Thursday, July 8, 2010

Peaches Arrive a Bit Early This Year

As a result of some unseasonable weather this year, peaches and other stone fruits such as plums, apricots, and nectarines have arrived a bit ahead of schedule. As many of you will recall, Adams County was hit with some very warm weather in March and April, forcing fruit trees into an early bloom. Initially, growers were very concerned that the exposed blossoms could be susceptible to frost; however, most growers were able to escape this threat with very minimal damage.

Usually, peaches wouldn’t be available until mid to late July, but this year some growers were actually beginning to harvest early season peaches during the last week of June! If you haven’t tried a fresh Adams County peach, I strongly suggest that you pick some up at any of your local farmers’ markets for a spectacular eating experience.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Early Bloom, Early Harvest?

Most people would agree that it has been a wacky spring, weather wise. I guided bus tours throughout local orchards at the annual Adams County Apple Blossom Festival last weekend. However, most of the blossoms had already fallen off the trees due to an early bloom. Spurts of very warm weather in March and early April forced peach blossom about two weeks ahead of schedule and apple blossom about three weeks ahead of schedule. I learned through conversation with some veteran growers that most had never seen a bloom this early in their lives. Initially, the largest concern for growers was that a frost would hit and the vulnerable blossoms would be damaged causing a potentially large crop failure. Fortunately, although minimal frost damage occurred in some places, most growers were fortunate to avoid any frost damage. Early estimates are calling for a full apple crop for Adams County.

The first question that came into my mind was: How early will that crop arrive? It seems logical that the earlier the bloom occurs, the earlier you could expect the fruit to be harvested. This situation was addressed by a colleague of mine at a grower meeting yesterday afternoon. Most of the late summer varieties (Gala, Honeycrisp, etc...) will, in fact, be harvested a couple weeks early. However, this effect will be muted as the harvest season goes along and the Fall varieties will not come in much earlier than when they are normally harvested. The early harvest of the summer varieties could present some interesting marketing opportunities. If packers/shippers will have Gala to sell a couple weeks ahead of when they normally do, it could be a very profitable situation. For most consumers this will be a good thing. I know that I am more than ready for local apples in August.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Farmers' Market Season is Upon Us!

Another winter is behind us and there were times in the first couple of weeks in February when even an optimist like me could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. This is the time of year that gardens start springing up and I start using my stove a bit more. I am not usually much of a cook but when such an abundance of fresh delicious product is available, I almost feel guilty not putting on the chef’s hat. With TV shows like Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution bringing attention to nutrition education, especially among the youth, more people are being exposed to the many benefits of including fresh fruits and vegetables in their daily diet. One major complaint among consumers in response to this movement is the fact that local produce may be scarce or that they lack knowledge about how to acquire it. This should not ever be the case for Adams County residents. There are now more options than ever before for area residents to buy farm products directly from the producer. In addition to the Roadside retail markets that are spread throughout the county, there will be three centrally located Farmers’ Markets operating this season. This year the Adams County Farmers Market Association has plans to bring more interactive aspects to the markets including more cooking demos and educational activities.

Three Adams County Farmers’ Markets will be opening in the next couple of months. First, the Gettysburg Farmers’ Market located downtown on Lincoln Square will be open on Saturdays from 7:00 a.m. – Noon starting April 24 and running through October. This year there will be two markets at The Outlet Shoppes. Saturday’s Farm Fresh Market will be open from 9:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. starting May 8th and ending October 30th. Friday’s Farm Fresh Market will be open from 9:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. also and will begin May 28th and run through October.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Disease Resistance with Taste!

In my last post I wrote about the difficulty involved with growing organic apples in Pennsylvania. The research being done on organic production involves disease resistant varieties. These varieties have genes that help them fight off disease without the use of chemicals more effectively than traditional varieties. Traditionally, most of these varieties have been referred to as “spitters” in that when you would take a bite of the apple you would immediately spit it out. However, more recently, much better tasting varieties have been developed.

For example, GoldRush is a variety that has considerable disease resistant properties yet can hold its own in the taste category with any of the traditional cultivars. It had always been my contention that GoldRush had supreme eating quality and my thought was confirmed the other night when I brought a couple of local GoldRush along with me to a dinner party. My friends were all raving about how good it was; it was definitely a hit. This is a variety that many growers may start planting even if they don’t intend to be certified organic. It simply makes economic sense to grow a great tasting variety like GoldRush without having to spend as much time and money on spraying certain chemicals.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Organic Fruit Production in PA

I have been slacking as of late when it comes to updating this blog. Considering that a colleague and I have been asked to give a presentation at the Mid Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention for producers on the subject using social networking tools such as blogs for marketing I figured it was time for a post. Yesterday I attended a meeting of a task force which is dedicated to researching organic apple production in Pennsylvania. A great deal of progress has been made by this group in determining the best methods to grow fruit organically in Pennsylvania. It is much harder to grow organically in the east coast compared to out west in Washington due to higher humidity levels resulting in greater disease pressure.

However, even with all of the progress that has been made on the organic production side, marketing still remains the million dollar question. The unpredictable twists and turns of consumer demand become extremely difficult for apple growers who may decide to plant a certain variety to grow organically based on today’s market research only to see demand swing a different way in a few years when it’s time to harvest that variety. However, the organic apple market has shown a consistent upward trend in the last 10 years. Even in the midst of a recession during the last year, sales of organic fruit and the price premium it entails continued to rise. And, even though organic only makes up 3-5 % of apple sales nationally, that is still a big chunk of the population, especially when considering 1/3 of the U.S. population resides on the east coast. I don’t know how big organic apple production will become in Adams County or the east coast in general, but, currently we only have one organic apple grower in the county so it seems like there is room for more before the niche is completely filled. Please feel free to weigh in if you have any opinions on this issue.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mental Placement

Anybody who has ever sat through a marketing class has heard of the 4 Ps of marketing: product, price, promotion, and placement. Placement, of course can be thought of as where is your physical product going to be sold or where is or service going to be provided. However, there is a different way of thinking about placement that is especially important for small scale entrepreneurs who compete on quality more so than on price.

Mental placement refers to how you and your business are positioned in the customer’s mind. For instance, if you pride yourself on being able to answer any production question and value the role in education in sales you will be viewed by your customers as the place to go for whatever it is you produce as well as a free education. There are other strategies to achieve a positive mental placement in the eyes of consumers but it all comes down to creating a mix of quality products and exceptional customer service. The most important question to ask yourself is: how will customers remember you and your products?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Apple Exclusivity

Many people have heard of “club” or “managed” varieties of apples. These are varieties that are produced and marketed in controlled quantities exclusively by growers and marketers who are part of the “club”. For example, Jazz, Pacific Rose, SweeTango, and Kiku Fuji are all managed varieties. There has been a lot of controversy in recent years over this topic. Many growers think that it is unfair for a specific cultivar to be limited to an exclusive club. The issue has also led to some confusion in the industry. For example, in some cases, like with the Kiku Fuji, only the name is trademarked with exclusive marketing rights. Therefore, anybody could grow the variety but only people with the marketing rights can sell it as Kiku Fuji.

Today, I read about a different kind of exclusivity. A group called New York Apple Growers; LLC has formed and will commercialize apple varieties developed by Cornell University. Under the plan, new varieties, whose development is supported by New York tax payers, will be exclusively grown/marketed by New York producers. Will we eventually have state specific varieties for other apple growing states like Pennsylvania, Washington, and Michigan? Is this a good thing for growers and/or consumers? Only time will tell.