Monthly Archives: August 2015

#nwamembermondays – Rantz Smith

rantz smith


Rantz Smith is the son of Executive Committee member, Billy Smith.  The Smith family have been members of the National Watermelon Association for over 11 years. Rantz grew up working with his father in the watermelon business, but has since incorporated a business of his own. Rantz is the president and director of a diverse farming operation in Trenton, Florida established in 2005 called Smith Farms of Bell Inc.

For the past 12+ years Rantz has done some watermelon share-cropping with Mr. Alto Straughn of Straughn Farms. Alto initally worked with Billy’s brokerage operation and met Rantz when Rantz was in his early 20s. He has watched Rantz mature as a farmer and has a respect for the way Rantz has taken risks and broadened his own farming operation. Mr Straughn mentioned the new packing facility that Rantz built and has implemented for the past two seasons with a great deal of respect.

“Rantz is a progressive farmer who takes care of his crops. We started with 40 acres the first year and in recent years we work 300-350 acres of watermelon together. He’s the kind of a person who makes a success of agriculture because he is not afraid to take risks. He’s at the top end of everything he does.

Rantz stepped out on his own in business as well as in the Association. He is a member of the Y Generation Working Group and we look forward to his insights and input as we discuss the future of the Association and the direction of the industry.

Rantz is a very successful farmer. He worked with me until just a few years ago in watermelon. He’s a man of integrity and I’m awfully proud of him. He’s done well.” – Billy Smith

“Rantz is a great father and husband.  He values his family.  He is a terrific grower and has done a great job of running his own business.  I know Billy and Corliss are very proud  of him.”  – Cheryl Hicks

We are so grateful for members like Rantz Smith who recognize the value of membership in the National Watermelon Association and want to share that understanding with others. Thank you Rantz!



#nwafuturisticfridays – Thinking Out of the Box


When I was in business school in the ’80s, Japanese group management strategies were all the buzz.  The huge economic success of Japanese automobile (Datsun, Toyota, Honda) and electronic companies (Sega, Nintendo) ignited a global interest in the business practices that led to their prosperity. Japanese innovation and efficient manufacturing as well as their meticulous quality control measures, were soon imitated in American establishments nationwide. Human resource departments evaluated the value of Japanese group morning exercise and think tanks.

Today we are fixated on Millennials. They represent the majority of the population, workforce, and spend $600 billion annually (estimated to make up 30% retail spending by 2020 = $1.4 trillion). Companies that target this younger generation will realize the most economic returns. In the same way, companies that  integrate these Millennials well, will be the most likely to achieve their strategic goals. In a recent article entitled, ‘Five Companies Successfully Targeting Millennials: Case Studies and Marketing Strategies,’ published in the online magazine, Study Breaks, gives examples of companies doing just this. Eleven effective aspects of Zappos’ company culture were delineated and I share a few of them here because they may be tailored to meet the needs of the Millennials in your organization.

Millennials look at their personal and professional career as one entity and the relationships and goals of each often overlap. Therefore ‘Coaching’ is an element of the culture of Zappos that has been embraced by their younger workers. A full-time life coach is available to help employees form and fulfill personal and professional goals. This ‘Work/Life Integration’ approach in the business-place addresses the need for developing trusting and rewarding relationships.

In order to foster creativity, Zappos encourages ‘Collisions’ with people both in the community and in the workplace. Employees are renumerated for personal ‘Development.’ By presenting new ideas gathered and skill-sets learned from many of Zappos’ resources, employees can rise within the organization. ‘Autonomy’ or innovative new approaches of engaging customers is also encouraged.

Zappos wants the ‘Right Team’ on board and they present the company’s ‘Mission Clearly.’ ‘Transparency’ and openness is highly valued and Zappos’ management is not threatened by questions, social media, or critique by their employees. They are open to change and believe that many of the best decisions are made from the bottom up.

Just as cultures are different and every business practice the Japanese utilized could not be replicated effectively in the US, the business culture of Zappos is unique and their strategy may not fit in your business culture. Nevertheless, it is always a good idea to investigate successful business practices and guage what can be gleaned and what should be discarded.


Nicole Schrader, Communications for the National Watermelon Association

Bovino, Beth Ann. “McGraw Hill Financial | Millennials And The U.S. Economy.” McGraw Hill Financial | Millennials And The U.S. Economy. Standard & Poor, n.d. Web. 28 Aug. 2015. <

Economy.html>.Estes, Wade. “Five Companies Successfully Targeting Millennials: Case Studies and Marketing Strategies.” Study Breaks Magazine. N.p., 4 June 2014. Web. 28 Aug. 2015. <>.


