Editor’s note: This column was written as Jim Prevor's opening note in the directory of the inaugural edition of The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference
When asked if he had done any kind of market research when planning to launch his Model T, the first mass-produced automobile, it is said that Henry Ford responded, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”
It is doubtful he ever really said that, but it doesn’t matter. The idea expressed in the quote is an argument for audacious innovation, a rebellion against cautious incrementalism, and this is what brings us to Amsterdam today. It is what underlies The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference.
Of course, this event is rich with opportunities for commerce, for buyers and sellers to connect and find business opportunities. But in a larger sense, this event is built on more lofty aspirations: It is built on the idea that our personal careers can advance, our businesses can advance and our industry can advance only by a willingness to stand on the shoulders of the people who have built this industry and use this point of vision to see a new and more important industry.
Being audacious… I have been fortunate to live a life immersed in such a character. My great-grandfather, Jacob Prevor, left a long established family produce business outside of Kiev to seek his fortune in America, where he opened a produce wholesaling business in the old Wallabout Market in Brooklyn, New York. At the time, the Wallabout Market was the second largest produce market in the country and was built in the Dutch Colonial revival style to commemorate the Dutch origins of New York — née New Amsterdam — and Brooklyn — née Breuckelen. What can be more audacious than to step on a boat to go to a new country that speaks a different language and still believe you can be a success?
My grandfather, Harry Prevor, crossed the East River to move the family business to Manhattan, where he became both a wholesaler of vegetables and an auction buyer of repute. Culturally and commercially crossing from Brooklyn to Manhattan was no small journey. It was moving to “the big time,” and the East River seemed as insurmountable an obstacle as the Atlantic Ocean his father had crossed before. To believe you can make it in New York was audacious too.
And my father, Michael Prevor, not only moved the business to the brand new Hunts Point Market in the Bronx, but he was to turn the company into the largest independent exporter in America — including a substantial business into the Netherlands — and a very important importer. He was to open supermarkets, convenience stores, operate farms and run a mail order fruit business, and so much more. With each step teaching this son that the future, though built on the past, is not limited by that past.
That is what we mean when we speak of The Knowledge Centre we have created and the four Knowledge Zones — Innovation, Sustainability, Education and Health, that define our workshops and the show floor. We imagine an industry intertwined with these great objectives, and we believe success in the future belongs to those willing to see an industry integrated with these opportunities and challenges rather than an industry built around simply booking another load.
These ideas go back a long time. Over 30 years ago, the produce industry in America had only two weekly newspapers in circulation, both focused on the production side of the business. We imagined a new, strategic magazine focusing on the marketing, merchandising, management and procurement interests of the trade and dreamed of creating an institution that would not merely report on the trade, but would initiate industry improvement. Thus was Produce Business magazine born.
From that we have spread our wings into adjacent fresh-food industries, with other magazines such as Cheese Connoisseur, Deli Business and Floral Business, and into the internet, with digital publications such as ProduceBusinessUK.com, PerishablePundit.com and PerishableNews.com. Today we also publish ChinaFruitPortal.com in Chinese, PortalFruticola.com in Spanish and the FreshFruitPortal.com in English.
Dedicated to helping the industry improve with all possible tools, we were not satisfied to act on paper and online, but also moved into live events.
In 2010, we launched The New York Produce Show and Conference. It is a unique thought-leadership event that is now the second largest produce event in the Western Hemisphere, yet maintains an intimate atmosphere. The success of the New York event led to the development of The London Produce Show and Conference, which quickly became the largest produce event in the 5th largest economy in the world.
And now we are in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, doing a Dutch twist on these events. Holland is unique. An abundance of skilled businesspeople, great growers, exceptional technology, a secure legal framework and fortuitous geography combine to create a place for an exceptional industry to emerge in the heart of Europe.
This event draws on what we have done in New York and London, but it is completely its own, drawing on a Dutch sense of cool and high technology. We have student programs and media programs; we have culinary programs; and programs for spouses and partners. There is networking and education and commerce, all rolled into one.
Back in 1971, when President Nixon dropped the US dollar from the Gold Standard, this author was just a small boy, but our house was quickly filled with Dutch produce traders, seeking opportunities in a country whose currency had changed so much.
So even as a boy, I learned that the Dutch were good at sniffing out opportunities.
Now we decided to create an opportunity… and you are present at the creation. As such, you are part of its creation. After all, events are lifeless until the people start participating and making them great.
We are not interested in building faster horses here; we are interested in unleashing great minds and in accessing educated imagination. We are interested in building opportunities for all at this event to create a better tomorrow.
Everyone’s goal here is to bring the fruit of the earth to the people of the world and make the world a better place because of it. And one day, you will tell your grandchildren that you were part of the beginning.
For that, we thank you…and they will as well.
Have a great show!
Met de beste groeten.