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Titan Farms brings sales in-house under new vice president

SAVANNAH, GA — Daryl Johnston made his first appearance here Jan. 9 at the Southeast Regional Fruit & Vegetable Conference as the first vice president for sales at Titan Farms.

Johnston had worked in sales at Southern Specialties in Pompano Beach, FL; B&W Quality Products; and Dole Food Co. He also served as a consultant on reorganization and business development to Pure Fresh in Doral, FL.

Chalmers R. Carr III, who announced the appointment Jan. 6, said the newly created position is part of a move to bring all major functions in-house at the Titan firm.TITAN12615-JOHNSTON--CARRDaryl Johnston, new vice president for sales at Titan Farms, with Chalmers R. Carr III, president.

“We are working to become a fully vertically integrated company, and bringing sales in-house is a big move in that direction,” he told The Produce News. “This change will bring us closer to our retail customers.”

Johnston said he was excited about building a sales division from the ground up. “We will be hiring five or six people for our sales team,” he said. “My portfolio includes marketing and new business development, along with serving our existing customers. My first priority is to get on the road and go see our customers.”

Titan, in Ridge Spring, SC, is a grower-packer-shipper of 2.4 million boxes a year of peaches, broccoli and Bell peppers.

“Representing our own products is a logical step to becoming a national player,” said Carr.

Bringing sales in-house was a three-year project, he explained, with processing the last major move.

“We are looking at getting into frozen, sliced peaches and peach puree,” he said, adding that the final move to processing is in its third and final year.

In addition to adding a sales division, Titan is hard at work building a $6 million packingline, which it plans to open by May 1, as well as making final arrangements for bringing processing operations in-house. And all this is taking place during what the outside observer might characterize as “down time.”

A bit like building an airplane while you are trying to fly it? “It’s not just a way of life,” Carr observed. “It is our life.”

Networking, education and community outreach top the priority list for SEPC president

MILLEN, GA — As Southern Exposure 2015 is expecting another record-breaking event, the Southeast Produce Council is also gearing up to welcome newly appointed board of directors President Mark Daniels. After seven years with Military Produce Group, Daniels in early January joined Global Organic Specialty Source Inc. in Sarasota, FL, as director of sales and procurement, bringing more than 30 years of experience in produce to his presidency.

Officially appointed as SEPC president at the council's 2014 Southern Innovations Symposium (formerly called the fall conference), Daniels will experience his new role as SEPC president in its full capacity at Southern Exposure 2015, set to take place Feb. 25-28 in Orlando, FL. He has his sights set high to exceed expectations of the board and council members.

"We are so happy to have a man of Mark's integrity as our president for the next two years, SEPC Executive Director David Sherrod said in late January. "I have known Mark for many years and consider him to be one of the most genuine people in our industry. Under his direction, I know that the SEPC will be on solid footing and will always be on the forefront of the industry's ever-changing environment."

Daniels' focus during his two-year term will continue to support and enhance the vision of the council by providing a platform for members to build professional relationships in the produce industry through education, networking and community outreach.  

"With events such as Southern Exposure, the Terry Vorhees Charity Golf Classic and the Southern Innovations Symposium, we are continuing to offer the most quality networking events the industry has to offer for both retail/foodservice and suppliers," said Daniels. "We are also proud to help our members grow and succeed in the industry with the best in education at our event workshops, and through programs such as STEP-UPP, Produce Training Inspections and our support of multiple scholarship programs, including the STARS."

Daniels is also very motivated to continue the council's community outreach work that was near and dear to the heart of past Executive Director Terry Vorhees. Daniels is looking to the membership to continue supporting the council's charitable causes with volunteer hours, product donations and financial support year-round to help make a difference. The council proudly supports the following charities: Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Paul Anderson Youth Home, Rockin' Appalachian Mom Project and the Society of St. Andrew.

"One area at the top of my list is to help the board of directors and committee heads expand our committee teams," said Daniels. "These committees are a big part of who we are and how we invest back into the cities and towns we live in. It is my hope that at the end of my term, we have some kind of presence in every state throughout the Southeast."

Daniels is excited about what lies ahead for the Southeast Produce Council and plans to have a great influence on the council and its members. He invites everyone to make a 2015 resolution to get involved, execute a plan and make an impact.

Meijer expanding into Wisconsin with four stores, more planned

Meijer is preparing to expand into Wisconsin with four stores that will open in the greater Milwaukee area this summer. The retailer has plans to open two to three new Wisconsin stores in each of the next four years.

“Foundations are set, floors are poured and the walls are up at our four new Wisconsin stores,” Frank Guglielmi, Meijer senior director of communications, said in a press release.meijer “All of us at Meijer are looking forward to bringing the Meijer experience to new customers in Wisconsin this summer.”

The Grand Rapids, MI-based retailer has confirmed that its stores in Grafton and Kenosha will open this June, and its stores in Oak Creek and Wauwatosa will follow in August. The Kenosha and Oak Creek Meijer stores will also feature a convenience store and gas station.

“By the time we open these great new Wisconsin stores, we will have used 500 miles of wire, 4,000 tons of steel and 16,000 cubic yards of cement to build the four new supercenters,” Guglielmi said. “This will result in state-of-the-art stores that are the best our company has to offer.”