#nwafuturisticfridays – Generation Y? Why We Should Care About Millennials

Horton from the book

Recently I attended a business-related conference and many of the seminars focused on reaching Millennials. Who they are and meeting their needs, was discussed at length. It was a little surprising to me that many presenters spoke as though there were no Millennials in their midst. After one of the sessions, I turned to the young professional woman who had sat quietly beside me throughout the presentation, and asked for her impressions. I was not surprised by her response.

“Why aren’t there any Millennials on their panel? ” she queried. “You’d think that if Millennials were so important to associations, they would have some represented in their educational sessions.”

Media has turned its attention to the next generation because they now represent over half of the workforce in America. These 20-35 year-olds are the largest generation our country has ever bred. We need to recognize that their presence will and has already influenced business culture and our society as a whole. The reason we should care about Millennials is because they are here.

Integrating Millennials will necessitate change in the status quo, but these changes can be the agent of creative transformation and exciting possibilities. It is imperative that we recognize the strengths and weaknesses that this generation present. They are the most educated generation in history, yet are just beginning to gain experience and require mentoring. Although they embrace change naturally and are eager to be fully immersed in their professional life, they need a personal connection to keep them engaged. What they do and how they do it matters to them. Despite the fact that they seek face-to-face communication and significant relationships, they spend many hours chatting on mobile devices.  Adapting to Millennials is not something to plan for in the future, change must come now. The reason we should care about the next generation is because they are impacting our lives in positive ways.

As the largest generation, Millennials make up the biggest consumer group our country has ever known. Forbes/Entrepreneurs states that they make up about $200 billion in annual spending power. That power has already altered the marketplace. They are the target consumer group of businesses like Apple, Starbucks, Zappos, Sharpie, Taco Bell, etc. Their preference for healthy food options, has been good news for Whole Foods and Trader Joes. Their loyalty to brands that deliver products with an awareness of greater social issues, has benefitted TOMs so well that their ‘One for One’ program has now expanded to glasses. For every pair of glasses TOMS sells, one pair is given to someone in need of a pair. Millennials love of digital-connectivity and new technology has spawned everything ‘i’ (Pods, Pads, Phones, and Watches). The reason we should care about Millennials is because it is good for business.

The National Watermelon Association has grown up with generational change. Our children grow up to manage our companies and create their own. These young leaders are not new to our Association, but like everywhere else, we are often slow to embrace them and the changes they are eager to introduce. Nevertheless, for the future of our Association and the industry as a whole, we must accept the next generation, listen to their ideas with open minds, and step back and give them opportunities to lead. The reason we should care about Millennials is because they are our future!



Schawbel, Dan. “10 New Findings about the Millennial Consumer.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 20 Jan. 2015. Web. 19 Aug. 2015. <>.


#nwamembermondays – Keith Brooks

keith brooks 2The National Watermelon Association is more than a network of people committed to providing high quality watermelons and great service to their customers. It’s more than a fresh produce trade association advocating for the watermelon industry. The National Watermelon Association is a place where life-long relationships are established and strengthened. This fellowship that we enjoy is the fertile soil in which generation after generation of leaders are developed and nurtured. Our annual national conventions are celebrations of the success of our members and their businesses. Join us in February 2016 where you will have the opportunity to meet members like Keith Brooks.

Keith has been involved in the National Watermelon Association for many years. Like so many of our members, Keith began his watermelon career as a local grower of fresh produce. Keith’s integrity and commitment to serving his customers faithfully, culminated in a position in Capital City Fruit of Norwalk, Iowa.  Currently the Senior Produce Account Executive, Keith has been a team member at Capital City for over 25 years.

Keith has a great work ethic and knows the watermelon business as well as anyone. I started working with him 26 years ago. He goes all out for his customers.”  Kieran Comito

Getting to know our members personally is one of the privileges of membership in the National Watermelon Association. Thanks Keith. See you in February!





