How do you get to know an industry? Especially one as complex as vegetable growing?
In many ways it’s the most diverse of all the agricultural markets. Not only do operation sizes, growing conditions, and incomes vary, but there are so many crops that fall under vegetables, including several that are technically fruit. And it’s a rare grower who grows only one crop. Unlike many apple or almond growers, for example, a highly-specialized vegetable grower may grow only five crops instead of a single crop. It’s more common for growers to have dozens of crops. And I’ve met several who have more than 100 varieties in their fields.
That is always on my mind as I seek out topics that matter to you. Many times this past year I’ve found myself thinking about advice I regularly give to younger editors entering a market: Never assume you understand things. When a grower or researcher introduces you to a concept, it’s easy to embrace that viewpoint as the right one. But for every strong opinion you hear, there will be 50 more opinions, and you need to hear as many of them as possible.
It’s one of the reasons I love the State of the Vegetable Industry survey so much. I can speak to dozens of growers over the phone or in person during a year. But through this one survey, I can hear from hundreds. It helps all of us here at American Vegetable Grower to not get lost in the viewpoints of a few.
Others’ Viewpoints Can Help Solve Industry Challenges
In this era of political gridlock, it’s easy to take refuge with only those who echo your viewpoints in all things, including industry issues like labor, organic production, and the dominance of large growers.
After reading so many passionate viewpoints growers shared in our survey, I think you would get a lot out of meeting those who think differently than you do. There are so many things all growers struggle with — resistant pests, government regulations and retailer and distributor one-upmanship on food safety, and finding skilled harvesters when you need them. What divides you is minimal.
During this busy show season, I urge you to invite a grower you disagree with to coffee or a drink. Get to know them. You’ll both find out you know less than you think. And that’s a great thing to realize.
Oh, One More Thing…
We learned a great deal more about the industry that we were able to fit into this month’s State of the Vegetable Industry report. Here are three more stats you might find interesting: