Monthly Archives: May 2015

#nwafuturisticfridays – Mission Driven or Member Driven Associations?


Whether the Mission of an association drives membership, or Member benefits drive membership seems to be a hot topic of discussion these days. A national decline in association membership and the idea that membership does not appeal to the younger generation is at the forefront of the debate. Some argue that mission driven associations are a dying breed, focused on the past and how things ‘used to be done.’  It is their opinion that the missions that drove membership in the past are not relevant to the present pool of potential members. But does it follow that the mission of the organization is responsible for the decline in association membership?

Associations are formed when a group of individuals band together for a common purpose. The National Rifle Association (NRA) founded in 1871, is one of the country’s oldest associations.  Its primary mission, still cited on its website today, is to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States…especially the right to keep and bear arms.” Even though the NRA desired to advance rifle marksmanship, its primary role has always focused on retaining civil liberties.

The mission of the National Association of the Deaf, founded in 1881, is “to preserve, protect and promote the civil, human and linguistic rights of deaf and hard of hearing people in the United States of America.”

In 1919, the National Farm Bureau Federation was established. Consisting of farmers from 30 states, their goal was to make their voices heard on a national level. They joined with other agricultural associations in order to influence state and national agricultural policies.

These organizations were all formed on the basis of fundamental concerns regarding the future. Members felt that in uniting they could more effectively protect their interests and meet the needs of their constituency. This is still the common bond of most associations today.

Perhaps the decline in membership reveals a decline in the confidence that associations can actually accomplish the mission. According to most generational articles I read today, the consensus is that the current generation volunteers for projects and causes rather than through the traditional association memberships. They want to make a difference on a personal level.

Theda Skocpol, in an article entitled Associations Without Members, gives a plausible explanation for the change in attitude:

A variety of factors have contributed, including racial and gender change; shifts in the political opportunity structure; new techniques and models for building organizations; and recent transformations in US class relations. Taken together, I suggest, these account for the civic America’s abrupt and momentous transition from membership to advocacytoday’s professionals are more likely to see themselves as expert individuals who can best contribute to national well-being by working with other specialists to tackle complex technical or social problems.”

What does this mean for the future of the traditional association – or the National Watermelon Association?

Many suggest that  prospective members are looking at return on their investment when they evaluate the pros and cons of membership in associations. Membership benefits that serve the broader community, industry, or profession are of less value to this generation than the personal benefits of membership.

Associations that have seen an increase in membership and engagement have been those who have broadened their mission to make an impact on the social issues that concern their members or have provided their members with specific personal opportunities.

The AARP has seen their membership consistently grow over the past three decades by providing their members with commercial discounts and a presence in Washington that monitors state and federal legislation that affects its members.

I have a hard time believing that the generation that we target for membership is so opportunistic. I am convinced that we simply have to do a better job at communicating the value of membership. There are no benefits to industry, profession, or nation without united effort toward a specific goal. I agree with Theda Skocpol’s conclusion and share it as my own conclusion.

Since the 1960’s, many good things have happened in America. New voices are now heard, and there have been invaluable gains in equality and liberty. But vital links in the nation’s associational life have frayed, and we may need to find creative ways to repair those links if America is to avoid becoming a country of detached spectators. There is no going back to the civic world we have lost. But we Americans can and should look for ways to recreate the best of our civic past in the new forms suited to a renewed democratic future.”

If you have any comments, please feel free to share them.



Skocpol, Theda. “Associations Without Members.” The American Prospect. N.p., 19 Dec. 2001. Web. 29 May 2015. <>.





Letter from the Executive Director, Bob Morrissey


To all of our Friends and Family:

Words cannot be expressed of how overwhelmed Betsy & I are for the 
love and prayers that are being sent for the kids and our little
Gabby. The outpouring from so many communities that encompass Carrie
and Brad, our friends and extended family(ies) are expressions of love
that verify for us that God loves us all. We thank you all so very much
for your kindness. Carrie & Brad are strong, and are surrounded by family already, with
many more coming in today and tomorrow. Under these circumstances,
the kids are strong and doing okay. The service that will celebrate 
Gabrielle’s life will be held at 10 am (visitation) and 11 am (service) on
Saturday, May 30,  at the Victorious Life Church located at 6224 Old Pasco Road
in Wesley Chapel, Florida. Pastor Ed Russo, a wonderful friend of the
kids, will preside with his wife Janice. There will be plenty of food 
following the celebration. Many of you have been asking what you can
do, and we talked to the kids last night about it.

