When I launched PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine — the rootstock for all we do, including The New York Produce Show and Conference — my ambition was simple, but vast. I grew up in the produce industry. Many generations ago, my family ran a produce wholesale operation just outside Kiev, and my great-grandfather, Jacob Prevor, emigrated to New York where he opened a produce wholesaling operation in the old Wallabout Produce Market in Brooklyn.
My grandfather, Harry Prevor, took the journey — short in geography, but giant in impact and importance — and moved to Manhattan where he became a wholesaler and auction buyer in the old Washington Street Produce Market. In 1967, when the Hunts Point Market was created in the Bronx, my father, Michael Prevor, opened one of the original houses on the market.
I worked on the market and helped build the family business, but I also launched PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine while working in the Bronx because a big part of my motivation was to help the industry, in which my family had toiled for so long, to advance. I wanted it to be better, and I also wanted the children of produce entrepreneurs and executives to think in a more elevated way of the incredible work their family members did every day.
I wanted to play a role in bringing the fruit of the earth to the people of the world, and I wanted to celebrate my co-workers in that task.
In time, what started as a print magazine with a unique “industry insider” message became websites and e-newsletters, executive share groups and, of course, trade shows, conferences and expositions… in New York, London, Amsterdam and more. We had done much to advance the industry, and we had built a network across the globe of admirers, confidants and thought-leaders who shared the same passion of “initiating industry improvement.”
Over time, of course, we, along with the industry, had navigated many challenges. Some were industry-specific, such as the Chilean grape cyanide and Alar issues affecting specific commodities; others were more general… recessions, stock market crashes, 9/11.
Nothing, though, compared to our COVID experience. It threw the industry in disarray, with the retail sector booming while the foodservice sector collapsed. It was a font of innovation, where people learned on the fly how to deliver direct to consumers, how to create charity boxes of produce, how to reallocate product and distribution space and much more.
For us, it was a special challenge. The big growth we had obtained in live events — our most visceral market connection… the relationships built — all was suddenly put on hold by government edict and the situation at hand.
It seemed the end of the world, and suddenly we were back in the 1990s struggling to find a path forward.
Yet we did, and the insight gained reminded us of the truth with which we began so many years ago.
• It is all about value-creation and about friendship.
• It is about relationships and building a network.
• It is about being willing to change and be creative.
We did a virtual event last year, and friends we didn’t even know we had came out to support us. Others proved to be friends to a different degree than we knew. And in the midst of a pandemic, with our business limited and future uncertain, we learned something extraordinary: That this business, as much as it is about anything, is about love.
We’ve always witnessed something incredible in our industry… People who competed bitterly in the marketplace, when thrown together, would compete just as earnestly to pay the check for dinner. But at this moment of difficulty, people rallied to support the things they valued and the institutions that mattered to them.
Dare I say that tears well up a bit in my eyes as I write this, because I came to realize that my efforts, and those of my company’s long-standing associates have done for so long had come to matter to many important people.
And as horrible as it has been, the pandemic has been the most revealing moment in my life, because you suddenly learn who loved you and stood by you all these years. That is not a lesson that one ever forgets.
Though we are re-launching The New York Produce Show and Conference, we are not totally back yet. There is still uncertainty… there is still fear… there is concern. All rightly so, though not the way I think best to think of the situation.
For we will never go back. History and time does not allow us to return; we can only go forward.
We can’t predict the numbers. How can anyone be sure what fear and concern can do to a person’s mind and what it might lead them do? We can, however, find opportunity in every situation. If fewer people attend, it creates the opportunity for more intense engagement with those who are present. If fear keeps some away, then the brave will have an advantage.
Each experience changes us, and if we are willing to learn, each experience points to a way to be better in the future than we have been in the past.
Personally, the Number One lesson I learned from this pandemic, was the importance of quality over quantity in human relations. Though it may sound trite, it comes down to love — for your spouse and children, love for the friends and colleagues who really make a difference in your life.
And, this week, at The New York Produce Show and Conference, I am resolved to not give into fear, to not worry about numbers, but to create the most exceptional experience for all to choose to be a part of this great industry reunion.
I thank our friends at the Eastern Produce Council, who demand no thanks, but just try and do the right thing. I thank my colleagues and staff who have asked for nothing but the chance to make things great. And I thank everyone in industry who has arrived in New York… for being dedicated to helping us not look back, but look forward…, not focus on what has been lost, but on what we can gain from the experience.
We have had many great shows, but this show will be the most extraordinary of all, because the people gathered here in New York, at this moment in time, are the exceptional ones dedicated to transcending the challenges of our age and building a better industry and a better future.
How grateful I am to be able to count our exhibitors, or sponsors, our attendees this year, each and every one, as more than a colleague, each one as a friend. May we all have a very extraordinary show.
Editor in Chief