Behind the Blue Is Back!


Topics in this issue of Behind the Blue:

Here’s Your Blueberry Convention Recap

What better way to launch the new monthly edition of the Behind The Blue newsletter than with a recap of The Blueberry Convention that took place recently in Tucson, Arizona. 

Educational, fun, uniting and inspiring are just a few of the words that describe the industry’s time together at the 2024 Blueberry Convention. A special thanks to over 300 attendees who took time away from their businesses and families to join us. 

If you weren’t able to attend, we missed you and hope you’ll join us at The Blueberry Summit, Sept. 25-27 in Denver.

Here’s a recap of our time together in beautiful Tucson.

Day 1 – Let’s Kick Off the Festivities!

The Blueberry Convention kicked off with a Grab a Boost of Blue Golf Tournament, a welcome reception for exhibitors, the President’s Welcome Reception, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the official opening of the trade show floor.

Day 2 – Full Speed Ahead

USHBC/NABC President Kasey Cronquist sits down with keynote speakers Juan Ignacio Allende, CEO/gerente general of Hortifrut and chairman of the board of Driscoll’s Foods and Soren Bjorn, CEO of Driscoll’s.

Day two began bright and early with a BerryFit Club 5K run. Runners took in the sites of beautiful Tucson. During the opening Keynote Breakfast, Soren Bjorn, CEO of Driscoll’s, and Juan Ignacio Allende, CEO/gerente general of Hortifrut and chairman of the board of Driscoll’s Foods, discussed the landscape of the blueberry industry. Other meetings and sessions of the day included:

  • USHBC Industry Engagement Committee meeting.
  • Soil Matters! including speakers Steve Mantle, founder/CEO of; Cheyenne Sloan, blueberry and small fruit extension educator, Michigan State University; and Kristin Trippe, Ph.D., research microbiologist, USDA-ARS.
  • How Will the Economy Impact Blueberries? with David Magaña, senior analyst, horticulture, Rabobank. 

The afternoon continued with NABC members gathering for the NABC board report and the annual crop report (complimentary for NABC members), as well as the NABC United Blueberry Advisory Council meeting. The day concluded with the NABC and USHBC Reception and Dinner at The Last Territory, filled with star gazing, cornhole and dancing. 

Day 3 – It’s Not a Goodbye But an I’ll See You Later

USHBC/NABC President Kasey Cronquist sits down with keynote speaker Melissa Byland, merchandising director for Walmart, to explore A Futuristic Look at Blueberry Growth in Retail.

The final day together started for some with a bit of namaste at the BerryFit Club’s yoga session. Then, the Keynote Breakfast Session featured Melissa Byland, merchandising director for Walmart, and Kasey Cronquist, president, NABC/USHBC, examining a Futuristic Look at Blueberry Growth in Retail. The afternoon continued with two concurrent lunch sessions:

  • Blueberry Harvesters: The Latest and Greatest moderated by Steve Mantle, founder/CEO of, with panelists Marcel Beelen of FineField, Frank Brown of Littau Harvester, Laina Gray of OnTrack, and Chris Thiesen of Burro. 
  • Growing Profitable Demand: How Much Opportunity Really Remains with Brian Bocock, vice president of product management at Naturipe Farms and chair of the USHBC promotions committee, and Kevin Hamilton, vice president of global marketing and communications at NABC/USHBC.

The day also included the USHBC Promotion Committee meeting and the USHBC Council meeting, both open to all attendees and providing a full update on the USHBC and its work on behalf of the industry. Attendees ended their night with a courtyard reception to toast all the possibilities for blueberries and share final farewells. 

Do you feel like you missed out? Don’t worry! Our next event is The Blueberry Summit in Denver, Sept. 25 – 27. We look forward to seeing you there.

Blueberry Leadership Program Update

The Blueberry Convention served as the second trip for Blueberry Leadership Program class 2. This two-year program is designed to elevate up-and-coming leaders in the blueberry industry by providing in-depth training, industry education, and connections to other ag leaders across the supply chain. 

Participants in this year’s class include: Cecilia Allende, Sunny Valley International; Chad Don, Oasis Farms Inc.; Joe Klick, Naturipe Farms; Benjamin Lahr, Driscoll’s; Kolby Lewis, Blue Raeven Farms; Katiuska Morales, Camposol S. A.; Sarah Quackenbush, North Bay Produce Inc.; Ranjeet Randhawa, Ph.D., Fall Creek®; Kyle Straughn, Straughn Farms; and Joel Whitehead, Wish Farms.

The leadership class had full days of instruction, from learning about the opportunities for data in the industry (with our very own Data Joe) to working on their capstone class project, which they will unveil at the Blueberry Summit in Denver.

Fellows were also fully immersed in The Blueberry Convention, interacting with the industry and learning more about its opportunities and challenges. They had a great time, fostering team bonding and enjoying delightful dinners. The Blueberry Convention was not just about learning but also about creating lasting connections and memories.