One of their high school friends set up a fundraiser online in Gabby’s name
( and another one ( The kids are
overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from old friends and
family. Another friend of theirs set up something called a Meal
Train, which has meals now committed to them through June 6th. Jesus
is truly in our lives with expressions like these. The expressions of 
love and kindness are lifting us all up. We have a rather unique request,
if you would consider it.
Rather than flowers or food or other material things, we ask this on Gabby’s behalf:
When you see your child, your grandchild, your great grandchild, your
niece or nephew, your sibling, your Mom or Dad, anyone that is a 
family member or good friend, give them a hug and tell them that it is
from little Gabby, and that you love them. You can help us to share 
that little baby girl’s smile through your expression of love for 
them. Your expression of love on her behalf will lighten the burden, 
and open our hearts even wider than they are. Share Gabby’s love 
today, and always. For in the end, love for Jesus and for one
another are truly the only things that matter. May God Bless you, and
somehow help us to thank you for your love, your prayers and support. Have
a wonderful, blessed day today.

Bob and Betsy Morrissey

#nwamembermondays – Ray and Tom Vincent

VincentsMany of our members operate farms that have been handed down to them by their parents. These family farms often grow and develop with each generation. This is indeed the case with Vincent Farms Inc. Jim Vincent founded the business in 1978 with a single-row cultivator and two mules. Today the operations are run by his grandsons, Ray and Clay, and cover over 2700 acres in Laurel, Delaware, where they claim to produce the freshest and safest produce available.

Ingenuity and creativity run in the family. Tom, Jim’s son, uses his background as a cabinetmaker in the oversight of the construction of agricultural buildings; Ray incorporated mechanized equipment to seed their seedling trays – as well as some neighboring farmers’ – and seed at least 40-50,000 trays of seedless watermelon a year; the brothers even became distributors of the plastic irrigation tape they use themselves to growers in the region. This devotion to the family and to the community is what sets the Vincent family apart, and their dedication extends beyond their region.

” Tom and Ray are two of the hardest working men I know. In spite of their many demands they still manage to be devoted family men who recognize how blessed they are.”  –Teresa Vincent

Tommy and Ray Vincent are long-time members and supporters of the National Watermelon Association. They have participated in leadership for over 30 years. Currently Tommy is on the Executive Council and Ray is on the Executive Committee. At the National Convention in February 2015, Vincent Farms Inc donated the load that brought the most money ever generated by an individual load. The members that purchased the load donated the funds to the Moffitt Cancer Center in honor of Arnold Mack.

Thank you Tommy and Ray Vincent, and Vincent Farms Inc, for your creative and generous support of the National Watermelon Association.




#nwafuturisticfridays – An Association of ‘Family and Friends’

family and friends

Should an association’s mission be to build relationships? In an article I read recently, entitled ‘Young Professionals: Just Looking for Some Friends,’ the answer to that question would be ‘yes.’ The author went on to say that ‘forming bonds over shared experiences might be the most critical role an association can fill.’  The Y generation, or Millennials, have been digitally connected their entire lives – emails, chat-rooms, and more recently texting and social media platforms. It is no surprise that these are the places they feel comfortable sharing experiences with one another. Ideally though, deeper relationships are formed in person. The significant theme of the article was that it’s important for young people to ‘make meaningful connections while doing meaningful work or having memorable experiences (or both). I am convinced that the National Watermelon Association is a place where these meaningful connections take place naturally and regularly.

From my first experience with the National Watermelon Association, I was convinced that the significant distinction was the way the members cared about and supported one another. Even during my interview at the National office, I was told that the working relationships I would experience would be ‘like family.’ The first day on the job, I received at least two emails from members welcoming me to the ‘family.’

