Dan'l Mackey Almy, Teri Miller, Nicole Hulstein, and More Reflect on This Year's SEPC Southern Roots Program
- by Jessica Donnel
NASHVILLE, TN - Every new year I spend in the produce industry, I fall deeper and deeper in love with our commitment to supporting and benefitting our peers. And now, after attending the Southeast Produce Council’s (SEPC) Southern Innovations in Nashville, TN, I am sure there are few opportunities more exemplary of that commitment than the Southern Roots program. Southern Roots, the SEPC’s leadership program for women, meets semi-annually for a luncheon during both of the council’s conferences. At this most recent event, attendees were lucky enough to be lead through an interactive discussion on “Making and Maintaining Meaningful Connections” by the always candid and sincere President and CEO of DMA Solutions, Dan’l Mackey Almy.
It’s no secret that the fresh produce industry is experiencing a shift in the culture of how we communicate with one another, and to that point, Dan’l was happy to share the insights she’s learned over her career on how to connect on a real level, whether that be through texting, emailing, or social media in all of its various forms. Despite all our differences—across generations, positions in the supply chain, time spent in the industry, and more—how do we use these methods of communication to create impactful connections? Curiosity, empathy, self-awareness, authenticity—these are all keys Dan’l says can help unlock meaningingful connections with fellow industry members.
I could write on and on about all the great points and wise words Dan’l and the rest of our group of women had shared, but really, I think they’d rather tell you themselves. I’d like to share a few words from the women I spoke with after the luncheon—on takeaways, on value, and the future of Southern Roots...
Dan'l Mackey Almy, President and CEO, DMA Solutions
"It was so moving to have the opportunity to open up a discussion in which 120 women could find common ground and share different ways we can foster and maintain relationships in this industry. Everyone in the room was so engaged, and I do believe we all left that session inspired to improve ourselves and strengthen our relationships. That is exactly the outcome the Southern Roots leaders had hoped for.”
Teri Miller, Senior Category Manager, The Fresh Market
“Early in my finance career, I learned that self-development was a key factor for my success. But self-development can be lonesome and incomplete without feedback or guidance. After joining the produce industry, I was astonished at the amount of support that was given to me from coworkers and business partners. However, I could see that NOT every woman had experienced the same. There was limited access to the ‘how to’s’ and a narrow outlet of people who would generously give feedback or guidance. This is what drove the creation of Southern Roots. Like everything else, I did NOT do this alone. A group of diverse leaders in the produce industry helped me work through the details. I then presented this to the SEPC Board—led by Terry Vorhees at that time—and they overwhelmingly supported the creation of Southern Roots.
The most difficult challenge is to provide topics, conversations, services, etc. that cross the generations and multi-leveled careers represented. But that is our committee’s single focus. Two sessions are offered each year, and at both sessions in 2018, this focus was achieved in an outstanding fashion. I’m not one to cry at all—not even for a Hallmark movie—but when I sit back and watch these women connect, share, and grow...I can’t help but to drop a few tears.”
Nicole Hulstein, Category Manager, Food Lion
“A key value for Southern Roots is providing the platform for meaningful connections. These connections are deepened through events like Southern Roots at Southern Innovations. The experiences that were shared allow for newcomers in the industry to glean ideas, leadership skills, and confidence to grow in this industry. It was magical!”
Sabrina Pokomandy, Account Manager, Highline Mushrooms
“Southern Roots encourages the growth and nourishment of relationships in this industry. The event was a success. Dan’l is a wonderful speaker—I feel she created a safe forum through story for attendees to share openly. I am thrilled to see our Southern Roots blossom from only 30 attendees to over 120 talented group of women at Southern Innovations. I am looking forward to connecting once again at Southern Exposure in March 2019.”
Leslie Simmons, Vice President, Dave's Specialty Imports
“You can't find someone more genuine and authentic than Dan'l. Her passion for fresh produce and people is tangible. Dan’l’s presentation was dynamic and heartfelt. It gave the women in the room a unique space to interact and open up about their challenges and the tools they use to overcome them. I was present at the first Southern Roots gathering and I think they have done a wonderful job serving the needs of the SEPC women. I look forward to more!”
Kim St George, Director of Sales & Marketing, Mann Packing
“Southern Roots does a fantastic job of bringing together influential women in produce from all backgrounds in a fun, yet intimate setting. The conversations, networking, and motivational learnings are invaluable and I always look forward to every Southern Roots gathering!”
Krysten DeGiglio, Regional Sales Manager, Village Farms
“One of my many takeaways from the Southern Roots Luncheon was to ‘be you.’ This was an underlying message throughout the luncheon that resonated with me, and many of the other women I spoke to at the conference. It reminded me of a quote I always liked from Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: ‘As we learn to speak appropriately, we lose something in authenticity.’ While it is important to remain professional, never lose your authenticity because being yourself is what makes people trust you, remember you, and want to build a relationship with you.”
Amanda Keefer, Director Marketing Communications, Produce for Kids
“The Southern Roots reception is always a highlight for me at Southeast Produce Council events. Dan’l Mackey delivered a powerful, yet humbling message that spurred an engaging group conversation that lingered on long after the reception ended. To hear women in our industry of all ages and career stages stand up, share their experiences, and support each other was inspiring and motivating. The women within the produce industry are certainly a force to be reckoned with.”