While fresh-cut produce has survived food safety crises in the past, a new challenge could confront fruit and vegetable processors at any time and the entire industry might find itself faced with unexpected regulatory and media scrutiny.

That's why the International Fresh-cut Produce Association has enlisted two nationally known crisis management experts to provide fresh-cut produce executives with a one-day seminar entitled “Surviving… and Thriving through a Crisis” on Nov. 12, 2003 in Washington, D.C. The event will help give processors insight into what to expect and how to deal with a crisis typical of those that could befall fresh-cut.

Gene Grabowski, a seasoned marketing communications professional with a reputation for creating and implementing top-quality crisis communications plans, will explain “The Crisis Cycle: Defining the Who, What, When and Why's of Crisis Management.” While every crisis is different, each has a “life cycle” companies can predict and prepare for in advance, he says.

Currently vice president of Washington, D.C.-based Levick Strategic Communications, Grabowski formerly served with the Grocery Manufacturers of America, the world's largest food trade group representing brand name food, beverage and consumer products companies. He is an expert on a variety of high profile communications issues including food safety, obesity and biotechnology.

Following Grabowski on the program, Eric Dezenhall of Nichols-Dezenhall Communications Management Group, one of the nation's leading crisis management firms, will tell fresh-cut managers “Who Gets Attacked, Who Survives and Why?”

Registration fees are $345 for IFPA members who sign up prior to Oct. 24 and $444 for non-members and will be subject to a $50 late charge after that.

For further information, contact IFPA at (703) 299-6282.

I think every farmer should write a book about unusual things that have happened during a normal day of work in the field. Let's face it, farming is not the normal 9 to 5 office job in a tall building. No, farming is a real “down to earth” job, especially when unwanted, unexpected visitors show up in the field to help.

I have not seen very many gnats lately. Usually a little swat by your ear will take care of an annoying gnat. However, in one field a few years ago, the gnats were unbelievable. These little flying menaces were all over me. I have never seen so many gnats.

In order to survive this daily “gnat attack,” I had to put a shirt over my head and peep out a couple of holes in order to see. The gnats were so bad that they would clog up the tractor's radiator. Smashed gnats would build up on the fan blades half an inch thick. I have never experienced anything like the “great gnat attack” since those days in Denton County.

Bumblebees can also surprise you in the field. They live in the ground and come out with a bad attitude when they hear a noise — like a tractor's engine. They came after me one day when I was creeping along baling hay. Hundreds of those devils were after me, and let me tell you, when they hit you (They like to go for the eyes.), it's an instant, stinging thud. We quietly towed the tractor and baler away from the danger zone the next morning while I was covered with an old tent.

Snakes are not an uncommon sight in the field. I like snakes, as long as they are slithering away from me. Snakes are sneaky. You can't hear them like the bumblebees. They also have a way of surprising you. They also like to hang around the hay field. I've been scared many times by snakes that are trapped under the wire or twine of a bale, but one time I met one under different circumstances.

I was under the baler untangling the wire, when to my surprise, a snake dropped out of the baler around my neck. Now, if you've ever been under a hay baler, you know there is very little room under there. Let me tell you, it's easier to get out from under a baler in record time than you think.

So, if your office job is farming, the next time you're out in the field, beware of unwanted friends lurking out there, especially the snakes. Who said, “The older you get the slower you move”?

If you've had an unusual field experience, I would like to hear from you.

e-mail: steve.thompson@navarrocollege.edu