Texas International Produce Association's In Bloom Organization Launches Virtual Session
- by Melissa De Leon Chavez
CYBER SPACE - Fresh produce is more than an industry, it’s a community. This is the core message resounding as In Bloom, the Texas International Produce Association’s (TIPA) new regional organization for women, made its debut amidst the current remote climate we find ourselves in today.
“We are produce professionals, and if there is anything that we have learned over the years, I think it is how to adapt. Our fortune, our fate, is tied to Mother Nature. Our products are perishable. So, we have to be able to hustle like no one else, and we know that and we are good at it,” April Flowers, Director of Marketing for Lone Star Citrus and Chairwoman of In Bloom, shared as the organization launched “Bloom Where You Are Planted,” across Zoom. “We have seen how hard you have hustled. You rallied together, you’ve pivoted, and some of you have changed your business models completely.”
April spoke of the excitement and energy the team had in planning its first event to coincide with Viva Fresh 2020, but instead of sadness, she was smiles and energy for helping to provide us all with a contingency offering that got to the core of what In Bloom was founded upon—addressing our needs as industry members.
81 produce purveyors from the buy- and supply-sides logged in to take part in the premier session.
“During unordinary times, we find ways to do extraordinary things. That’s the bottom-line reality our industry has lived during the past two months as they’ve filled the role of essential workers and raced to keep store shelves stocked. But the very nature of this change has created very new normal conditions, with more expected of everyone,” Melinda Goodman, Managing Partner for FullTilt Marketing and moderator of the session, shared.
To bring back the connection that drives our industry, In Bloom brought forward strong women in produce to share their experiences, how they are persevering, and to answer the questions of attendees.
April herself was among those to be a part of the presentation, discussing intentionality and the power of managing your thoughts and hopes in the midst of a chaotic and unpredictable reality.
Additional industry leaders included:
- Cindy Swanberg Schwing, London Fruit – Endurance and the grit to navigate the unknown, perspective is key
- Michelle Cortez, Empacadora GAB – Multitasking & Making it Work when there are no other alternatives
- Tonya Hill, TM Hill Produce – Resilience after starting a business days before the coronavirus lockdown
- Eleisha Ensign, Texas Citrus Mutual – Boundaries when it gets to be too much
“I’m proud that the In Bloom committee identified some of those new challenges of homeschooling, caregiving, business adaptation, and multi-tasking that are eating into the already precarious work-life balance of ordinary times and the real stressors these new burdens are putting on individuals and families,” Melinda explained. “The ability of these women to be vulnerable and share personal stories and feedback with the online attendees provided the perspective that we can survive and persevere, but it doesn’t mean we are doing so without some level of anxiety or moments of being stressed or overwhelmed.”
Each speaker had a pre-recorded video in which they were able to present much as I imagine they would have had we all been able to meet in San Antonio, Texas, with the added bonus of being on the live call to answer questions in real-time.
My favorite way the team kept the audience engaged not just overall but in each topic, were timely polls centered around what was being discussed that popped up on our screens. Once finished, the results would show, sharing that the group were almost always in sync with each other and further driving the connectivity of not just the moment but what we are all concerned with or how we are handling the situation.
“That feedback that we are all in this also came through in the poll results that allowed audience members to weigh in on topics related to how they’ve been spending their time recently and what they are most stressed about during this time. Feedback from various audience members related that it felt good to know they weren’t the only ones feeling this way,” Melinda agreed.
Another fun interaction of the virtual experience were periodic winners drawn over the 75 minute session. Congratulations to gift card recipients:
- Alyssa Hind, GM Produce Sales
- Kim Flores, Pro Citrus Network
- Cate Aldrete, Organic Produce Network
In closing, the team said it best when highlighting that the whole point to be made was that we are all in this together and keeping product in stores, while important, is not the only thing keeping our industry up at night. The need to come together and support each other remains, and luckily we are in a time where technology makes this easier than ever.
As our industry continues to find ways to weather this storm together, I have hope that we will discover underlying strengths to carry us further than we knew possible.