UPDATED: Southeast Produce Council founder dies at age 64

07/31/2014 10:24:00 AM
Coral Beach

Vorhees(UPDATED COVERAGE, 12:38 p.m.) Terry Vorhees, executive director of the Southeast Produce Council, died July 30 after a short battle with lung cancer. He was 64.

As one of six people who founded the council 15 years ago, Vorhees was a tireless supporter of the region’s produce industry, said David Sherrod, assistant executive director.

“The vision of the council was his life’s work,” Sherrod said. “He was always a visionary and thought we could have a larger scope than just that of a regional council because of where we are located and the significance of the area in the industry.”

Initially the council included eight states — North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee. In 2004 Virginia and Kentucky joined the council.

Vorhees was the first executive director of the council, a part-time position that became his full-time job in 2005. Colleagues credit him for the group’s success.

In 2009 he was named one of The Packer 25.

“We owe a lot of our success to our members, the ones that have volunteered on committees and have served as officers,” he told The Packer. “You also have to have a love for what you’re doing and a love for the industry. I have always loved this industry and wouldn’t want to do anything else.”

He began his career in Washington D.C. area Safeway stores while attending community college, later becoming a produce manager for Safeway and Grand Union stores.

Vorhees also led training programs at Four Seasons Produce Inc., Ephrata, Pa., and was a retail merchandiser for the California Tree Fruit Agreement. He was on the National Watermelon Promotion Board and helped promote Idaho-Eastern Oregon onions. Vorhees also had his own produce training and consulting company.

John Shuman, president of Shuman Produce, Reidsville, Ga., has worked closely with Vorhees on the council for the past eight years.

“Terry was the backbone of the organization,” Shuman said. “He changed the industry and he changed the way we think.

“Fifteen years ago there were few regional shows and today the industry is moving in that direction, partly because of Terry’s work with Southern Exposure. But, I think he would want to be remembered for the intangible things, like the fellowship that came to the industry out of his work with the council.”

At the council’s first conference and trade show in 2004, there were 92 exhibitors and a few hundred attendees. This year almost 2,000 people attended Southern Exposure and there wasn’t enough room on the show floor for all those who wanted to exhibit.


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