You might be surprised to find out that this is usually my first question when someone says they wish to put in a planting of fruiting crops. Not soil types, not cultivars, not cultural management, and not diseases. All of those things are critically important, and believe me, I would I could stick only to those things (because that is my knowledge arena). However, the world of growing and selling fruit is not an easy one to navigate. Overproduction and excess supply of some fruit make selling it difficult. Sure, you can be a great grower, but if you are not a good marketer then you might as well forget it.
I don’t know how many times I have talked about marketing to the many, many growers I have dealt with. It is so crucial to understand that growing the fruit is not enough. The thought is, “If you build it, they will come.”
It should be, “If you build it, you better hustle and work to make sure they can find you.” Upfront education and the willingness to develop a marketing plan that is adaptive to change is key, because doing the same thing year after year (also called stagnation) is also a losing proposition.
I’m not a marketer. It is not my area of expertise. But, if you are planning to get into fruit production you need to become an expert or have the help of one in order to survive.
Most of us are quite content to ignore our fruit plantings during the winter. At least I know I am guilty of that. Winter brings about other challenges for me — end of year reporting, conferences to attend, data to analyze, papers to write, etc. I know that everyone has their own stuff to deal with too making it difficult to keep your mind on something that isn’t growing (or at least appears that way). Of course there are a myriad of things that could be done to improve the planting, of which pruning and sanitation are some of the most important. However, I believe the most important thing to do during the time when it is too cold to get outside and you would rather bundle up in a blanket next to a warm fire is to learn. Education is a never-ending process. New things are discovered every year about fruiting crops. New pests, new varieties, new methods of management, etc. The great thing is that you no longer need to drive somewhere during sleet, snow, or icy drizzle to get to a meeting. Extension is starting to embrace online education techniques like webinars and blogs to keep clientele apprised of new discoveries. I would also encourage social media interaction. There are lots of Extension specialists and agents on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, etc. These are all platforms to interact with us. If you don’t know how, just ask and any of us would be happy to help you learn these new things. The world is digital and not going back. If we can find common ground with our learning environments we can all be so much better informed. So, what to do during this winter? Try something new and learn, learn, learn.
Last week, I gave a presentation on Fruit Crops for your Yard at the MSU Fall Flower and Garden Fest that was held in Crystal Springs. This is a big event, with over 5,000 attendees each year. You can find more info on this event at this link: Fall Flower and Garden Fest
As for my participation, I presented on some of the common fruit crops that are grown in Mississippi. Unfortunately, the time is short (45 minutes) and I can’t go into all the details I wish I could. But I tried to give the basics on several different popular fruit crops. To access the PDF version of the presentation, click below:
Fruit Crops for your Yard
I have previously wrote on the topic of chill hours, but I also get a lot of requests for what the accumulated hours are for the season. This year I will be posting them on this site on the page entitled Chill Hours (on the right hand side of your screen). By visiting this page, you will be able to keep up to date on the accumulated chill hours as reported by locations in five counties in Mississippi — Copiah, George, Jones, Lee, and Wayne. The recordings are reported by volunteers, so they may or may not be available for each week. In the future I hope to put together data from previous years (at least those I have) and also make them available on the site.
As of today, the first posting is up. Each recording season runs from October 1 to April 1 of the following year.
Yesterday I gave a presentation on “Best Fruit Crops for Mississippi Farmers’ Markets”. It was part of the “Microfarming – Growing for Farmers’ Markets” workshop put on by Dr. Rick Snyder and others. You can see more info on the workshop as well as links to other information related to Farmers’ Markets here: http://farmersmarkets.msstate.edu/conference/.
My presentation from the Farmers’ Market Workshop
The full presentation can be accessed here as a PDF file: Fruit Crops for MS Farmers Markets
On May 13 and 14, 2014, the Mississippi Strawberry Short Course took place in Choctaw, MS — just outside of Philadelphia. A group of 30 attendees had the exciting opportunity to listen to one of the leading strawberry experts in the country, Dr. Barclay Poling (see image below).
Dr. Poling teaching at the MS Strawberry Short Course
A wide variety of topics regarding commercial strawberry production were covered by MSU specialists, current growers, USDA-ARS, and MDAC. I covered site and cultivar selection for strawberries in Mississippi. You can download a PDF of that presentation below:
Strawberry Site and Cultivar Selection
We also went out into a small, experimental planting on Choctaw Nation land. It was a great opportunity to see different strawberry cultivars growing under field conditions.
