“I cannot over-emphasize how important it is that you as individual growers and as commodity groups constantly and meaningfully stay in contact with your elected officials in the House and the Senate. Keep them aware of what is at stake with agriculture and help them find meaningful ways to help you continue to do what you do better than farmers anywhere in the world,” Bishop said.

During the meeting, Georgia Extension Entomologist Alton ‘Stormy’ Sparks was presented the organizations Donnie Morris Excellence in Extension Award for his work in insect management that benefits fruit and vegetable growers. In accepting the award, Sparks said, “We work for you, grower input is vital to the success of our research and Extension programs — always let us know how we can help you.”

Ridge Springs, S.C., peach grower Chalmers Carr was named Mr. Peach for 2011 by the Southeastern Peach Growers Association. Carr, whose family grows 4,000 acres of peaches, urged growers to follow Congressman Bishop’s urging to stay involved with the industry and with politicians who make laws that affect the industry.

Stanley Culpepper, University of Georgia Extension weed specialist, was presented with the prestigious 2010 Montreal Protocol Award by the Environmental Protection Agency. “I beat on the EPA more than anybody in this room, but I want you to know they do listen and they do try to help us,” Culpepper said in accepting the award.

Robert Dasher, a Georgia fruit and vegetable grower, was recognized for winning the Sunbelt Expo 2010 Farmer of the Year Award. In accepting the award from Sunbelt Expo Executive Director Chip Blaylock, Dasher acknowledged the importance of Congressman Bishop’s remarks, touching off another standing ovation.

Wendy Brannen, marketing manager for the Vidalia Onion growers was presented the Packer 25 Award, by The Packer Magazinefor her role in creating a series of add using the popular Shrek character to promote Vidalia onions.

Over 2,000 farmers and agricultural industry leaders attended the 2011 annual meeting. In addition, industry-supporting companies filled to over-flow the Savannah Convention Center, providing information on virtually any business that touches the fruit and vegetable industry in the Southeast.

The growth of the Southeastern Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association has been nothing short of phenomenal.

“When we held our first annual meeting back in the early 1990s, we had about 300 attendees, recalls Association Director Charles Hall. Then we joined with the Georgia and South Carolina peach councils, then the organic growers and roadside and farmers market groups,” he notes. 

Included among the groups represented at the 2011 annual meeting were blackberry and raspberry growers, peach growers, vegetable growers, watermelon growers, Vidalia onion growers, organic growers, muscadine grape growers, blueberry growers, pecan growers, strawberry growers, sweet corn growers and roadside marketers.