Former astronaut José Hernández is the featured speaker at Produce Marketing Association’s (PMA) Fresh Connections: Mexico scheduled May 29-30 at the Hotel Hard Rock in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.
Now in its 12th year, the event brings U.S. and Canadian buyers and Mexican supermarket retailers together with Mexican produce growers and business solution providers. Activities include networking and education sessions and an expo. The event will be held in Guadalajara for the first time since 2013.
Hernández will present his keynote, titled “The Star Harvester,” on May 29 prior to the expo opening.
Growing up in both Mexico and the United States, Hernández did not learn English until he was 12 years old. As a youth, he worked alongside his Mexican immigrant parents and other farmworkers harvesting crops. While in high school, Hernández began to dream of space flight when he learned that Franklin Chang-Díaz had become the first Hispanic-American selected for NASA’s space program.
Hernández went on to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical engineering, became an expert in X-ray physics, and worked at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Johnson Space Center. After he applied to the astronaut program for the 12th time, NASA finally accepted him to the astronaut candidate class of 2004.
Hernández completed astronaut training in 2006 and served as a mission specialist in 2009 on the STS-128 mission aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. Hernández is currently an advisor to the Mexican Space Agency.
To fulfill his goal of giving back to the community, he founded the José M. Hernández Reaching for the Stars Foundation in 2005. The nonprofit foundation educates students about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, hosts STEM events, and provides scholarships to ensure students can pursue STEM careers.
Prior to the keynote address at Fresh Connections: Mexico on May 29, four supermarket retailers will share trends and tips for success and will answer audience questions in an education session titled “The New Retail World is Here.” Participants will learn from successful retailers in Mexico.
The expo, which features fruit and vegetable growers and business solution providers that serve the industry, will be open from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on May 29. The day’s activities also include a networking lunch and evening reception.
Attendees will start the day on May 30 with breakfast and a keynote presentation on “New Leadership and the Impact on Mexico’s Fresh Produce Industry.” This education session will explore political and governmental shifts and how they impact the fruit and vegetable supply chain. Companies will exhibit in the expo from 10:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. on May 30.
“Most of Mexico’s major retailers attend this event, offering an unparalleled networking experience. PMA Fresh Connections: Mexico does what its name says - it connects people with each other, opportunities, new products, information, technology and more,” said Nancy Tucker, PMA Regional Vice President for Latin America. “Our conference sessions and speaker lineup are impressive, and participants will learn from experts in their fields. We also can’t wait to hear what former astronaut José Hernández has to share with our industry about overcoming adversity and helping others to succeed.”
Additional networking and career development
The Center for Growing Talent (CGT) will host a Young Professionals Networking Coffee Hour on May 29 for professionals 35 and younger who work in the fresh fruit and vegetable industry.
CGT will also host a Career Pathways program at the Fresh Connections event. Career Pathways is designed to inform top university students about potential careers in the fresh fruit, vegetable and floral industries. The program in Mexico, which is being held for the second year, follows a model that CGT has successfully used for 15 years to attract the best and brightest university students to the industry in several other countries around the world.
Hernández is scheduled to meet with the university students, who will also attend conference activities and the expo. Each university student will be paired with a volunteer Career Ambassador, several of whom are members of PMA’s Mexico Country Council and are employed in the fresh produce industry.
About 20 business leaders serve on PMA’s Country Council in Mexico. Chairman Roberto Salazar Pérez, an industry consultant, and Vice Chairman Ernesto Cardona of Austral Trading Mexico, S.A. de C.V. are looking forward to welcoming attendees to the event. The council members volunteer their time to help PMA and CGT serve PMA member needs in Mexico and help the fresh fruit, vegetable and floral industries grow.