By Mick Lochridge
Christina Morton, FFVA’s new director of communications, will draw on her 14 years as a public relations professional to advocate for Florida’s farmers and help ensure a secure future for their industry.
These days that’s easier said than done. COVID-19, unfair trade practices and labor issues create a challenging trifecta that threatens the livelihoods of the state’s farmers and their families.
“The issues tied to the pandemic, trade and agricultural workforce are almost unifying in the devastating impacts they have presented and will continue to present without relief,” she said. “FFVA is uniquely positioned to advocate for Florida growers even through the most unprecedented of times.”
Hired in November 2020, Morton specializes in media relations and crisis communication. Her responsibilities include the association’s communications, such as member bulletins, blog content and the annual report. In addition, she plans and coordinates FFVA’s annual convention.
Nationally accredited in public relations, Morton serves on the communications committee for the national Alliance for Food & Farming and as chair for the Public Relations Society of America District Council. She also has held a number of other leadership roles with PRSA on the local, state and national level. She was a member of Leadership Orlando in 2017 and received the PRSA Sunshine District Trailblazer Award for individual achievement in 2020.
Her previous career experiences helped develop a discipline to focus on challenges and create strategies to solve problems.
At Consensus Communications in Orlando, she most recently managed media relations and community relations efforts for Walmart, The Packing District/Dr. Phillips Charities, 4Roots Farm Campus, and Feed the Need Florida, among others. Prior to that, she worked at Fry Hammond Barr (now &Barr), managing national media relations and community relations campaigns in key markets across the United States for First Watch Restaurants. She also helped lead the social media strategy for Moffitt Cancer Center and was part of the grand opening media relations team for Nemours Children’s Hospital in 2012.
Her career skills have earned the respect of her peers.
“She has proven herself and her capabilities time and again through her steady and outstanding leadership,” said Stefanie Macfarlane, a marketing and public relations consultant and the president of Orlando’s chapter of PRSA.
“I trust her guidance and expertise and always appreciate her thoughtful insight when I reach out to her.”
Born in Huntsville, Ala., Morton moved to Central Florida as a teenager. After graduating from Lake Mary High School in 2003, she enrolled in the University of Florida, where she earned bachelor’s degrees in both public relations and political science in 2007.
Today, she and her family – husband Jeremy and 6-year-old son Luke – live in Sanford, where one of their favorite pastimes takes them downtown several times a week for dinner or for a stroll.
Sanford “still feels like a hidden gem even though the city seems to be catching regional and national attention more and more,” she said. “During the pandemic, my son mastered riding his bike without training wheels, so as a family, we have been able to enjoy leisure rides along Lake Monroe and on many of the local trails.”
Of working for FFVA, she said: “I feel blessed to be part of an organization that time after time seeds real change for an industry that is such a driving force in our state’s economy. For me, it is purpose-driven work.”
FFVA: What are the biggest challenges facing Florida agriculture today?
Christina Morton: Not surprisingly, the ongoing pandemic, unfair trading practices and the need for a stable workforce are some of the biggest challenges facing the industry. I had the pleasure of getting out in the field to meet several growers recently, and overwhelmingly, these issues rose to the top.
The issues facing the industry are vast and quite diverse, but the issues tied to the pandemic, trade and agricultural workforce are almost unifying in the devastating impacts they have presented and will continue to present without relief.
FFVA: How can FFVA help Florida farmers meet those challenges?
Christina Morton: In those same visits held with growers, there was one word repeated by each individual when asked about the best benefit to FFVA membership – advocacy. Not surprisingly, FFVA is uniquely positioned to advocate for Florida growers even through the most unprecedented of times. It is a very special organization – one filled with passionate experts in every area of the industry who bring a deep understanding of the issues facing growers and have a unique ability to plot the path forward to create real change.
FFVA: What are your initial goals in your new job?
Christina Morton: Initially, my goals are quite simple – to continue serving as a voice for our members, to ensure timely access of information relevant to them, and to finish building out my team.
FFVA: What are your long-range goals?
Christina Morton: Long term, it’s to ensure we are meeting members where they are in terms of receiving information and remaining proactive in communicating on the issues that matter most with external audiences. It’s about reaching members when, where and how they want to be reached and helping to build advocates for this important industry.
FFVA: What is your favorite vegetable, and how do you like it prepared?
Christina Morton: Broccoli. Roasted with just a little seasoning. 🥦😉