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MOF&G Cover Summer 1997
 

 


  You are here:  PublicationsMaine Organic Farmer & GardenerSummer 1997Tips - Summer 1997   
 Tips – Summer 1997 Minimize


Improper Hitching to Tractors Can Be Fatal
Group Promotion
Media Relations
Keep Livestock from Consuming Toxic Plants
Save Seeds from Very Mature Fruits
Sniff Out Toxic Mulch
Keeping Deer Out
Educate the Customer
Farms Keep Tax Rates Lower Than Developments
Cooperative Promotion
Plant Diseases? Take Two Aspirin …
Black Knot Control
Hot Water Inhibits Gray Mold of Strawberries
Managing Living Mulches
Blanching Celery With Milk Cartons
Gleaning Programs

Reproduced with permission from Deere & Company, © 1994.


Improper Hitching to Tractors Can Be Fatal

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), farmers and others who use tractors are at risk for severe injury or death if proper hitching methods are not used when towing or pulling objects with tractors. Improperly attaching a tow chain to a point above the tractor’s drawbar can cause tractors to suddenly flip backward. These rear rollovers often result in injury or death.

On October 29, 1994, a 13-year old male sustained severe fatal head trauma when the 1953-model tractor he was using overturned to the rear while pulling a felled 18 inch diameter tree that was still partially attached at the stump. The tow chain had been hooked directly around the rear axle. The tractor did not have a roll over protective structure (ROPS).

Between April 1991 and June 1996, 28 incidents of sudden rear rollover of tractors were documented in New York, and 16 of these incidents resulted in death. Improperly hitching equipment or material for towing caused the rollovers in 60% of these incidents. Muddy conditions, wet ground, snow-covered, hilly or uneven terrain may have contributed to some of the incidents.

Steps for Prevention

• Use farm tractors equipped with ROPS, and wear a safety belt.

• Carefully select the hitching point to a tractor.

- Don’t alter the drawbar by raising or shortening it.

- Never attach the load directly to the axle.

- Never use a two or three-point hitch as a single-point hitch instead of the drawbar.

- If the load attaches by a single point, attach it only to the drawbar.

• Ensure that the tractor operator is familiar with safe use of the equipment.

• Select a strong tow chain with a length sufficient to allow adequate stopping distance between the towed object and the towing vehicle to avoid collision and rear rollover.

• Ensure a cleared work area for greater maneuvering.

• Use slow, steady pull.

• When using a tractor to free an embedded vehicle, hitch the vehicles front-to-front and drive the towing tractor in reverse to minimize the risk of rollover.

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Group Promotion

“We do not compete on price; we compete on quality and service to our consumers. I think the future is bright for those of us who are willing to improve ourselves and our marketing skills.” – Joe Huber, one of the founders of the Starlight Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association in Starlight, Indiana

In union there is strength; it pays to promote with your fellow growers. Many growers feel they are competing with their neighboring farmers. This is not necessarily true! The more attractions in an area, the better to attract the crowds – more brings more.

Group promotion can start on a simple basis, like going in with a few neighboring farmers to sell each others’ produce at farmers markets, or you might go in with a local bakery, restaurant or ice cream shop to place ads in the newspaper: “Fresh strawberry season is here!” While you hand out flyers for the bakery at your farm, the bakery places your farm brochures in customer take-home bags, or allows you to place a small display on its counter or in the store window. Local retail stores are often happy to cooperate. They like the image of supporting local farmers.

Or you might create a “Strawberry Festival” promotional printed piece with recipes and coupons, to be distributed by all the partners in the promotion. The flyer offers coupons for a free box of pectin with a $10 purchase at the grocery; a free piece of strawberry pie with dinner at the local restaurant; a free tart with a dozen Danish rolls at the bakery; a free gourmet cooking class, “Cooking with Berries,” at the gourmet food store; free jar toppers with a case of jelly jars at the hardware store; and $1 off on the next $10 purchase of U-Pick berries at your farm. Everyone benefits by having the promotion offered to other businesses’ customers.

