In American Vegetable Grower magazine’s 2018 State of the Vegetable Industry Survey, we asked researchers, vendors, and other allies to vegetable growers about their hopes and concerns, as well as any tips they may have.
We heard from 260 of these allies, and sifted through more than a thousand responses. Here are our editors’ top 10 picks in each category.
What One Piece of Advice Would You Give Growers?
- Find and train five young farmers to run your operation or one like it and get them ready to replace you or other retiring farmers.
- Have regular contact with federal legislators and work to get unnecessary regulations phased out. Also, help change the over-arching system. The government is mostly funding large farms — smaller and midsize farms need more support from all of us.
- Take on debt with caution. Build your farming operation like an ecosystem, with strategic redundancy, so that your eggs are in multiple baskets.
- Precision ag is here to stay and will only get better and more focused on farmer needs. Do not wait too long before becoming an adopter of such technologies. In a global marketplace, you can only remain competitive through adoption of technology and increased efficiency.
- Stay up to date with the industry and get involved — attend conferences and grower meetings.
- Support cooperative Extension and applied research at the university level. Cuts of personnel in the field and at the research level jeopardize the entire industry. Also, you should be prepared for increased/new disease and insect pressure.
- Keep the best records you can from year to year — they will help you in more ways than you could ever know.
- Plant the best genetics you can afford. It all starts from the seed.
- To compete with large growers, small growers need to become more energy and labor efficient.
- Don’t give up! It usually gets better.
What Are Your Greatest Hopes for Vegetable Growers?
- There are new growers entering the industry. They are bringing different perspectives, innovative ideas, and energy.
- People are looking to eat healthier. This is an excellent time to show what we have to offer.
- Seeing established farms in the area passing on to the next generation rather than being sold for development.
- Probably the research being done to further understand soil health, productive potential, and how it relates to plant health and produce quality.
- Demand for local producer
emains strong. The public still supports “food to table.”
- Ability of small-scale growers to make a living producing for specialty markets.
- Possible rollback or easing of some regulations.
- The integration of robotics into the industry.
- Biologicals that actually work or provide control close to the level of synthetic protectants.
- The amazing interest and growth of this industry.
What Are the Biggest Challenges Facing the Vegetable Industry?
- Labor is easily the biggest challenge: How do you find good workers? Concerns that H-2A and the Puerto Rico migrant programs are insufficient and too complex for small and medium growers. Also, there is a shortage of high-level growers and managers available to hire.
- Invasive pests are the most troublesome. Pepper weevil, brown marmorated stinkbug — and now allium leafminer — are invasives that need to be monitored and studied to determine their pest status. The recent resistant strains of downy mildew on cucurbits and Tuta absoluta on tomatoes are a problem.
- How can growers get more money for their crops so they can continue to grow them?
- Growers need products they can use to protect their crop — it takes a long time to get products registered, and sometimes the companies are not interested in products for minor crops, such as most vegetables.
- The reluctance and/or concern from consumers about adopting new technologies that improve efficiency and the environment for producing vegetables.
- Extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change; Water shortage in Western states; Changing disease and pest pressures related to climate change; Weather and climate issues that influence crop establishment, crop development, and harvest.
- A major concern is reduced public funding for applied research, which reduces unbiased evaluation of varieties and insect, disease, and weed control technologies.
- Government at all levels does not have a clear understanding of the farmers plight when it comes to the regulations they handcuff us with. Not knowing where your food comes from is a joke and that is what the majority of the population has no knowledge of.
- Making a profit in the face of increasing cost for inputs and regulations.
- Support for organic growers and prevention
of fraud in the organic label.