Since this time last year, I have been looking forward to attending the 112th annual Midwest Food Processors Association conference. I’ve always found the show to be an incredible learning experience and a great way to see new happenings in the industry—this year was no exception. As always, the MWFPA put on a great show. Over 150 exhibitors came from all over the world, including states from coast to coast—like Oregon and Washington to New Jersey and Massachusetts—and countries such as Canada and even Italy.
The exhibitors displayed a ton of really cool items, such as a new and improved harvesting process for machinery and process improvements to bird and pest control products. There were FDA-compliant metal door screens designed to prevent unwanted intruders, which can stop a burglar as well as a small mosquito. These mesh screens also help prevent theft as well as food contamination.
This year’s theme was Learning. Connecting. Growing.—and they truly incorporated it into all areas of the show.
As far as the learning aspect goes, the breakout sessions were very well organized, with plenty of good speakers who delivered relevant information. One example was the great discussion and information on the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that gave the FDA more power. The FDA has already started to visit companies, focusing on their written food safety programs, and they are beginning to issue more sanctions against violators or companies that introduce pathogens into food that causes food-borne illnesses.
Another great topic was the permit-required confined space rule update that OSHA made this past year. A big point during this discussion was how important preplanning is to stay in compliance with this regulation—so be sure to conduct training and plan for an emergency.
Connecting at MWFPA was very easy, with over 1,000 attendees and plenty of networking events, including social gatherings that offered great opportunities to meet new and interesting people.
The growing aspect of the show’s theme was twofold. First, there were companies present that could help increase your harvest yield or improve your per-acre growth rates. The second part was one of my favorite sessions. John Graci talked about uncommon and common sense approaches to employee engagement. One of the basic concepts John mentioned is that you cannot motivate an employee. Employee motivation comes from within the employee. However, following Abraham Maslow’s theory of human motivation1, there are definitely areas within the hierarchy of needs2 that you as a leader, mentor, or manager have control over. Once you ensure that needs are met, the employee can then achieve his or her ability to self-motivate.
Another great speaker was Roger Seip. He discussed how to train your brain for success. Roger reviewed how the human brain works in different situations. He said we are conditioned to see the negative issues first, which can be traced back to the beginning of humans when daily survival was our primary goal. Looking at things in that way can have a negative impact on your business. If you go into a customer meeting with a negative outlook, you increase the likelihood of a negative outcome. He offered suggestions on how to be aware of this ancient thinking and what can be done to counteract it.
During the annual business meeting, the board made a suggestion to change the association’s name from Midwest Food Processors Association to Midwest Food Product Association. It is a minor change, but the new name better suits the association and its members.
This was another great MWFPA conference and expo.
Learn more about the MWFPA on their website.