Connie Podesta, award-winning author, therapist, speaker and comedienne set the incredibly positive tone for the Refrigerated Foods Association’s Annual Conference & Exhibition last week. Podesta challenged the audience to consider the personality and behavior patterns of the people in their lives to better act, instead of react, to daily situations and decisions. Podesta’s insights and tips helped listeners read between the lines, making navigating conversations and negotiating needs easier and more effective.  It was the perfect opening to a productive, engaging, communication-filled event.

Other presenters and topics included: Doug Marshall, RFA technical director and chief scientific officer at Eurofins Microbiology Laboratories, who delivered the annual Technical Update; Lydia Edwards of Gallagher, who covered cybersecurity; Levon Kurkjian of Opus Design, who addressed the topic of brand strategy; Dr. Faith Critzer of University of Georgia, who shared insights on RTE vegetables; and Marcus Brody of Eurofins National Food Lab, who educated the group on hydrocolloids.

The conference was held at WeKoPa Resort in Fort McDowell, Arizona on March 3-5. In addition to the timely presentations, the conference also included outstanding networking opportunities and social events, including a service project that provided snack bags for the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation through Wassaja Family Services. The annual golf tournament allowed avid players a chance to enjoy networking and beautiful weather at the resort’s world-famous Saguaro course.  Suppliers displayed their wares and presented money and time saving opportunities at the tabletop exhibit reception and during the one-on-one CEO sessions.  The closing banquet at La Puesta del Sol was particularly special, including awards and the passing of the gavel.  Lauren Edmonds of St. Clair Foods completed her term as president and passed the reins to incoming President, Mark Rosenfield of Reser’s Fine Foods.

Brandon Woodall of Ron’s Home Style Foods and Dawn Moore of Revela Foods were elected as new board members, and the following members were re-elected to serve three-year terms: Lauren Edmonds, St. Clair Foods; Tom Davis, Lakeview Farms; Mark Brown, Fresh Creative Foods; Wendie DiMatteo Holsinger, ASK Foods; and Josh Knott, Knott’s Foods.  RFA’s Executive Committee for the coming year consists of President, Mark Rosenfield of Reser’s Fine Foods; Vice President, William Bigelow of Blount Fine Foods; Treasurer Tom Davis of Lakeview Farms; and Secretary, Chris Staudt of Chairmans Foods.

The closing banquet was held under the stars at La Puesta del Sol, an open air venue just minutes from the resort that offered lots of fun including ax throwing, an old time photo booth, lassoing, great food, live band and dancing. Wendie DiMatteo Holsinger, CEO of ASK Foods, was given the Don Sircy Membership Award.  This award, named after the founding member of the RFA, is granted annually to one member who has demonstrated exceptional dedication to expanding, promoting and supporting the association and the industry.  ASK Foods has been a member of the RFA since 1985, and Wendie has served on the RFA Board of Directors for many years.  

The Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award was given to Mark Brown, who has been involved in RFA for many years and has served in every leadership position in the association.  Currently, Mark is heading up the group’s strategic planning efforts.  

The association’s highest honor is the President’s Pin, awarded to the individual selected by the outgoing president as the person who provided exceptional guidance, assistance or encouragement during his/her administration.  Lauren awarded her President’ Pin to her father, Oscar Edmonds of St. Clair Foods.  Oscar is the only remaining actively-involved founding member of the RFA, and has served in every leadership position available to members.  In a very touching speech, Lauren recognized and thanked her father for his dedication to the RFA, his tremendous leadership and for the guidance and support he has shown her in her role as president and throughout her life.