My experience is not unique in the Association. Genuine concern is evident among members at meetings and annual conventions. I have been impressed with the sincerity and genuine friendship of our members. These people are competitors in business, but the relationships they form is foremost to them. It is not uncommon to hear conversations that range from concern over the health and well-being of family members to shared concerns regarding watermelon disease and immigration laws. I was told stories of growers within the Association that lent crew and machinery to other members in time of need. I witnessed the generosity of our members as they made large donations in honor of older members who’ve made a difference in their lives. I have seen leaders step aside to make room for younger members in order to give them the opportunities they need to gain experience and training – recognizing the fact that these same young people are the leaders of tomorrow’s Association. The National Watermelon Association is made up of people who truly care for one another.

Our association distinguishes itself by being ‘dedicated to making a positive difference in the business and lives of its members’ and this is evidenced in everything its leaders and members say and do as a community. I am grateful for the privilege of being part of the family.

Rominiecki, Joe. “Young Professionals: Just Looking for Some Friends.” RSS 20. N.p., 22 Apr. 2015. Web. 22 May 2015. <>.

#nwamembermondays – Jim Mastropietro

Jim Mastro

The National Watermelon Association recognizes outstanding service and outstanding leadership in its members. Jim Mastropietro, Bulk Manager for International Paper, is such a member. Jim’s involvement in the Association has always been characterized by engagement. He followed his presidency of the Alabama Watermelon Association with service on several national committees. At the National Convention in 2014, Jim presented with the award for outstanding service. Currently, Jim serves on the Executive Committee, the Auction Load Committee, and the Convention Committee.

Jim was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His first job was in a steel mill in New Castle. Perhaps his devotion to the Steelers and the Pirates was established then. In August of 1975, Jim moved to Florida and became involved in the produce industry. Although his children were born in central Florida, Jim’s devotion to his favorite teams has been transferred to the next generation. If the Steelers are playing, Joey and Erin as well as their spouses will be wearing gold and black and cheering alongside their father. Soon their four grandchildren will be waving the banner as well.

Those who know Jim Mastropietro attest to his faithful commitment and integrity in every aspect of life. His business relationships quickly become sincere friendships.

When I think of Jim, I think of integrity, which according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “the quality of being honest and fair”.  That describes him perfectly.   — Steve Nichols

“Jim and I have known each other for almost 20 years,” Rich Novak of IP reflects on his relationship with Jim. “We were competitors for a long time but since 2008 we’ve been working on the same team. It’s a lot of fun working with him.”

Our executive director, Bob Morrissey, had this to add:

“There are friends, and there are acquaintances, and then there are really good friends.  I am honored to call Jimmy a really good friend – – a confider; a gentleman; a believer in the mission; and a good guy all-around.  It is a relationship that brings out the ‘Jimmy’ from ‘Jim’ or the ‘Bobby’ from ‘Bob’.  Tough to define in some cases, but we know how the years have defined our friendship and molded it into a sort of brotherhood.  I am blessed to have Jimmy (and Terri) as our friends.”

Thank you ‘Jimmy’ Mastropietro for your membership and commitment to the National Watermelon Association – we wouldn’t be ‘family’ without members like you!



#nwafuturisticfridays – Millennials Stir the Water

washington mall water
“Young people are eager to serve and to change the world. They just have no faith that public service or elected office are the way to get it done.”

This is the opening quote in an article entitled, ‘The Outsiders: How Can Millennials Change Washington If They Hate It?’  The author, Ron Fournier, interviewed over 80 Millennials, pollsters, demographers and generational experts, and came to the conclusion that although Millennials are ‘fiercely committed’ to community service and solving the nation’s problems, they are convinced that public office and elected officials are incapable of producing adequate results. The Millennials, which make up the largest and most diverse generation in US history, are goal-oriented, tolerant, realistic, collaborative, and eager to serve. But they have no patience for inefficiency. Having grown up in a climate of partisan politics and gridlock, the majority of these young people don’t identify with their federal representatives; they feel that these leaders don’t share their priorities. The result of which is that there are fewer young people pursuing a career in public and elected office.

