Written by Camille Cordisco, Agricultural Communication Senior
“Refreshing Ideas” was written across a giant green banner as my classmates and I walked into the Anaheim Convention Center late last Wednesday night. We entered our orientation to find 40 plus college students from twelve other universities, all participating in the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit Conference for the first time. We knew we were there to learn about the produce industry, what we didn’t know is we would also gain “refreshing ideas” about what it means to have generosity, confidence and most importantly, community and friendship. Here are three lessons I learned from PMA Fresh Summit and lessons that could be used in any industry.
The power of generosity is contagious.
Jay Pack created the Pack Family Career Pathways program 11 years ago to inspire young college students to get involved in the produce industry. The conference reflected his vision. Of all the students who have come through the program, well over half chose a career in the produce industry. As members of the Pack Family Career Pathways program, we were given a unique opportunity to be immersed in the produce industry at PMA Fresh Summit. We networked with industry professionals from all over the country and the world, attended seminars and events that offered insight on everything from social media marketing to floral color trends. We even got to tour the Ready Pac facility in Irwindale to see where our fresh ready-made salads and snacks come from! The experience Pack and the PMA Foundation provided us truly made me feel more like part of a family than of an industry. SaintFrancis of Assisi once said, “It is in giving that we receive,” and after attending PMA Fresh Summit as part of the Pack Family Career Pathways program, I know I want to pursue a career in the produce industry and give back.
Learning to have confidence in everything you do helps you to achieve more.
It sounds like a simple concept, but having confidence is easier said than done. Claire Shipman, co-author of “The Confidence Code” spoke about her experience “breaking the code” at the PMA Women’s Fresh Perspectives Breakfast. Her lessons on the importance of confidence are something everyone should hear. Although she was speaking to a room of both men and women, her focus on women’s challenges with confidence helped us all to see where we all need improvement in this area. Shipman said often times woman underestimate our abilities to do something well; whether it’s taking a test, fulfilling job requirements or even speaking up on an issue. When we fail to have confidence, we not only fail ourselves, but we fail those around us from being inspired and motivated to accomplish their goals. We cannot change who we are, but we can change our behaviors in moving towards who we want to be. She encouraged us all to be sure of ourselves in our decisions and our identities in our lives. When we have confidence in what we do, we get things done. Not only that, we inspire others to go after their goals as well.
It’s all about who you know.
Over 20,000 people attend PMA Fresh Summit every year. The conference attracts growers, retailers, marketers, salespeople and the list goes on. This can be intimidating to someone attending Fresh Summit for the first time, but if there is one thing I witnessed over and over, it was the amazing presence of community. My classmates and I bonded with the other college students and created friendships that will stay with me well beyond last weekend. The friendships I witnessed among professionals in the industry was wonderful to see as well. Barbara Hochman, our program director, told us at orientation that PMA Fresh Summit is not only a place for people to gain new ideas, it is also a place to visit with old friends in the industry. The relationships I built at Fresh Summit were ones that came from a shared passion for agriculture and curiosity for the produce industry. I not only made connections with the other students, and future business relationships.
While the PMA Fresh Summit banner “Refreshing Ideas” specifically targeted at the produce industry, I learned it also implied refreshing values, refreshing industry and refreshing people.