Changes in the Fruit Industry Are Coming Fast [Opinion]

Changes in the Fruit Industry Are Coming Fast [Opinion]

A couple of years ago I wrote about running my first “serious” 5K race —the Scrumpy Skedaddle — at Almar Orchards in Flushing, MI.

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“I should mention that I am not a runner. At all. In fact, I proudly tell people that I’m more likely to run FROM something — a rabid animal, for example — or TO something — such as my car when it’s raining,” I wrote.

I was thinking about this column while I was running a 5K a few weeks ago and I amused myself about how much things have changed in the three years since I’ve written that piece. I used to think I’d never turn into a runner or even consider running longer distances.

(While all of this seems like a confessional fit for a running magazine, I’ll get to how this pertains to you very soon, so bear with me.)

Last year I’ve run at least seven timed races — including one 10K — and rode a 30-mile farm-to-fork bike ride (that you’ll surely hear about in this space relatively soon). Heck, I’ve even signed up for my first half marathon this spring. And I even bought REAL running shoes.

I think my commitment is getting serious.

While I was amusing myself with how much I now enjoy running, I started to think about how many of you can relate to my change of heart perhaps not with fitness but when it comes to growing systems or adding modern mechanization to your operations or orchards. (Yes, I really did think about fruit production while I was running).

I’m sure many of you have been on fruit tours and have seen some rather advanced production systems that just seem too difficult to implement or too complicated to even attempt. You might even scoff at the expense of adding more trees per acre and the subsequent trellising needed or adding that harvest platform or hedger.

But perhaps a few years later, you’ve decided to take the plunge and plant at a higher density. You might have even decided to scale back some of the traditional varieties you’ve grown accustomed to in favor of a club or managed variety. That’s the funny thing about change, sometimes it happens in ways you least expect it.

You might have even changed your viewpoint toward automation and mechanization as labor becomes a more complicated picture in the next 20 years.

The January issue marks our annual state of the industry report where David Eddy and I, with a huge assist from Graphic Designer Tyler Hatch, give a snapshot of the future of the tree fruit and nut industry. For the first time we asked more in-depth questions about precision agriculture and how automation is going to impact your farm today and tomorrow.

Ready or not, changes in this industry are coming, fast. It’s time to lace up your sneakers.