Should this concern us? Although, much like the corporate sector, highly skilled workers will soon retire from critical positions in the federal government (leaving an estimate of 200,000+ postitions vacated), it doesn’t necessarily follow that crisis will ensue. On the contrary, there are many that believe that the Millennials will be the next great generation. They have even been compared to the Founding Fathers.

In the same article, sociologists Morley Winograd and Michael Hais, are said to make the claim that generations raised in troubled times go on to produce successful solutions to the national problems. They compare this generation to that which elected Abraham Lincoln and the generation that grew up during World War II.

This innovative generation will likely create new and different avenues to address the problems they see in the world around them. The influence that their service will have in their communities will impact the nation as a whole.


They will stir the waters and the rippling effect will extend beyond their reach.


Lowe, Glyn. The National Monument – Constitution Gardens. 2012. Washington DC.

Fournier, Ron. “The Outsiders: How Can Millennials Change Washington If They Hate It?” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 26 Aug. 2013. Web. 14 May 2015. <>.

#nwamembermondays – June Smith

June Smith

In honor of the mothers of the National Watermelon Association, we remember one of our own dear members this Monday, June Smith. June, the mother of Stuart and Scott, and late wife of Tommy Smith of LaBelle, Florida, passed away four years ago after a struggle with cancer. She loved and served the Association with her husband Tommy. Both June and Tommy were leaders and active participants in both the Florida and the National Watermelon Associations. June was involved in the Queen Program and convention planning. As Tommy states, “She loved people and she loved the Association. We never missed a convention!”

Tommy and June met before college, and even then June planned to become a teacher. “I probably would not have even gone to college if I hadn’t met June,” Tommy admits. He graduated from the University of Georgia prior to his career in farming.  June attended and graduated from Georgia State University and became the teacher she had aspired to become. She was a favorite high school English teacher in LaBelle.

Elleanor Bullock, Queen Promotions Coordinator and friend of June’s shared these thoughts …

“June was the epitome of a Lady. She was a genuine, fun-loving woman who loved to wear hats. Red hats were her favorite because she and Tommy were big Georgia Bulldogs fans. Tommy auctioned a hat of June’s at our conventions after she passed in order to raise money for the Queen program she supported.”

Thank you Tommy for sharing June with the National Watermelon Association. We honor her memory this Mother’s Day.


Happy Mothers Day

#nwafuturisticfridays – Responding to Change



“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.”  –Benjamin Franklin

As I prepare Member Monday articles each week, I realize that not only Benjamin Franklin and the chameleon have learned this lesson well. Many of our multi-generational Association members had humble beginnings and had to adapt in order to succeed. Jim  Vincent, for example, began with only a single-row cultivator and two mules (and I imagine a vision of the future that inspired him). Hard work and the ability to take advantage of opportunities, led agricultural entrepreneurs, like the Vincents, to expand their businesses and meet changing market demands. In such cases, perhaps that meant diversity of crops, investment in new technology, and implementation of progressive production practices. The result of which has been successful businesses that operate on a larger scale today.

The growers are not the only members of the National Watermelon Assocation that have had to make changes in order to survive. Seed and chemical companies, brokers and shippers, even paper manufacturers have to keep an eye to the future to stay competitive and relevant within the industry. It should be no surprise then, that the Association that embraces all of them as ‘family’ must respond to  change and move forward strategically.

In her book, The End of Membership As We Know It,  Sarah Sladek states that “healthy, successful associations are responsive to change… They are constantly thinking ahead and moving forward. These associations seek new opportunities, set goals, and carefully plan for their futures.”

Part of planning for the future requires an evaluation of the past and a willingness to discard practices that are no longer pertinent to the majority of members. It also involves a process of education and recognition of the changing values and needs of  members – both present and future. Change is not always universally embraced, it is often met with resistance. Resistance wastes valuable time and opportunity. Nevertheless, I must admit to my own resistance to change. It took me some time to embrace the smart phone and tablet. But the versatility and ease with which I can accomplish the tasks at hand with these devices, make me wish I had done so sooner.

Wasting time and opportunity are not the practices of a responsible Association that is ‘dedicated to making a positive difference in the businesses and lives of its members.’  We must adopt the adaptive examples set by our members and develop a strategy to meet their ever-changing needs. This is our goal.

