Mid-Atlantic Fruit & Vegetable Conference Covers Crop Protection, Food Safety, And Much More

The Mid-Atlantic Fruit & Vegetable Conference taking place this week in Hershey, PA, is in full swing, and sessions have been jam packed with eager attendees. Topics have ranged from challenges young growers face in the industry, emerging trends in CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), organic management of the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), benefits of grafting, and of course, food safety.

Before the show’s official start on Tuesday, the Young Growers Alliance offered a workshop titled “Opportunities for a New Generation of Specialty Crop Growers,” and focused on several challenges and opportunities for young growers in a series of panel discussions and presentations.
During a discussion on challenges, employee management rose to the surface as a common concern, and team building, employee training, and delegation of tasks were three main areas the young growers mentioned. One important bit of advice the panelists mentioned: outsource tasks whenever possible. If there’s someone else that can do it better, make sure you’re delegating tasks to them.

In a presentation on CSA trends by Carla Snyder and Brian Moyer from Penn State Extension, both mentioned the exponential growth of the trend in the last several years and provided a few quick tips for growers looking to consider the program:

1. Growers are responsible for everything: growing, advertising, packaging, selling.
2. There is a high level of commitment in all of these stages, or else product is wasted.
3. Having a CSA requires intense planning.
4. You must have good communication with your members.
5. CSAs are not a good model for those just beginning in agriculture.

Crop Protection And Food Safety
Gladis Zinati from the Rodale Institute offered information on managing BMSB, and from her research at the institute combined with support from 11 universities and USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, had several suggestions: using pyramid traps with pheromones and trap cropping with sorghum and sunflowers.

Out of all the trap crops she trialed, sorghum tested the best and attracted the most beneficial insects, including ladybugs, katydids, and praying mantis. Zinati suggests, planting the trap crops around the perimeter of the cash crops to divert BMSB.

In a food safety discussion led by Rick VanVranken from Rutgers University Extension, he addressed some of the basics of the law, and mentioned the FSMA Fact Sheet where growers can determine whether or not the preventative controls apply to them.

VanVranken also mentioned the possibility of developing alternative guidelines for crops, but highlighted the need for these guidelines to be scientifically established before consideration by FDA.
Be sure to stay tuned for more detailed coverage of the show in future issues of American Vegetable Grower, American Fruit Grower, and on GrowingProduce.com.

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