The retailer now has 213 stores throughout the Midwest and has grown steadily by focusing on fresh grocery options, value to customers and community partnership. The new supercenters will feature fresh produce, meat and dairy delivered seven days a week, and a bakery that offers fresh bread baked four times daily. As Meijer stores are open 24 hours a day, customers will have access to these offerings around the clock.

The retailer has a strong family and corporate tradition of caring by giving more than 6 percent of its net profit to charitable organizations each year, including significant support of hunger relief initiatives in the communities it serves. The retailer offers a food rescue program at each of its 213 stores, and has a signature program called Simply Give that has generated more than $12 million for its food pantry partners throughout the Midwest.

Meijer began establishing relationships with Milwaukee area food banks before the retailer broke ground on its new stores. For example, Meijer donated two semi-trucks and trailers to both Hunger Task Force and Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, along with a total of more than 216,000 pounds of food.

“We are very pleased to continue our growth into Wisconsin,” Milwaukee Market Director Chris Hoffmann said in the press release. “We are working diligently to put together a great team to help bring the Meijer difference to customers in Milwaukee and the surrounding communities.

Hoffmann said store directors have already been identified. Longtime Meijer team members Polly Emelander and Tom Livernois, who’ve both held numerous leadership positions, have been named as the Oak Creek and Wauwatosa store directors, respectively. Wisconsin native Steve Talbert has been selected as the Grafton store director, and longtime Meijer Store Director Don Mettler has been selected as the Kenosha store director.

The retailer plans to begin the hiring of more than 1,000 new team members in March.

Ambrosia apples go Hollywood in Oscars nominee gift bags

At the 87th annual Oscars, Ambrosia apples will step up as a first-time featured item in the official gift bags that non-winners in the major categories receive.ambrosia Ambrosia apples stand out as the only fresh produce item to be included in this year’s gift bag and will join more than $80,000 worth of merchandise as part of the “Everybody Wins at the Oscars” nominee gift baskets.

The variety is a relative newcomer on the U.S.-grown apple landscape, after being discovered as a chance seedling in Canada. It is an eating apple ideal for snacking or enjoying with wine and cheese. The apple is versatile with a creamy flesh and sweet, honey-like flavor.

“Ambrosia apples really are exceptional, worthy of Hollywood’s best,” Steve Lutz, vice president of marketing for Columbia Marketing International Inc., said in a press release. “While the award nominee gift bag is always unique, sweet, crisp Ambrosia apples have earned their moment in the spotlight as well. We’re delighted to have Ambrosia apples included.”

McDougall & Sons — a family-owned fruit-farming company in Wenatchee, WA, with roots going back more than 100 years — is the exclusive U.S. grower of Ambrosia apples. 

After 10 years of orchard development, both organic and conventionally grown Ambrosia apples, which are non-GMO, are now available nationally in leading food markets.

PMA Foundation announces 2014 Tip Murphy Scholarship recipients

The Produce Marketing Association Foundation for Industry Talent has announced the fourth annual Tip Murphy Scholarship for Leadership Excellence recipients for 2014. Steven Bindas of Chiquita Brands and Casey Kio of AMC Direct were selected by the PMA Foundation Tip Murphy Selection Committee. The scholarship is part of the PMA Foundation’s initiative to establish a workforce with the diverse skills necessary to meet the complex demands of business.

Created in 2008 to honor the life and career of produce industry veteran Tip Murphy, the annual scholarship grants industry professionals the opportunity to engage in industry-specific professional development through PMA and PMA Foundation programs.

Bindas has elected to pursue the PMA Foundation Emerging Leaders Program, designed to offer an intensive knowledge and relationship-building program focusing on equipping tomorrow's leaders with critical management and thinking skills. Partnering with the well-renowned Thunderbird School of Global Management, Bindas will join the rest of the 2015 class, March 8-12 in Glendale, AZ.

“I am honored and humbled to win the 2014 Tip Murphy Scholarship for Leadership Excellence,” Bindas said in a press release. “This scholarship gives me the opportunity to participate in the Emerging Leaders Program, which is going to be a great tool for me to hone and develop my leadership skills.

“Working at Chiquita, it doesn’t take long to find someone who knew Tip Murphy," he said. "It’s clear he left a lasting impact on everyone he led. That’s my career goal, to leave that same kind of lasting impact on the people that I work with.”

Kio has chosen to engage in the PMA Foundation High Performance Management Conference, a program designed for mid-level leaders. She will join a group of peers throughout the supply chain on Sept. 14-17 in Chicago.

“To be able to represent AMC Direct and our industry through this scholarship opportunity is sincerely humbling,” Kio said in the release. “In a fast-paced industry such as produce, I believe it is vital to continue to develop and grow both personally and professionally.

“I am privileged to be able to attend the High Performance Management Conference where the behavior-based simulation platform translates directly into improved company profitability,” she said.

The scholarship covers registration fees and associated hotel expenses for any of the PMA Foundation’s leadership-development programs and is funded by supporters of the Tip Murphy Legacy Fund, an endowment established by friends and colleagues of Murphy to honor his life and career.

The fund and scholarship program are managed by the PMA Foundation as part of its mission to attract, develop and retain talent for the global produce and floral industry. For more information about the scholarship or to apply in 2015, visit