With the popularity of email, texting, Facebook and electronic greeting cards, you would think that the greeting card industry would be suffering. And with the hectic schedules we all have, who has time to go buy a greeting card?
Well, I think the greeting card industry will continue to boom and here’s why: Deep down inside, people care about their friends, and for less than $5, you can make someone important in your life feel special and loved. And it can make you feel good, too!
I saw this happen this past weekend, as I celebrated my birthday. Actually, the “celebrating” of my birthday started the first week of the month, when I had my first “birthday diva lunch.” My two friends, Diane and Paris, also have October birthdays, so we get together for lunch each year to celebrate them together.
Then the cards started to arrive. Over the course of the month I received many cards from friends. Most were unexpected, but I suspect that each of them has gotten a birthday card (or email) from me at their birthday. And it made them feel special.
In this hectic rat race we live in, spending a few moments at the card shop, grocery store or in line at Trader Joe’s to select a greeting card for a friend can make you feel more human.
Or, if you don’t have time, and don’t want to be belated, you can send an email or an electronic greeting. (To my friends and customers who sent me texts, emails and e-cards, I loved that you took the time to do this!)
But the bottom line is, just as cooking and entertaining at home have become more popular (futurist Faith Popcorn coined the term “cocooning”), I believe that sending actual birthday cards will make a comeback.
Remember the Kevin Spacey movie, “Pay it forward”? Well, that’s my personal mission. To do good deeds that make others feel special, hoping that they continue to pay it forward.
Think about it,
I am addicted to fresh blueberries. Occasionally, I drive from store to store in search of fresh, plump, sweet berries, and sometimes I eat a whole 4-ounce container at one sitting. They make a great mid-morning snack!
But lately there haven’t been good tasting berries in my stores, and I wanted to know why.
So, I called my longtime business friend, Chris Martin (pictured here on the left with his brother Paul Martin). Chris is originally from New Zealand, but moved to the states more than 20 years ago and started a produce company. His first company was called New Zealand Gourmet and he imported many of New Zealand’s subtropical fruits and sold them to Frieda’s. Today, Chris’s company, Gourmet Trading, focuses on two main items: asparagus and blueberries.
During our recent conversation, Chris explained that some blueberry growing areas are behind in production this year due to weather conditions. In addition, right now is the time of year when there is a natural gap between Canada and Argentina supplies.
Chris emailed me this handy chart that shows what area fruit comes from and what times are peak of season. From the chart you can see that the blueberry season transitions from country to country throughout the year. It starts in May from California and moves north to Oregon, then Canada and all the way down to Argentina.
You may not have realized that fruit seasons transition so much. We’re kind of spoiled here in the USA — many fruits and vegetables are now available to us year-round. As recently as 10 years ago, some items were only in season when locally available. I guess we call that progress.
However, there is a lot of debate in our industry about the importance and relevance of “locally grown” produce. Some say it’s more sustainable to only consume locally grown products, but what is the definition of “local”? Within 10 miles? Within 100 miles? Within your state?
On the other hand, some have done calculations that show it is more earth-friendly to purchase products from large-scale farmers in far away places because of their operational efficiency.
My personal opinion? I buy produce for two reasons: No. 1 is taste and flavor. No. 2 is nutritional value. I don’t mind buying apples from New Zealand or shallots from France. Our baby pineapples are flown here from South Africa, and I love Asian Pears (Nashi) from Japan.
Back to my blueberries… I was thrilled to be at a produce convention last week. Some of my closest produce friends sell fresh berries, so I got to snack on fresh blueberries all three days I was there.
I can’t wait until the peak of the blueberry season from Argentina, so I can go back to eating them daily!
What are your thoughts on the “locally grown” debate? Please post your feedback in the comments section.
I spent this past weekend in Orlando, Fla., attending the annual Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Fresh Summit Convention and Expo. I have been attending this annual produce industry expo since 1974 when I was a sophomore in college, and this year was Frieda’s 37th consecutive year of exhibiting.
Planning for PMA is a year-long process for us. Right after one show ends, our team huddles for a “did well, do better” session where we document all the comments and make adjustments accordingly in preparation for the following year’s show.
For this year’s show we decided to redesign our booth and make it smaller. We found that bigger is not always better (but surely it is more expensive!) I spoke to some companies with large booths who spend close to $250,000 each time they attend this trade show!
I work closely with our marketing team for the PMA show (see photo of the team). This year they had a bigger than usual job because we wanted to change the overall look and feel of the booth. I also gave them a challenge: I wanted Frieda’s to win an award. Several years ago PMA started giving awards to exhibitors for “Best of Show,” and because I am so competitive, this was on my wish list. (More than 900 companies exhibited, so the competition is fierce.)