Attendees looking over the strawberry planting
It was just a little bit early for ripe strawberries at this location (weather plus deer damage), but a few were starting to change color.
A ripening strawberry
You can find more information on this short course at the link below:
Eventually this link will contain all of the presentations given at the course in PDF format.
All in all it was a very educational event that was made possible by quite a few organizations, primarily the WalMart Foundation (for providing the grant) and MSU (for planning and helping to teach the course).
It is time to announce the 2014 Mississippi Strawberry Short Course! This 2-day course will be held in Choctaw, MS (just outside of Philadelphia). The focus will be to educate those who want to grow strawberries to sell on a commercial scale, whether that be at a local market or to grocery stores, etc. Speakers will include strawberry expert, Dr. Barclay Poling, MSU faculty, strawberry grower Mel Ellis, and more. Please see the full details below. Seating is limited to 50 for this course. There is no charge to attend, but you must reserve a spot (see details within the brochure on just how to do that). This project is funded by a grant from the Walmart Foundation and administered by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Center for Agricultural and Rural Sustainability.
Strawberry Short Course Page 1
Strawberry Short Course Page 2
To download a PDF version click here: Strawberry Short Course Registration and Agenda. Hope to see you there!
On March 21, I will be at this field day to talk about fruit varieties and site selection for fruit crops. To get more info, read below and download the pdf at the link. Once the field day is over I will post my presentation on this blog.
The Alliance for Sustainable Agricultural Production is hosting a field day on Friday, March 21, 2014 from 10:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. at their demonstration farm near Goodman, MS in Holmes County. This field day will feature topics on plastic mulching laying and irrigation and construction and production in high tunnels.
Please see the attached flyer for more information and a list of remaining field days for 2014. These monthly “field days” are designed to provide hands-on/on-farm learning opportunities. The basic idea is to cover issues and topics that you should be dealing with at that particular time. The cost for this event is free, but everyone is asked to pre-register; to RSVP for the March 21st workshop please contact Keith Benson at 601-988-4999 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alliance for Sustainable Ag Field Day
Last week I was in Verona and gave a talk on Fruit Crops for North Mississippi at the Northern Mississippi Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association annual conference. The weather was cold, but the crowd inside was good. Lots of interest and excitement about all kinds of fruit and vegetable related topics. Below is a photo of Dr. Blake Layton, MSU Extension Entomologist, addressing the crowd.
Dr. Layton at the NMSFVGA meeting in Verona
Although I didn’t get a photo with me speaking (should I have done a selfie?) my presentation is available for download at the link below as a PDF.
Fruit Crops for Northern MS 2014
UPDATE: After posting this I was chastised by Dr. John Clark at the University of Arkansas for not listing the UA peach and nectarine varieties. My reply was that they were untested in N. MS so I didn’t know for sure how they would perform. He thought they would do well in that area. So, this link: http://www.aragriculture.org/horticulture/fruits_nuts/nectarine_peach/default.htm will describe them and offer nurseries where to obtain them.
This past weekend I was at the Southern Region – American Society for Horticultural Science meeting in Dallas. At the meeting there were lots of great presentations. One poster I saw was about the Center for Crop Diversification at the University of Kentucky. They describe themselves as:
“The Center for Crop Diversification (formerly Crop Diversification & Biofuel Research & Education Center) offers printed and electronic resources on a variety of crops and marketing channels. Funding from The Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund will allow for expansion of the Center’s Web-based marketing and production resources. Funds will be used to develop online podcasts, webinars, video training, expanded price reports and new publications to meet the high demand for crop diversification information.
The Crop Diversification & Biofuel Research & Education Center (CDBREC) coordinated multi-disciplinary teams of faculty, staff and students to research and set guidelines for producing and marketing selected crops at a profit. The Center was funded by a Special Research Grant from the USDA from July 1, 2000, to June 30, 2013.”
There is a ton of information on this site (http://www.uky.edu/Ag/CCD/welcome.html) about all kinds of crops. They also have a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/CenterforCropDiversification).
I especially like the Crop Resources section (http://www.uky.edu/Ag/CCD/othercrops.html) and the Crop Profiles section (http://www.uky.edu/Ag/CCD/intro.html).
Take a look and see if you can find a new crop to grow. One of the beauties of agriculture is diversity and this site helps find a (perhaps unusual) crop that speaks directly to you.