanting to be a part of it as opposed to a sense of duty or obligation. We’re going to miss it for sure and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s going to be interesting to have some extra time on our hands and not have such a busy schedule.”

Mr. Shuman will still have a prominent role in the proceedings as the founder and head of Produce for Kids (PFK), the charitable organization that raises funds for outlets like the Children’s Miracle Network of hospitals and PBS programming for kids. PFK hosts a reception at Southern Exposure each year and 2013 will be no different.

“We’ll be there with Shuman Produce, we’ll be there for PFK, we’ll have the reception and we’re going to be at the show,” Mr. Shuman said. “PFK has been a real blessing. It’s now 10-year-old and we never thought it would turn into what it has but we’re very glad that it has. It’s been a blessing for us and I think everybody involved and has helped a lot of children’s charities that need our support now more than ever.”