The booth overhaul process began by reviewing proposals and drawings from several booth design firms. We selected Reveal Exhibits because they met our marketing requirements and their streamlined design made good use of the limited space. There are many elements to consider when constructing a trade booth: color selection, lighting, product display, photography, graphics, and messaging. These elements work together to creatively communicate your message to the target audience.
This summer my sister, Jackie, and our art director, Marliese, traveled to Reveal’s headquarters in St. Louis to inspect the final construction. Marliese spent hundreds of hours photographing and designing the booth graphics, so we wanted to make sure everything looked perfect.
Our finished product is 10 feet deep by 30 feet long and has custom displays for more than 30 produce items. In addition to the booth’s appearance, we also spent some time planning our appearance. We carefully selected the clothing that our team wore during the show. We wanted our shirts to complement the colorful backdrop of the booth.
Take a look at the photos so you can see the results of all our work. You can see how colorful the booth was!
And guess what?! On Sunday afternoon, a booming voice came over the P.A. system to announce the Best of Show winners. We all paused to listen…
They only give two prizes for booths in our category, so it was a HUGE THRILL when they called out “Frieda’s” as one of the winners! Even though we won 2nd place, it was an amazing feeling to get an award. Here is a photo of our team accepting the award at our booth.
I mentioned that I have been attending PMA every year since 1974. Well, I lied. I missed one. It was October 17, 1989. That was the day my first daughter, Alex Jackson, was born. Yes, while a produce convention was concluding in Reno, Nev., I was in labor with Alex in Long Beach, Calif.
So you can imagine my delight when Alex decided to spend her 21st birthday this year with us at PMA. (She has been coming to produce events with me since she was 2.) I guess that makes us a third-generation family business now.
My daughter Alex did an internship this summer in Sydney, Australia. My good friend Michael Simonetta owns a wholesale produce company there and offered to employ Alex for six weeks. She had a great time and learned a lot while working there.
A few weeks ago, I had the good fortune to travel to Sydney for a business meeting. So I asked Alex, “Is there any special tourist thing that I should do while I am there?”
“You MUST do the Harbour Bridge Climb!”
I have to admit when I read that it was a 3½-hour-long adventure and that the cost was about $200, I was a little leery. I just couldn’t imagine spending that much time climbing a bridge.
Well, now that I have my Climber Certificate and have experienced Sydney Harbour from 440 feet above the water, I can attest to what an amazing experience it is. We actually climbed the catwalks and ladders to the summit of this huge steel bridge – it was a fantastic view!
The actual climbing time was about two hours. Before the climb, tour guides spent about an hour getting us prepared for the trek. They dressed us in special jump suits, followed by wind pants, a jacket, a wind-breaker, plus gloves and a warm hat! It was a cold day! Next, the guides trained us how to use the radios and headsets, then they showed us how to use the harness belts while practicing climbing up and down the extremely steep ladders. This was a great workout, by the way.
Finally, we were ready to start the walk. My tour group of seven people really enjoyed the experience. We stopped for photos, stories and amazing views many times during those two hours.
Paul Cave is the businessman who created the BridgeClimb tour. After organizing a private tour climbing the bridge in 1989, Paul decided it was such a great thing to do that he would make it a tourist attraction. In 1998, the BridgeClimb launched its first public tours, and today it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in Sydney.
On March 12, 2010 they welcomed their 2,500,000th paying climber – quite an amazing feat! (Plus, in 2001 Paul received the Ernst & Young Australian National Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the “Business, Finance, Property and Services Tourism” category.)
So, put this climb on you bucket list. It’s definitely an amazing experience and provides a great view of Sydney Harbour and a bit of history on the country and the bridge.
Did you know the Sydney Harbour Bridge is the largest and widest steel arch bridge in the world and was opened in 1932. You can read all about it here.
When I think of persimmons, I think of autumn and the cooking holidays — Thanksgiving through Christmas. You may have seen a persimmon in your local supermarket or farmer’s market, but didn’t know what it was or what to do with it.
Well, first of all, there are two basic types. The ones that must soften before you eat them — Hachiya variety — and ones that can be eaten while firm — Fuyu variety.
We have been selling Hachiya-type persimmons the longest. They are elongated in shape, like an acorn, and have a dark, rich orange skin. Hachiya persimmons naturally have a high tannin content, which makes the immature fruit taste bitter and astringent. (Don’t even try them when they are hard!). As the fruit ripens, the tannin levels are reduced, making them sweet and edible. When fully ripe, Hachiyas will feel extremely soft and mushy — almost overripe.
In Japan, Persimmons are called Kaki fruit. In Israel, they are called Sharon (sha-rone) fruit, named after the Sharon plain. Some say the flavor is a mix of plums and dates. Persimmons are extremely sweet, and when ripe, the pulp can be used to make persimmon bread, persimmon bars and other fruit desserts.
