The Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association Congress, held Jan. 12-14 in Sandusky, OH, featured a panel of growers, researchers, and other industry leaders discussing key strategies growers can take to build a profitable and sustainable future in vegetable production. The discussion was centered around the components of American Vegetable Grower’s SEED initiative: Stand Tall Together, Engage The Consumer, Embrace New Technology, and Deliver Quality.
Among the highlights was a look at the benefits of tomato grafting, presented by Matt Kleinhenz, Ohio State University Extension vegetable specialist. In addition, Gary Sweet of Sweet’s Sweet Corn in North Ridgeville, OH outlined a marketing approach designed to keep customers coming back for more. Finally, Sally Miller, an Ohio State University professor in the Department of Plant Pathology, offered a look at IPM programs and how they can help growers reduce resistance issues and deliver quality produce.
In addition to AVG’s SEED panel, here a few other highlights from the Congress:
Stan Pohmer, of Pohmer Consulting, talked about the Sustainability Draft Standard and what it means to growers. According to Pohmer, sustainability is the right thing to do, and we are taking an already sustainable industry and making it more sustainable. However, growers and others in the industry must keep in mind that at end of the day, all actions and activities must drive the economic value of the products.
Susanna Dzejachok of the Shepard’s Corner Farm and Ecology Center offered some good advice to growers on how to promote through direct marketing. Dzejachok said that to promote a desirable product, direct marketers should use an event, such as a festival, to help promote it. She added that it is important for growers evaluate their operations frequently, determining what they like to do and what customers expect to buy from them.
Also in the marketing track, Christie Welch, a farmers’ market specialist with the Ohio State University South Centers Business Development Network, said that because farmers markets are made up of a variety of businesses, when determining a marketing plan for a farmers’ market, the ideas of the entire mix of vendors need to be considered. She added that each vendor should have its own marketing strategy, and whenever possible vendors should promote the other vendors and the farmers market. All will benefit in the end.