Some other co-promotion ideas include: high school home economics students demonstrate jam making on Saturday afternoon at your farm and sell the jam to raise money. You advertise it and put photos in the newspaper. Or invite local church groups to come to your place and make pies for a bake-sale fund raiser.

Bartering can pool talents and resources. If you are offering farm recreational experiences on your farm, provide space also for a local baker. The baker provides quality baked goods and you share the profits. For a third of the take or more, hire school teachers to give weekend farm tours to children.

Growers can join together to create festivals on a scale that would be impossible for an individual. The Starlight Strawberry Festival in Starlight, Indiana, for example, attracts 16,000 people for its two-day event and requires more than 160 people to run the show! Look for churches, organizations or civic groups in town to co-sponsor a festival along with your farmers’ group. Donate festival proceeds to a worthy charity. Farmers will benefit from selling produce and will gain additional exposure for their farm attractions.

On a broader scale, growers can cooperate with other local businesses and governmental agencies to attract tourists and travelers to a growing area. Two-thirds of all Americans take at least one weekend trip a year, with 22 percent taking six or more weekend trips per year. Travelers are seeking increased diversity in their vacations, and country offerings are a welcome respite to city-weary travelers.

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Media Relations

“Free” publicity is not really free; it is a regular, ongoing effort. Cultivate relationships with the press; trust is built over time. Keep in touch with reporters on a regular basis. Tehrune Orchards, located near Princeton, New Jersey, has nothing that can’t be found at many other farms, but owners Pam and Gary Mount point out that they’ve gotten terrific coverage because they’ve worked hard at developing a rapport with the media. “The media is royalty around our place,” says Gary. “Pam spent all morning one day with a writer taking pictures for an article.”

Similarly, Richardson’s Seaside Bananas, located near Santa Barbara, California, is a small banana plantation, the only one in the United States. It received so much local press that the Los Angeles Times and, later, Newsweek picked up its story. The farm became a national event all because owner Doug Richardson had something new and different to talk about, assiduously courted the media, and was available for interviews.

Help reporters get to know you, prepare a press kit to send along with your releases. This should contain a fact sheet about you and your farm, what you grow, as well as copies of articles that have been written about your farm. Be assertive but not aggressive or demanding. A simple courtesy like a “please” or a “thank you” goes a long way! Sending a thank-you note after your release has been printed is important. Be sure to let reporters and editors know that the article has generated response.

Always be polite, but persistent. When Ann Burckhardt, a bed-and-breakfast owner in St. Peter, Minnesota, wanted to get her business story published in Country Inns Bed & Breakfast magazine, she requested 12 of her most loyal customers to write laudatory letters to the magazine. A year later, the magazine ran a nice, glossy feature on her business.

Establish yourself as a reliable media source so that any time reporters are looking for a local tie-in for a story with a wider scope – on farm prices, food safety, or the drought, for example – you are the person they think of to call. Let them know you are available for comment on issues that affect your business. Let your farm advisor know about your areas of expertise; often he or she is the first person the newspapers call when they want to do an agricultural story.

Court the media. If you’re sponsoring a farm tour or festival, for example, send reporters free press passes, and offer to send them pictures in case they can’t attend the event. Invite them out for a special day, serve them refreshments, and give them special tours of your farm. (If you’re serving blueberry pie, invite me!) Or take baskets of fruit to newspaper editors or TV announcers and put them on their desks with a note saying: “This is compliments of (Your) Farm.”

When a reporter comes to interview you, be prepared to answer questions – controversial as well as sympathetic – in a positive, factual manner. Never react with anger; customers do have concerns, and you need to address them. The issue of pesticides is an example: the public is eating your food, and they have a right to know your growing practices.

Control the interview. Rehearse anticipated questions. Be aware that you are never off the record. “Don’t quote me” means nothing – what you say will be printed. If you suspect an interviewer’s intentions, tape the interview, ask for a list of questions beforehand, or refuse the interview.

When speaking, say your most important points first, then fill in with a few supporting statements. Don’t ramble; try to answer questions within 30 to 50 seconds. Use a conversational style rather than a prepared speech. Personalize the points you are trying to make. How does this affect you? How does it affect the customer?

