Opinion: The Way It’s Always Been In Fruit Growing

Have you ever seen one of those lists, often passed around via e-mail, about how people under a certain age are used to living life a certain way, and can take for granted many of the things that didn’t exist a few years ago? For example, people under the age of 25 have always used personal computers, and they know Ozzy Osbourne more for his reality TV show than his heavy metal music.

(For the record, I am 32, so I tend to put myself smack dab in the middle of these lists. I’ve lived my whole life with video games, but I’ve played everything from Space Invaders to the Nintendo Wii.)

Anyway, I got to thinking that you could easily put together a similar list for the agriculture industry. With the rapid advancements in technology and innovation, there are many things that the younger generation of fruit growers likely consider an everyday part of running a business. Here are a few examples of this (for the sake of discussion, we’ll break it down by growers over and under age 30).

• Growers under 30 have always considered integrated pest management (IPM) to be a standard part of their pest control program.

• For growers under 30, finding a new pruner, sprayer, or tractor is just a click away.

• Growers under 30 know how easy it can be to market your farm to consumers across town and across the country. Just build a Web site!

• For growers under 30, almonds are one of the hottest crops around, and it’s a cinch to make money simply by planting a few almond trees.

• For growers under 30, organics is a rapidly growing market opportunity, and potential buyers aren’t limited to long-haired people wearing bright-colored clothing.

• Do you consider your trees to be dwarf-sized? For growers under 30, no need to keep referencing the word “dwarf,” as these tree sizes are typical of any orchard (just witness the International Fruit Tree Association recently dropping the “Dwarf” from its name).

• For growers under 30, new apple variety introductions are often managed by one organization responsible for selecting the growers who are able to plant it.
Unfortunately, while many of these ideas reflect positive changes for the fruit industry, there are some negative circumstances that younger growers of today are all too accustomed to dealing with.

• For growers under 30, an outbreak of a foodborne illness has the potential to cripple their business within hours, even if it happened across the country.

• For growers under 30, labor supplies have always been a major concern.

• What about agroterrorism? For growers under 30, it’s considered a standard practice to make sure their orchard, packinghouse, and pesticide storage facility is under lock and key.

• For growers over 30, there may have been a risk of young kids sneaking into your orchard to steal fruit off the tree. For growers under 30, the bigger threat is someone stealing the whole tree, or making off with budwood.

• When making a chemical application, growers under 30 must consider the potential for drift, or the possibility of angering local residents.

Finally, there is at least one thing that growers, or at least apple growers, of all ages are accustomed to hearing: “An acceptable form of mechanical harvesting is right around the corner …”

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