The Ohio Produce Growers And Marketers Association annual conference was held Jan. 20-22 at Kalahari Convention Center in Sandusky, OH.
This year’s conference offered a unique mix of business management skills as it pertained to maximizing fruit and vegetable production.
Some highlights included a presentation on the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act and how it will impact farming operations as well as safety program development and food safety and risk assessment.
In addition, Mike Hogan, extension educator and associate professor with Ohio State University discussed the emerging market trends in the produce industry.
“Is the local food movement now mainstream?” asked Hogan.
Hogan suggested that perhaps local food is no longer a trend, but an overarching theme of the produce industry, with staying power.
Hogan listed many trends including healthy products, ugly produce, sustainability, and having information be mobile-friendly (i.e. a farm’s website). He encouraged attendees to explore how each of these food trends could be incorporated into a farm or a farmers’ market. He also encouraged attendees to use social media and websites to educate consumers on how to cook the produce or to offer the health benefits of fruits and vegetables.
Bernie Erven, a professor emeritus at Ohio State University in the college of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences led presentations on succession planning and hiring decisions on the farm. Erven has extensive experience with succession planning in the agriculture community. He offered a list of challenges that farms and families will encounter as they begin the discussion of succession.
“I’ve never heard a family say, ‘Bernie, we started this succession planning too soon,’” said Erven. “Most families start the discussion later than they should for the business.”
He urged attendees to ensure that the business being passed on is strong in order to ensure continuation, saying “farms and ag businesses are developed with the intention for it to continue (for several generations).”
He cautioned attendees to have a plan in order, saying “I’m amazed at how many family businesses that are one accident, one heart attack away from disaster.”
Erven also offered pointers on how to hire the right person. He began by asking attendees “Does it matter who you hire?”
He said that not only does it matter who you hire on the farm, but in order to hire the right person, it takes a commitment to seek the right candidate. Attendees were encouraged to tailor a hiring plan to fit each individual farming operation, but Erven stressed the importance of having just one person in charge of hiring.
He encouraged attendees to be realistic in where they expect to find the future employee, saying “if you want to hire anyone under the age of 25 and you don’t (use) social media or the Internet, you might as well not exist.”
Erven concluded his presentation by advising operations to build a reputation as a great place to work, saying “the best way to get the best people is to be the best place to work (for).”