For more information on the Blueberry Leadership Program, click here.

USHBC Selected as Partner for the White House Challenge to End Hunger and Build Healthy Communities

The USHBC is honored to have been selected along with the North American Blueberry Council (NABC) as a partner for the White House Challenge to End Hunger and Build Healthy Communities. We’re proud to work with the White House to end hunger and reduce diet-related diseases by 2030. 

The USHBC committed to investing up to $7 million in health and nutrition research by 2030, building upon the industry’s previous research on the benefits of blueberry consumption for cardiometabolic health, brain health and overall healthy lifestyles.  

The USHBC has long partnered with and supported health professionals in their efforts to credibly educate consumers with science-based health and nutrition information, and is committed to expanding these efforts with nutrition education initiatives on the importance of eating more flavonoid and anthocyanin-rich foods, like blueberries, for health. Read more about the program here.

Meet USHBC’s New Promotion Committee Chair, Brian Bocock of Naturipe Farms

1. What makes you passionate about the industry?

Being a farmer is one of the biggest gambles there is, and seeing them succeed despite all the challenges they face is what truly inspires me. Being involved with the USHBC gives me the opportunity to be an advocate for farmers in the marketplace and a champion for growers throughout the world. We also have a great product that is like no other in the produce aisle. From its beautiful, bright blue color to its healthfulness, flavor and ease of use, the product itself is something that excites me

2. What do you love about your job?

I love the people in this industry. They are smart, engaged, humble and willing to help their fellow farmers. It’s amazing to me how much this industry comes together to make each other better. I also love seeing my friends in this industry succeed. I get so much joy out of seeing my industry friends post pictures of their family vacations or a new home they just purchased as a result of their hard work. Nothing brings a bigger smile to my face than seeing growers be successful.

3. What’s one of your goals as the new chair of the USHBC Promotions Committee?

As chair, I want to create an environment of trust, open communication and big thinking. We all succeed together, and we all fail together, therefore, it’s important to me that the Promotions Committee is a team. From our committee members, staff, council members and industry as a whole, I want everyone to be on the same team working toward the same goal of driving blueberry demand.

USHBC Releases 2024 International Blueberry MRL Memo

As the 2024 blueberry season is underway and crop protection decisions are being made, the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC) worked with Bryant Christie Inc. (BCI) to provide the U.S. blueberry industry with an international blueberry maximum residue level (MRL) memo for major export markets.   

This memo provides blueberry growers and shippers with relevant information on blueberry MRLs in key export markets. It includes the latest blueberry MRLs through March 26, 2024, in the United States, Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, Great Britain , India, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. The memo is divided into sections by country, and for each country includes: the active ingredient, trade name, the U.S. highbush blueberry MRL, the foreign country MRL, data on how much of the product has been applied, and residue data available from USDA. Cases where a residue might potentially exceed an MRL are highlighted. 

The memo also includes whether the chemical is included in the country’s residue testing list. This information comes from official monitoring lists and is subject to change. Not all markets publish such lists.  

The USHBC, in partnership with BCI, hopes this memo will be useful to U.S. blueberry growers and shippers, and wishes the industry success in the 2024 season. 

Want USDA to Buy Your Food Product?

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Commodity Procurement Program invites you to join a webinar on April 18 from 2-3 p.m. ET to learn how to get your product considered for USDA Foods Programs. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) will provide a step-by-step outline of the key criteria that must be met before a vendor submits a request. AMS will discuss the process and timeline to add a new food to the Foods Available List (FAL).

FNS administers the USDA Foods Programs and oversees the FAL. AMS works with FNS to purchase a predetermined list of USDA Foods products. If your product is not purchased by USDA, this webinar is for you! 

FNS considers several factors before adding new foods to the FAL. The process is extensive and requires collaboration and coordination with multiple stakeholders. Not all products end up being the right fit for USDA Foods, and this webinar will equip vendors with the tools and knowledge they need to conduct a self-audit of their product for compatibility with USDA Foods.

Registration is required to attend, and space is limited. Once you register using the links below, you can submit questions in advance of the webinar.

If you have questions about the registration process, contact Andrea Lang or Diana Dau David at [email protected].

Join Us at The Blueberry Summit this Fall!

Registration and hotel booking for The Blueberry Summit, Sept. 25-27 in Denver, are open!

Why not save your seat – and your room – now? After all, the blueberry industry’s thought leaders will all be there to learn, connect and grow, together.

Our events are expanding exponentially, so you’ll want to sign up to join your blueberry peers in Denver right away!

Book in our housing block at the Westin Denver Downtown to take advantage of our discounted group rate! 

Interested in connecting with our passionate blueberry community? Reach out to Mandy Boarman, industry and community engagement manager, at [email protected] to learn about exhibitor and sponsorship opportunities! 

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