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” — John F. Kennedy



Jakabek, Benjamin R. Green Chameleon. Digital image. N.p., 13 Aug. 2010. Web. 6 May 2015. <>.

Sladek, Sarah L. “2 Embracing Change.” The End of Membership as We Know It: Building the Fortune-flipping, Must-have Association of the next Century. Washington, D.C.: ASAE, 2011. N. pag. Print.

#nwamembermondays – Gordon Etheridge


Lifetime Council member, Gordon Etheridge, has been a member of the National Watermelon Association for over 40 years. He has served on many committees in that time and was the President of the North Carolina Watermelon Association at its onset. Owner of Etheridge Produce LLC, Gordon began in 1958 as a watermelon broker. He worked his way up the east coast and is now ‘at home’ in Raleigh, North Carolina. Gordon’s still in business today and is a faithful member of the Association.

Percy Bunch, longtime friend and fellow Association member, remembers when they were both starting out. “Gordon  and I met as watermelon brokers in Florida. I’ve known him for over 35 years and he is one of the best friends I’ve ever had in the watermelon business. He’s a fun friend and a good businessman.”

Known for being honest, hard working, and ‘hands-on’ has given Gordon a reputation that preceeds him. Michael Bunch has known him most of his life and describes Gordon as, ‘the Grandfather of the watermelon business.’  Michael goes on to say, “Gordon is a good friend of ours, he’s always honest. Everybody follows him.”

We appreciate Gordon’s lifetime commitment and dedication to The National Watermelon Association. Thank you, Gordon.

#nwafuturisticfridays – Shifting Member Needs


How is your association responding to shifting member needs?” was the last line in an article I recently read regarding Millennial members. This pertinent question has lingered in my mind.  I agree that the values and needs of the younger members of any association should be taken into consideration and that associations should work to encourage engagement of the younger members in the leadership and activities of the association. The author, however, suggested that associations tailor their activities to meet the changing values of the younger members to remain relevant.

The majority of Millennials surveyed in the  American Institute of Graphic Arts, for example, felt the need for their association to be more active in regard to solving social problems and creating change. The AIGA states clearly on their website that their purpose is to “advance design as a respected craft, strategic advantage and vital cultural force.” I suppose that ‘vital cultural force’ might refer to social change. In an effort to combine the two goals, the AIGA developed a program in conjunction with a federal agency in which designers help those who have suffered disaster to ‘imagine’ recovery.

I have always presumed that associations were formed on the basis of the members’ foundational common interest or purpose – whether it be personal, professional, or political. Alumni associations are interested in the continued support and success of their institutions; professional associations seek to further a particular profession and those within that profession; trade associations seek to advance their trade or industry; etc.

The National Watermelon Association in general terms is a trade association, funded and supported by member/businesses that operate within the watermelon industry for the purpose of collaboration and mutual benefit. The maxim, ‘a rising tide lifts all boats,’ attributed to John F. Kennedy, is apropos to the trade association’s purpose. The National Watermelon Association is made up of members from all areas of the watermelon industry who share the common goal to see the industry grow and thrive into the future. Although, in many cases, our members are competitors, when gathered as the ‘Association’ they work together to do research, improve food safety and production practices, promote the interests of the industry on an state and federal level, and support one another personally. They even regard one another as ‘family.’ This common purpose has sustained the Association for over 100 years and a number of generations. It doesn’t seem appropriate for such an association to alter their course to appease the younger generations.

To me the question, how our association is responding to shifting member needs, seems irrelevant. I believe the better question is, ‘How is our association is engaging this emerging generation within our membership?‘ In response to this question, the National Watemelon Association has come up with an answer. It has created the Y Generation Working Group –  a cross-generational group designed to work together in the development of strategy for a common purpose as the association moves into the future. The Association recognizes the importance of understanding the interests and values of the younger generation in thier midst, and desires to engage them as they move into leadership.


Bascuas, Katie. “Designing New Opportunities for Millennial Members.” Associations NOW. 27 Mar. 2014. Web.