Excerpted with permission from Sell What You Sow! The Grower’s Guide To Successful Produce Marketing by Eric Gibson. Free brochure on request or send $25 postpaid to New World Publishing, 3085 Sheridan St., Placerville, CA 95667. (916) 622-2248.

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Keep Livestock from Consuming Toxic Plants

Animals usually have the good sense to avoid many toxic plants that grow naturally in pastures, woodlands and wastelands. During hot, dry days of summer, however, pasture growth slows, feed becomes more scarce, and animals may consume some toxic plants. The following practices may help reduce the risk of poisoning:

• Never allow pastured animals to become hungry. If necessary, offer them some hay or silage to supplement the feed they received from pastures.

• Fence animals away from wild cherry trees. Pick up broken wild cherry limbs immediately. Wilted wild cherry leaves are very toxic to animals.

• Do not throw clippings from shrubs and flowers into the pasture. Many of these clippings, especially yews, are very toxic.

• Do not graze sudan grass or sorghum/sudan hybrids until they are about 18 inches tall or when they have been stressed by drought, hail, frost, etc. Under these conditions, prussic acid levels may be dangerously high.

Source: Extension News, cited in Weekly Market Bulletin, N.H. Dept. of Ag., July 31, 1996.

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Save Seeds from Very Mature Fruits

When saving seeds from fleshy fruits, the best quality seeds come from very mature or over-ripe fruits. If possible, let your cucumbers get to the orange blimp stage, let your eggplants turn dull, let your summer squash grow to baseball bat proportions with skin that is tough to pierce, let your tomatoes go soft, let your winter squash cure for a while, and so on.

Source: The SeedBed, Newsletter of the Maine Seed Saving Network (PO Box 126, Penobscot, ME 04476), Summer 1996.

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Sniff Out Toxic Mulch

When organic mulches are stored too long in piles greater than 6 to 8 feet in height, they can undergo anaerobic fermentation (fermentation without oxygen) and produce chemicals that are toxic to plants. Annual plants can be severely damaged or killed by the fumes or by direct contact with the mulch; perennials most likely will exhibit leaf chlorosis and defoliation.

Mulch that has gone anaerobic has a very strong, acrid, sour smell. Mulch that is safe to use will smell pleasant and musky, like freshly cut wood or compost.

You can rescue anaerobic mulch by leaching it heavily with water to remove harmful toxins and then aerating the mulch for several weeks. Prevent anaerobic conditions in the first place by turning piles frequently and keeping them under 6 to 8 feet in height.

Mulch stored in plastic bags can become anaerobic and present problems, too, especially if water gets into the bags. Bagged materials should be stored on wooden pallets with room to breathe. Avoid making huge piles of bags.

Source: Extension News, cited in Weekly Market Bulletin, N.H. Dept. of Ag., 12/4/96.

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Keeping Deer Out

To keep deer out of my garden, I put a lot of money, time, and sweat into building an 8-foot high fence. It works, but it’s not 100% effective. Barbara Esposito, of Rock Stream, N.Y., has used a double fence system that seems to work better.

Though deer jump fences, they would prefer to crawl under them. In her system, once the deer crawls under the first fence, it comes to the second fence, a single electrified wire. Because there’s no room to jump, the deer gets shocked, and discouraged.

Her fences are 38 inches apart. The inside fence has a single wire at 30". The outside fence has two wires, one at 15" and the other at 43". She used a New Zealand charger with high tensile wire, and thin fiberglass posts, spacing them about 40 feet apart, and at all corners and gates. If you want to know more, you can contact Barbara at 6230 Old Lake Rd, Rock Stream, N.Y. 14878.

– Sue Smith-Heavenrich, Candor, N.Y.

(From NOFA-NY who got it from the Northland Berry News, Dec. 1994)

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Educate the Customer

“As the produce industry moves toward the year 2000, it will not only sell produce. It will educate consumers on produce use, preparation, safety, convenience and nutrition. Consumers will demand such marketing.” