Divide And Conquer

Divide And Conquer

Today, led by father Dale Erickson and daughters Kim and Krista, the business is literally part of a living legacy where five generations have lived and worked. “As a Scandinavian immigrant, my grandfather planted everything tropical he could get his hands on,” says Dale, vice president and lead grower. “It became a tradition. He started it and each generation kept doing it.”

The 62-acre farm produces more than a dozen hard-to-grow, hard-to-find items including avocado, carambola (star fruit), sapodilla, longan, lychee, paan, papaya, as well as curry, mango, and banana leaf. However, mangos are Erickson’s true calling card. Forty acres alone are dedicated to growing multiple varieties of the fruit. “Compared to most producers in South Florida, we’re very small,” says Kim, president and head of strategy and marketing. “In terms of how we’re different in the way we operate, it’s very personal to us. We love mangos and love what we do.”

Competitive Edge

Certainly, the versatility and personal touch a smaller operation like Erickson Farm offers are pluses. It’s the farm’s physical location, however, that gives the business an inherent advantage. Nestled on the southeastern shore of Lake Okeechobee, the farm benefits from a unique microclimate and rich muck soil that allows for growing exotic produce. According to Kim, during last January’s cold spell, the farm didn’t suffer one freeze thanks to its proximity to the big body of water. “This is one of the things that led us to grow tropical fruit — because we can,” she says. “Because the area you can grow tropical fruit in Florida is so small geographically, that automatically limits our domestic competition. We’ve accumulated specialized knowledge that allows us to be successful in doing things we’re not supposed to be able to do.”
Stand Your Ground
According to the management team at Erickson Farm, there are a number of things small-to-medium sized growers can do to stay competitive in today’s world of rising input costs.
– Target Educated Customers: “They appreciate what they want and are willing to pay for it. That’s our customer.”
– Watch Market Trends: “They change because tastes change, transportation costs change, what can and cannot be imported changes.”
– Don’t Try To Compete With Large Growers: “Grow things that don’t work in economies of scale model (too temperamental, weird-shaped, doesn’t transport).”
– Sell More Locally And Direct
– Network With Other Small And Large Growers
– Diversify: “Experiment with various crops, work with multiple growers, try agritourism/off-farm income.”

Adjust Accordingly

Like most — if not all — other producers, game-changing pressures, such as the economic crunch, tightening credit, and increasing regulation and documentation, have provided ample hurdles for Erickson Farm to stay competitive, let alone profitable. “More and more, it’s challenging for us to deal with suppliers who also are trying to deal with thin margins,” says Krista, treasurer and director of operations. “Minimal order sizes go up and sometimes it’s challenging just to get product information if you’re not a big buyer.”
This kind of teamwork and trust comes in handy when unforeseen events arise. During the 2004-2005 hurricane seasons, the eyewall of hurricanes Frances, Jeanne, and Wilma rolled through Erickson Farm and took out almost a third of the grove. With those experiences behind them and lessons learned, a push to diversify and amp up additional resources have been priorities. “When you lose that much of your income for that long, you need to have something to fall back on,” Kim says. “You don’t always have the opportunity to sock money away and rely on that. You have to find ano th er creative way to do it.”

Evolution Solution

Keeping things fresh is an integral part of the equation. Besides tweaking its primary crop and shifting secondary crops over the years, the farm has recently released a couple of new varieties to customers and — most notably — has started to grow vegetables again. Winter veggies, including beets, broccoli, eggplant, swiss chard, and maybe some others will be added to the mix. “We haven’t done that since before they planted the groves here,” Kim adds.

Future Growth

Erickson Farm continues to expand its growth and reach. This has entailed building long-term relationships with wholesale clients. “We’re careful about market exclusivity,” Krista says. “We don’t take on a lot of new wholesale customers. Before we do, we make sure they are not going to be competing with any of our existing clients.”

Leave a Reply

Fruits Stories
Berries
February 26, 2017
Advantages to Growing Southern Highbush Blueberries
Growers in some regions where temperatures don’t get too low could consider the benefits of Southern highbush varieties. Read More
Grapes
February 26, 2017
Winegrowers See Total Sustainability in Their Sights
Sonoma County Winegrowers eyes 2019 to become the U.S.’s first completely sustainable wine region. Read More
Fruits
February 25, 2017
Let’s Stand Up for Science
Yes, there’s an art to agriculture, but its very definition is the science of farming, so you have a deeply rooted connection to scientists. Read More
Fruits
February 25, 2017
Major Challenges to the Fruit Industry Are Closer than You Think
Don’t underestimate the need for research, as innovation is becoming an urgent necessity for our future. Read More
Apples & Pears
February 24, 2017
Don’t Underestimate the Importance of a Solid Foundation in Your Orchard
Trellising study helps growers understand the basics of setting up an orchard infrastructure properly. Read More
Berries
February 23, 2017
Primocane: A Major Innovation in Berry Production
I’ve witnessed the rise of primocane-fruiting blackberries, from first selections to integration in the market. Read More
Fruits
February 23, 2017
First California Ag Innovation Showcase Announced
University of California, Davis will be the setting for a ground-breaking conference on emerging technology for food and high-value agriculture. Read More
The Latest
Fruits
February 27, 2017
Warm February Concerning, But Fruit Grow…
While maps produced by the U.S. Geological Survey do show spring appears to be arriving early, Extension experts don’t expect a repeat of 2012. Read More
Crop Protection
February 27, 2017
New Discovery Smells Like Victory for Fl…
Scientists find naturally occurring repellent that could keep disease-carrying beetles at bay. Read More
Fruits
February 25, 2017
Let’s Stand Up for Science
Yes, there’s an art to agriculture, but its very definition is the science of farming, so you have a deeply rooted connection to scientists. Read More
Fruits
February 25, 2017
Major Challenges to the Fruit Industry A…
Don’t underestimate the need for research, as innovation is becoming an urgent necessity for our future. Read More
Fruits
February 23, 2017
First California Ag Innovation Showcase …
University of California, Davis will be the setting for a ground-breaking conference on emerging technology for food and high-value agriculture. Read More
Farm Management
February 22, 2017
Farms Get Bigger Even as the Number of F…
A new report from USDA shows long-term trends continuing: fewer farms and fewer acres used in farming even as individual operations get bigger on average. Read More
Farm Management
February 22, 2017
Wild Bee Populations Are out of Sync wit…
Some crops most dependent on pollinators, including pumpkins, watermelons, pears, peaches, plums, apples and blueberries, appeared to have the strongest pollination mismatch. Read More
Citrus
February 22, 2017
Skilled Labor Needed to Keep Agriculture…
Even with the challenge of feeding a growing global population at hand, has focus been lost on recruiting where jobs on the farm are need most? Read More
Food Safety
February 21, 2017
Food Safety Modernization Act Creeping F…
Massive regulatory overhaul unfolds as the specialty crop industry hopes to ensure common-sense food safety rules and inspection. Read More
Citrus
February 17, 2017
How Precision Agriculture Is Helping Far…
New Florida-based organization is seeking to break down barriers between farmers and shoppers by providing a platform to not only show what is grown, but how it's grown. Read More
Equipment
February 17, 2017
Wanted: Tech Innovators for Drone Challe…
Land O'Lakes Prize offers up $150,000 to help make drones more useable for farmers Read More
Fruits
February 17, 2017
Are Drones the Future of Pollination?
Researchers in Japan have turned drones into robot bees as artificial pollinators. Read More
Fruits
February 16, 2017
New App Helps Fruit Growers Calculate Ch…
App helps growers calculate chill hours based on locations and models and assess physiological needs of fruit crops. Read More
Citrus
February 16, 2017
Food Trends Driving Growth Opportunities…
More niche markets emerging for growers to give consumers what they want and need. Read More
Farm Management
February 14, 2017
Californians Holding Breath as More Stor…
Nearly 200,000 people evacuated below nation’s tallest dam; even growers have had enough for now. Read More
Fruits
February 10, 2017
Immigration Enforcement Warning Issued b…
Association advises members to prepare for Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in wake of Trump’s executive order. Read More
Fruits
February 6, 2017
Organic Trade Association Rallies Suppor…
Group is encouraging consumers to tell USDA they support an organic research and promotion program. Read More
Citrus
February 5, 2017
New Product Helps Bees Brush Off Mites
A British company developed Bee Gym, distributed by Vita Ltd. Read More