Marketing professionals understand, and use to their advantage, the feedback gleaned from focus groups. These small multi-person group sessions target specific information on product development, usage, buyer preferences and future buying trends. The feedback is used to identify the strengths and challenges of a product and to tweak marketing messages for appropriate audiences. We hear about focus groups most often regarding food products research, but almost all trade industries and product development groups, use them to get information about the potential sales of everything from what movies people like to what new gadgets will be installed in your next car. [Read more…]
“It surprised me when I did the research that we appear to be the first commercial cocktail syrup company in the United States with a direct link to the farm,” Sumptuous Syrups of Vermont co-owner Linda Fox said. “Sumptuous Syrups farm-to-bar concentrated craft cocktail syrups are old-fashioned bar syrups. They are farmer connected. These are the highest quality cocktail syrups in the country.” [Read more…]
ROSEVILLE, NC — This past winter was no lightweight, with a number of storms visiting the Eastern seaboard with cold temperatures and precipitation. At J & B Farms, in the north central part of North Carolina, in the middle of the Piedmont, the extreme weather presented challenges unusual for their location. The nursery, a partnership between John Wrenn and Burton Edwards, typically experiences a milder winter climate. First, high winds blew the plastic off one of their 24 greenhouses (luckily, a cold frame). Then a long spell of frigid temperatures impelled the nursery to burn a lot of propane keeping their houses warm and their young seedlings growing. All but one of the nursery’s houses was full with herb and vegetables seedlings. [Read more…]
“We have to manage soil nutrients and irrigation together, because the two are intertwined,” stated Dr. George Hochmuch, Professor at the University of Florida, whose research focuses on developing Best Management Practices for plant nutrient use to protect water quality. “A grower can do a visual demonstration of this simply by injecting blue dye into his irrigation system along one row. Turn on the irrigation and watch where the dye goes.” If you’re over-irrigating, or irrigating too long at one time, you can clearly see the blue dye (along with any nutrients you’ve added to the water) ending up below the root zone, where they will be of no benefit to your crop plants. Any leached nutrients can eventually contaminate the ground and surface water. This eye-opening demonstration has been done widely on Florida farms by Extension agents, leading to the common saying among agents and growers, “Blue dye doesn’t lie.”
October 2015 will mark the first time an FDA court mandated rule will affect producers of fresh produce in the marketplace.
“This is coming!” said Produce Safety Alliance Program Director Elizabeth A. Bihn, Ph.D. “Don’t panic, but do something now so it doesn’t hit you like a freight train when it happens!”
Marketing. Everyone has heard how important it is but implementing it can be intimidating. Carsha Lapp has devoted her career to educating business students on this very topic, working as a marketing instructor at Northwest Technical College in northern Minnesota for 27 years. When it comes to marketing advice, she boils it down to two basic tips: Keep your message simple and communicate it well. “Businesses need to make sure they’re getting the word out and communicating how they can benefit customers,” Lapp said. “People can’t buy what they’re not aware of. But this takes time.”
Rachel Armstrong led an informative webinar on the legal considerations regarding unpaid and compensated volunteers. “Ag. law is incredibly complex,” said Rachel Armstrong, lawyer and former grower. Farmers should carefully distinguish between a volunteer and employee. A volunteer must not displace a regularly paid employee doing similar work. Volunteers may offer unpaid work for charitable, religious or humanitarian goals. The largest volunteer risk is injury. [Read more…]
Farm ponds can be both beautiful and functional as irrigation reservoirs. In addition, having a pond can save you about 10 percent on your farm insurance premium, if you install the right type of fire hydrant hookup for your local fire department. “These hook ups cost only a couple hundred dollars to put in,” commented Bryan Swistock, Penn State Water Resources Extension Coordinator. Some regular attention to potential problems can help to keep your pond from causing you headaches. Here are some suggestions from Swistock for irrigation pond owners, starting with ones that could be less obvious until you find yourself clobbered by them.
Although Drew Norman wasn’t raised in a farming family, his high school aptitude test indicated that he should be a farmer. More importantly, that’s what he wanted to do. Drew started working on farms as soon as he was old enough to work and eventually studied agronomy at the University of Maryland. One of the professors who influenced Drew was Dr. Ray Weil, a well-known soil researcher and professor of soils.
Drew says while he was learning about the importance of soil biology in one course, other courses presented information that didn’t quite match up. That’s when he decided to pursue organic production. In 1985, he and his wife Joan purchased their Whitehall, MD farm and began to grow vegetables. The farm had been in general production, planted mostly in corn, and at the time, there was no 3-year requirement for organic certification. “It took us a few years to find a certifier,” said Joan. “There was no internet. We became certified with OCIA (Organic Crop Improvement Association in 1986.” One Straw Farm was eventually certified through Maryland’s state program, but has recently dropped their organic certification in favor of organic practices. [Read more…]
A variety of topics were covered at this year’s Virginia Tree Fruit Schools, held on five occasions around the commonwealth, in the southern Blue Ridge, the Roanoke Valley, at two locations in central Virginia, and in Winchester. The first four meetings drew crowds of about 50 or more, with the final meeting in Winchester drawing almost 100 people.
The meeting in Cana, held at the Hungry Farmer restaurant, included attendees from North Carolina’s northern piedmont. [Read more…]