The Fuyu varieties are far less complicated to eat. They have a rounder apple-like (or tomato-like) shape, and can be peeled and eaten whether they are hard or soft. They, too, are a bright orange color.
Because they can be eaten in any ripeness stage, Fuyus are more versatile. I like to slice them and add them to green salads. Their texture makes them perfect to chop up for fruit salsas to serve with chicken or fish. When dried, they taste like candy!
The latest innovation in the Fuyu world is the availability of the brown-fleshed varieties. Technically, they are called “pollination-variant non-astringent persimmons.” You may see them in farmer’s markets or upscale markets under the names chocolate persimmons (brown interior), cinnamon persimmons (“spicy” flavor), or brown sugar persimmons (dark and sweet).
The persimmon season has just started and the fruit is being harvested in central California. The season should continue through the end of the year, and will be at the peak of season when everyone is doing their holiday baking. If we run out of supplies from California, we may fly them in from Israel, as they are such a popular fruit.
So, next time you walk through your favorite produce department and see an orange fruit that looks like an apple, pick it up! The flavor is amazing and so sweet you’ll know why we call them nature’s candy.
When I was 16, my first job was in our local public library. It was about a half-mile bike ride from my parent’s house and the hours were flexible. I think my hourly wage was $1.60. (Yes, that was the hourly wage back in 1971.)
I’ve always had a love of books and reading, but with my work and family demands over the years, the only things I got to read were trade journals and magazines. I really missed reading for fun.
So, one Friday night I was at my temple and I was chatting with my friend Gayle. For some reason she got my attention when she started talking about the book she was reading for her book club. I asked: “How do you choose the books? How often do you meet? Who’s in the club?” I learned that her club was made up of about a dozen women from my synagogue and they met once a month.
Thankfully, they let me join, and it’s been one of my best experiences ever.
Since we meet once a month, I am “forced” to read a book every four weeks. (Thank goodness for long plane flights!) I’ve read books that I never would have read – “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” I’ve read books that I just couldn’t get into – “The Book Thief.” And I’ve read books that are now on my favorites list – “Not Me” and “The Art of Racing in the Rain.”
And, thanks to the book club, I have a new group of friends ranging in age from 38 to 88! Our monthly discussions are as diverse as our ages, and surprisingly, we talk about sex (Yes, 88-year-olds still talk about that!), secrets and our dreams.
With my travel schedule, you’d think one book club would be enough. Well, my good friend Betsy and her daughter Rachael are in a mother-daughter book club and they invited me and my 16-year-old daughter Sophia to join. I thought it would be a great way to spend quality time with my daughter in a non-threatening social environment. The girls choose the books and we meet every two months for dinner and discussion.
Well, I am here to say that it’s one of the best things we’ve ever done. OK – I will admit that the girls don’t always read the books (too much homework and poor planning). But the conversations between the mothers and daughters are incredible. In the 12 months since we’ve joined, we’ve shared stories of our first marriages, battles with cancer, our faith, drugs at school and more. It is a safe environment for all topics.
I’m so glad I made time to join this group. My only regret is that I didn’t know about the book club when they started it seven years ago when the girls were 10.
If you have children, I would seriously recommend you consider joining or starting a book club. It can create a common platform for sharing, which will come in handy as your kids get older.
And, be prepared for your child to tell you that they are NOT interested. Sophia was not thrilled with the idea and really didn’t want us to join, but I told her we would go once and try it out. She so enjoyed the girls in the group and the social aspect of it that she is now quite excited to participate and plan our meetings.
So, go find a book club to join! And happy reading!
In the early 1980s I had the opportunity to meet Julia Child in person. Mom and I were attending an event in Santa Monica, Calif., at the famed Michael’s Restaurant. It was an event for the American Institute of Food and Wine, where well known chefs, such as Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, were sampling their favorite foods. As I recall, Alice was sampling mashed fava beans with garlic and olive oil, spread on a baguette.
It was a Sunday afternoon, and being “produce gals” from the L.A. Produce Market, we were kind of lost with all those foodies. This very tall, lanky lady must have noticed us standing by ourselves in the corner, and came over to make us feel welcome.
Well, it turned out to be Julia Child.
I remember her crackly, high-pitched voice and her genuine approach to us. And when she found out she was talking with Frieda Caplan, at that time the sole lady in the produce business who had introduced Kiwifruit to America, she made us feel like movie stars!
The first thing my mom said to her was, “Julia, I just want to thank you for using shallots in so many of your recipes on your PBS television show. We can always tell when you include them in a recipe, because our sales increase dramatically!”