#nwafuturisticfridays – The Millennial Metamorphosis of Business Culture



On the evening of December 31st, 1999, many of us sat on the edge of our sofa’s wondering if our all our computers would fail the moment the clock struck midnight. Although it was the end of a century, it was the inauguration of the generation we refer to as ‘Millennial’. These adolescents matured in the midst of a great deal of cultural and technological change. In fact, the changes have continued at an alarming rate. For those of us born in previous generations, it has been a challenge to keep up. Emerging technology since the year 2000 has included the introduction of the hybrid automobile, Segway, iPod, camera phone, iTunes music store, direct TV, YouTube, Wii, iPhone, Kindle, and flat screen television. Computers have transformed into hand-held tablets, and the internet has exploded with apps for just about everything. These innovations have impacted our culture and the way the Millennials see the world.

The digitizing of our culture has shaped the expectations of these young people. With the development of the social internet they expect to communicate continuously, acquire and accumulate information instantly, and actively engage in and embrace the diversification of people and ideas. The advances in technology were driven by young people in the Silicon Valley, proving that age and experience were not necessarily the precursors of innovation. Traditional roles are less familiar to Millennials. They look to their parents and those in authority as peers and friends. The combination of these factors in the lives of Millennials produce an unprecedented presence in the marketplace. A presence that cannot be ignored, because they are upon us.

The question remains then, how to incorporate this generation. Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant address this question in their new book entitled, When Millennials Take Over: Preparing for the Ridiculously Optimistic Future of Business. Although I have not yet read the book, I have participated in one of their webinars recently that was developed to prepare us for the ‘takeover.’ According to these authors, the way to success involves accepting this generation in all its distinctiveness. They advise that the successful future of a business depends upon four key capacities: Digital, Clear, Fluid, and Fast. That is the ability to embrace a digital mindset, open to constant flux and change. In order to do this a company must be willing to dispose of ineffective processes, systems, etc. quickly, and look for alternative solutions that might better meet the requirements. Learning, development, customization, and improvement is the method to success in a business that has a digital mindset.

Clear and visible transparency in a company gives all of the employees freedom and ability to participate in problem solving, decision-making, and strategy planning. Perhaps it sounds a bit chaotic, but there are businesses that have become very successful employing such an open plan of management. Fluid addresses the time-consuming hierarchical decision-making process. When information is more widely distributed, creativity and productivity are enhanced.

Finally, Fast refers not to productivity, but rather trust in relationships. According to the studies done by Notter and Grant, trust in relationships relaxes the tight hold of control and enables great strides forward. When there is trust, decisions and new ideas can be made more quickly.

When the ball dropped on January 1st, 2000, we did not experience the dreaded apocalypse. Neither is there anything to fear ‘when the Millennials takeover.’ We truly do have a ‘ridiculously optimistic future.’


Nigro, Kelly. “North Salinas High School Class of 1978.” Flickr. Yahoo!, 15 Dec. 1977. Web. 07 Aug. 2015. <>.

Notter, Jamie, and Maddie Grant. When Millennials Take Over: Preparing for the Ridiculously Optimistic Future of Business. S.l.: Idea, 2015. Print.

#nwamembermondays – Anita Field


Anita Field Anita Field has been a member of the National Watermelon Association for over 25 years. Membership for Anita has always meant engagement and commitment. Operator of Wabash Valley Growers in Vincennes, Indiana, a wholesale fruit and vegetable distributor, Anita knows the produce industry well. Through the years, she has been in leadership roles in both the Illiana and the National Watermelon Associations. Currently Anita is a member of the Executive Council, as well as an active participant in the Budget, Nominating, Liaison, Convention, and Promotions Committees for the National Association.

Promoting the watermelon industry has been at the heart of Anita’s service and she has been a strong advocate and supporter of the Queen Promotions Program. Anita contributes her time and energy during our annual conventions to make sure that our National Queen will be the best possible representative and spokesperson for the Association.

Membership in the National Watermelon Association is something Anita Fields takes seriously and we so appreciate her unwavering commitment and enthusiastic service. Long time friend and Lifetime Council member, Arnold Mack, shared this about Anita…

I met Anita Field when she attended her first NWA convention and soon thereafter we became friends.  It didn’t take long to realize what a wonderful benefit she would be to NWA and the entire watermelon industry.

She is a tireless worker who has given of her time and money without complaint, to help all the state watermelon associations and the NWA as a whole.

I recall in the early 90’s when NWA faced some tough decisions concerning its future, she stepped up to the plate and had a big part in making NWA what it is today.

I am proud to call her my friend.   – Arnold Mack

We are also privileged to call Anita Field a friend and ‘family member’ of the National Watermelon Association.