From the Board of Directors: How a Provender Connection Turned a ‘Cold Call’ into a Warm Business Relationship

December 19th 2019

by Mark DiMaggio – board member, Provender Alliance

We have another successful Conference in the books! Thank you to all members that participated and send staff to the Conference.

Being at the Conference provides tremendous energy and inspiration to first-timers and those that have been for 40 years. Yet, I encourage all members and staff to realize what it means to be a part of the Provender community outside of the Conference.

Mark DiMaggio exhibiting at Meet Your Makers table-top event at Provender Alliance 42nd Annual Educational Conference

Being a Provender member means more than attending the annual Conference; it’s a set of values and experiences that go beyond two or three days in October.

I challenge all members and staff to reach out to other members to see how their businesses can work together to create the natural products system that we want because ultimately, it comes down to us. The question that comes to mind is, how do we maintain the connections, energy, and inspiration that we embrace in Hood River throughout the year?

Some experiences can come from Provender-run events, some can come from social occasions between members, and some can come from business opportunities between members.

Last year, I sat in on a workshop about the use of co-packers in our industry. Lola Milholland of Umi Organics was one of the presenters where she shared her experiences and challenges in the industry and with co-packers.

I left the session without speaking with Lola or interacting with any of the other presenters. Still, I found myself — a year later —thinking about Umi Organics while trying to start an operations consulting company.

Here’s where the rich connections and shared values among Provender members factor in: I sent Lola an email introducing myself, mentioning my past experiences, and also that I was a member of Provender. Within a couple of days, I received a response asking to meet and talk about our different operations.

After a couple of meetings, we ended up working together, where I created a production system for Umi. I think my professional skills and experiences are strong, but Provender was the key to making this connection open up and benefit us mutually.

There is something about being a Provender Alliance member that eliminates red tape, turning a cold call into a warm call. I am grateful to be a member of the Provender community and share these encounters with you all.

May you have a happy and healthy holiday season!


Board member Mark DiMaggio moved to the Pacific Northwest and can’t imagine another place to live and work. He started the journey towards the PNW as an undergraduate at Bentley University in Massachusetts. After graduating with an Economics and Finance degree, Mark worked at Equal Exchange as a sales representative and tea supply chain developer. It was there that he had a peek behind the food industry’s curtain and vowed to stay connected to the natural foods world. After some bouncing around the country with his wife and lab, Mark then worked at Red Duck Foods, a start-up condiment company based in the PNW in Portland, OR.