By: Quincie Gourley, Junior agricultural communication major
The Produce Marketing Association (PMA), Fresh Summit Convention and Expo were held in New Orleans, Louisiana. The PMA Convention and Expo are looked as the Disneyland to produce industry professionals. I could relate none-the-less to that analogy. There was no way to understand the size and volume of the showcase floor prior to arriving.
Students from all around the world are selected and invited to attend PMA to gain further knowledge about the fresh produce and cut flower industries. The Pack Family Career Pathways Program sponsored by PMA was created back in 2004 when industry representatives wanted to outreach to college students.
Four Cal Poly student representatives, Haley Warner, Dani Diele, Maddie Johnston, and Quincie Gourley and our advisor, Megan Silcott attended this year’s PMA. We flew out Tuesday morning to make it in New Orleans for the first informational session and dinner. The rest of the week was full of educational sessions about the produce and fresh cut flower industry to give all of us students a better understanding of the industry before meeting with industry professionals.
Wednesday night was the part of the week most of the students had been looking forward to. This was the night everyone met their Career Ambassadors! Each student is paired with a Career Ambassador to share the ins and outs of the industry. I was paired with the single-handedly most well diverse and connected lady within the produce industry, Karen Caplan of Frieda’s Produce. The Career Ambassadors are people within the industry who are successful CEOs, Presidents and Vice Presidents from a wide variety of companies, who are looking to hear from the next generation entering work world.
As students seeking opportunities for internships and careers, our opinions were highly valued particularly with the technological advancements to be made in the future. It was refreshing to hear that the industry is looking forward to needed changes to keep up with technology, as often times agriculture is heard to be one of the last ones to be adapting to technology.
PMA has been one of the most beneficial events I have had the opportunity to attend while at Cal Poly. Being exposed to an industry where the people are very passionate about their work and still have fun made me feel like I have found my spot within agriculture.