President's Letter: Now, More Than Ever, It’s Time to Pull Together

Welcome to Year 2021. With great hope, we will soon put the turmoil of 2020 and the coronavirus behind us! As a grower, and now also your incoming president of the Florida Blueberry Growers Association, I have shared in many of your travails. Even without the disruptions the pandemic waged on our critical spring harvest, 2020 was destined to be a challenge with the flooding of our narrow market window with massive increases of “cheap” imported fruit. COVID-19 may dissipate as the year progresses, but the trends threatening our livelihood will not quickly abate.

It truly is a time to stand united as an industry, for none of us alone has the clout to move the needle to our benefit against powerful foreign competitors intent on influencing our governmental institutions. To establish a level playing field where we can market our fruit for a fair return, we need you to help our fellow growers turn the tide. And I also believe you need us fellow growers, along with the Florida Blueberry Growers Association, to help you be a better grower and to represent your interests in an organized and impactful manner.   

Our Florida Industry Needs You.  This is not a time to sit back and leave your destiny to someone else. I know we all have a lot on our plate, but keeping the Florida Blueberry industry viable is critical for us all. We need every grower to step up and place a higher priority on our joint industry effort. We cannot depend on only 15 to 20 farms to carry the torch.  

  • We Need Your Participation. Zoom with us while we are presenting virtually this spring, then come to the short courses, trade shows and tours the association will sponsor as Covid-19 subsides. Great attendance makes the experience richer for all and attracts a sustaining number of exhibitors and sponsors.   

  • We Need Your Financial Support. At the least, keep your membership up to date and support us with your dues. Consider contributing extra as we grapple with the shortfalls from COVID and the cancelation of the Fall Conference. You would not be the first farm to go the extra mile. Believe me, Brittany is frugal and works sacrificially to make the association effective.

  • We Need Your Communication and Outreach. Do your part to plead our case to your elective representatives and any media willing to hear. Americans want quality locally grown fruit and this can only happen if we have you growers farming successfully in Florida.         

You Need Our Florida Industry. Networking withother growers has always been a great way to gather ideas and develop valuable relationships that pay long-term dividends. That’s a big reason growers join the association and attend our conferences and trade shows. But there’s more:

  • For Education — We are blessed with world-class educators committed to the Blueberry industry. They work hand-in-hand with our grower organization to teach members the basic knowledge required to produce a healthy, productive crop. This is a significant commitment by UF/IFAS.

  • For Research and Innovation — Whether it’s UF breeding of improved cultivars, better growing techniques or more effective production technology, the Florida Blueberry Growers Association provides the forum to share new ideas. Plus, it targets the needs of blueberry growers specifically in Florida. 

  • For Promotion and Representation — Brittany Lee, our executive director, ably states our case before state and federal representatives and regulatory agencies. Along with the Board, she is working to keep us a seat at the table as decisions are made that help or hurt our livelihood.

Now, more than ever, we should look beyond the property lines of our farms armed to survive the daunting challenges of 2021 and equipped to thrive for years beyond. Thank you, Blueberry News, for the sponsorship of our association and the Florida Blueberry industry. And thank you, Florida Growers, who see the need for a cohesive industry effort and agree it’s time to pull together!  

Leonard Park, President                                                                                                                         Florida Blueberry Growers Association

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