Opinion: Growers Show Amazing Adaptability

Frank Giles

Growing up in the cotton growing region of Georgia, I witnessed the devastating impact the boll weevil had on growers there for many decades. Through the work of amazing scientists and coordination of USDA, the Boll Weevil Eradication Program dramatically changed the landscape for cotton production in America.

The program came with an assessment fee, and you can imagine like with any change, there were those who resisted and insisted the program wouldn’t work. I began my first season scouting cotton during the first year of the eradication program. I was hard pressed to find any boll weevils the entire growing season where before you would find them on about every plant in every field. In a very real sense, the enormously successful eradication program saved America’s cotton growing industry.
I raise this as an example of how growers learn to adapt and survive in the game of agriculture. Having observed farming all my life, I understand it is not a profession for the faint of heart.

Despite the challenges, growers find ways to innovate to stay ahead of the curve. Just look at their per capita productivity increase over the past half century. Today, on average, an American farmer produces enough to feed 155 people. In 1960, the farmer only fed 26 people.
As you flip the pages of this issue, you’ll see examples of this adaptability in our cover story on Fraleigh Nursery and innovation in a pine tree planter planting citrus.

The ability of growers to recognize that change may be upon them also is illustrated in the insightful article by John VanSickle. In it, he presents the disturbing trend of how U.S. tomato growers are losing market share to greenhouse tomato production from Canada and Mexico. The increasing dominance of greenhouse-produced tomatoes is occurring for a number of reasons, partly because of trade rules and partly because of quality.

Our state’s tomato growers have taken a beating in recent years and many recognize that change is upon them. As is often the case, this change is not easy. Many see they are losing share to the tomatoes grown under cover.
I recall hearing one major tomato grower here in Florida asking the question: “Why is it that in the peak of Florida’s tomato season, the grocery store shelves here are packed with imported tomatoes?”
That is a very good question to raise. Some growers are responding to those concerns by adding greenhouse structures and tunnels to gain a competitive edge. They see open field production as an increasingly risky venture given the whims of weather and markets.

In the history of agriculture, this evolution in markets is not new and it will play out again and again in other markets and crops. It is all about the constant pursuit of producing a quality product. Look at the success being enjoyed by the Tasti-Lee tomato in Publix stores. And, that’s a field-grown tomato. Consumers liken the Tasti-Lee to the ripe and red tomatoes they enjoy fresh out of a home-grown garden.

I believe VanSickle’s final two sentences in his article sum it up best: “They are going to need to examine the products they grow in open field cultivation, or they are going to have to transition even faster to greenhouse production. They cannot rest on the past success and hope to have a solid future.”

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories

MarketingTomato Survey Tracks Consumer Trends
October 23, 2014
Results indicate how labeling matters in purchasing decisions. Read More
CitrusFlorida Citrus Growers Get Box Tax Relief
October 23, 2014
Citrus Commission votes to put dollars back in producers’ hands to spur reinvestment. Read More
Farm ManagementBill Gates Uploading Lots Of Florida Farmland
October 22, 2014
Recent acquisition for the Microsoft icon involves more than 4,500 acres for nearly $28 million. Read More
GenNext GrowersRegister Now For The GenNext Growers Webcast
October 22, 2014
In the first installment of the GenNext Webcast Series, you will learn how to engage with lawmakers and ag associations to help shape a better future for your business and for agriculture. Read More
FruitsAnnual Santa Maria Strawberry Meeting Approaching
October 22, 2014
The meeting will focus on IPM practices, weed management, updates on fumigation, and more. Read More
Apples & PearsUSApple’s AppletizeMe Personality Quiz Help Consumers Find Ideal Apple Varieties and Perfect Food Pairings
October 22, 2014
Award-winning national apple month campaign returns with more featured varieties and informative videos. Read More
Farm ManagementUSDA Awards $18 Million To Stimulate Research And Development Innovation
October 22, 2014
The grants will provide resources to help small operations create breakthroughs, says USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. Read More
CitrusEPA Launches Program To Reduce Pesticide Drift
October 22, 2014
The voluntary star-rating program aims to protect people, wildlife and the environment. Read More
CitrusMcCrometer Introduces New Ag Management Mobile App
October 22, 2014
The app displays data on weather, ET, soil moisture, water flow, and more. Read More
Apples & PearsNew York Apple Growers Partner With Grocer To Introduce SnapDragon Apples
October 22, 2014
First apples of this new variety to hit Wegmans stores as part of a marketing effort. Read More

The Latest

MarketingTomato Survey Tracks Consumer Trends
October 23, 2014
Results indicate how labeling matters in purchasing decisions. Read More
CitrusFlorida Citrus Growers Get Box Tax Relief
October 23, 2014
Citrus Commission votes to put dollars back in producers’ hands to spur reinvestment. Read More
Farm ManagementBill Gates Uploading Lots Of Florida Farmland
October 22, 2014
Recent acquisition for the Microsoft icon involves more than 4,500 acres for nearly $28 million. Read More
GenNext GrowersRegister Now For The GenNext Growers Webcast
October 22, 2014
In the first installment of the GenNext Webcast Series, you will learn how to engage with lawmakers and ag associations to help shape a better future for your business and for agriculture. Read More
FruitsAnnual Santa Maria Strawberry Meeting Approaching
October 22, 2014
The meeting will focus on IPM practices, weed management, updates on fumigation, and more. Read More
Apples & PearsUSApple’s AppletizeMe Personality Quiz Help Consumers…
October 22, 2014
Award-winning national apple month campaign returns with more featured varieties and informative videos. Read More
Farm ManagementUSDA Awards $18 Million To Stimulate Research And Devel…
October 22, 2014
The grants will provide resources to help small operations create breakthroughs, says USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. Read More
CitrusEPA Launches Program To Reduce Pesticide Drift
October 22, 2014
The voluntary star-rating program aims to protect people, wildlife and the environment. Read More
CitrusMcCrometer Introduces New Ag Management Mobile App
October 22, 2014
The app displays data on weather, ET, soil moisture, water flow, and more. Read More
Apples & PearsNew York Apple Growers Partner With Grocer To Introduce…
October 22, 2014
First apples of this new variety to hit Wegmans stores as part of a marketing effort. Read More
CitrusAgriculture, Interior Departments Partner To Measure Co…
October 22, 2014
Goal is to provide science-based information for watershed wellness. Read More
Stone FruitIntroducing A Gem Of A Peach For Central Florida
October 22, 2014
The newest variety to come from the UF Stone Fruit Breeding Program is another “gem,” UFGem! This peach variety is Read More
CitrusIt’s Time For Young Farming Leaders To Engage [Op…
October 21, 2014
Florida Grower editor Frank Giles says there are capable and talented youths in the ag field ready to step up and take the reins. Read More
Farm ManagementResearchers Finding Biofuel Fits For Florida
October 21, 2014
Alternative crops identified that are suited for the state's climate and can easily be processed for power. Read More
CitrusBayer CropScience Launches New Award To Recognize Produ…
October 21, 2014
Award recognizes innovation that enhances the role of produce in creating better lives. Read More
FruitsCalifornia Department Of Food And Agriculture Awards $3…
October 21, 2014
State Water Efficiency And Enhancement Program highlights projects implement irrigation systems that reduce water and energy use. Read More
FruitsWashington State University Researchers See How Plants …
October 21, 2014
Results could lead to development of crops that recover from sun damage more easily. Read More
CitrusReport: Major Food And Agriculture Employers Can’t Fi…
October 21, 2014
Current shortage of young farming professionals means ample employment opportunity for the next generation. Read More