Julia humanized shallots – which I do think was one of her favorite ingredients. Several decades ago, it might have been acceptable to substitute onions (and a little garlic) for a recipe calling for “finely diced shallots.” But you can thank Julia Child (and Frieda Caplan) for making them widely available and a household name.
Fresh shallots are still one of our top-selling products. I think Julia Child would have said they are the secret to many of the amazing recipes she developed over the years.
One of the first recipes I recall seeing shallots in was a simple vinaigrette dressing:
Basic Vinaigrette Dressing
From Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom, by Julia Child
1/2 Tbsp finely minced shallot
1/2 Tbsp Dijon-type mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp wine vinegar
1/3 to 1/2 cup excellent olive oil, or other fine, fresh oil
Freshly ground pepper
Either shake all the ingredients together in a screw-topped jar, or mix them individually as follows. Stir the shallots together with the mustard and salt. Whisk in the lemon juice and vinegar, and when well blended start whisking in the oil by droplets to form a smooth emulsion. Beat in freshly ground pepper. Taste (dip a piece of the salad greens into the sauce) and correct seasoning with salt, pepper, and/or drops of lemon juice.
Yield: For about 2/3 cup, serving 6 to 8
Shallots are cultivated all over the world and commercially grown in Oregon, California, Canada, and France and many other places. In this hemisphere, they are harvested in late August and can be stored for up to a year. Throughout the year, shallots are taken out of cold storage to be shipped as there is demand.
At your local supermarket, you may find shallots loose in baskets, so you can pick your own. They may be in clusters or single large bulbs. You might also see shallots sold in mesh bags, varying in size from 3 ounces to 1 pound.
I like to keep my shallots at home in a cool, dry, dark place. If you store them in the refrigerator, make sure they don’t get too damp, as this will cause them to mold.
I encourage you to make shallots your new best friend in cooking. They really do add an amazing flavor.
Bon Appetit! (as Julia would say)
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Every September, a large contingent of produce industry folks go to Washington, D.C., to lobby on behalf of our industry. The conference is called the Washington Public Policy Conference (WPPC), and it is sponsored by one of our industry trade associations, the United Fresh Produce Association.
I have attended the WPPC almost every year since it started about 15 years ago, and last month was no exception. This time, my sister and business partner, Jackie, and I both attended. Why did we both attend? There are many critical issues facing our industry right now, and we wanted to make sure our voices were heard.
Top of our industry’s list was the re-authorization of the Child Nutrition Act. This act will ensure that the following programs will continue:
• National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs
• WIC (Women, Infant and Children)
• Summer Food Program
• Child and Adult Care Food Program
If you’re reading this blog, these programs may not affect you personally, but you may be surprised at how many families and kids in your area benefit from them. For many children in our country, the school breakfast and lunch programs ensure that they get two healthy meals a day.
Other issues we were there to talk about included:
• Food Safety Enhancement Act: To make sure that there are no exemptions in the area of food safety for producers of fresh produce sold commercially.
• Immigration reform: To ensure a strong, stable workforce to plant, harvest and package the foods we grow.
During this three-day conference we heard from senior officials from both the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. At the Capitol, we had a private session with three of the top senators — Stabenow from Michigan, Boxer from California and Graham from South Carolina.
But most importantly, each of the 500 attendees had the opportunity to visit their own district congressman in his/her office. Initially, Jackie and I teamed up with six other Southern Californians and visited three congressional offices. During an evening reception, Jackie met the agricultural liaison for her district’s congresswomen — newly elected Laura Richardson of Long Beach — and we were able to visit her office privately the next day.
It was exhilarating to take a taxi from our hotel and pull up to the Longworth House office building at the corner of Independence and New Jersey Avenues, go through security and then enter Richardson’s office. (Her door is flanked by the California State flag). During our meeting, we shared with the congresswoman our personal stories of being in the produce industry, of being mothers, and of course, being registered voters. And we talked about the issues of our industry and why they are important to us.
All those telecasts we see on C-Span, the reporters broadcasting from Capitol Hill — they came alive for us!
It’s easy to be a cynic with all that you see on the news, the Internet and hear on the radio. But honestly, the most important thing you can do is be an active citizen.
Register to vote. Write emails or make calls to your congressman or senator about issues that are important to you. (Don’t write letters. After the anthrax scare a few years ago, physical letters may take around 6 to 8 weeks to be delivered.) All those calls and emails are logged in and they definitely influence how our elected officials vote.
And, if you have the chance to go to our nation’s capital, whether it’s business or pleasure, take the time to go to Capitol Hill and see our government in action. It is truly inspiring and meaningful. And yes, you can make an impact.
One last thing. If you are not yet registered to vote for the upcoming elections in November, I urge you to do so TODAY! Don’t be apathetic or take your right to vote for granted. It is a privilege to live in a country where we have freedom of speech and the opportunity to vote!
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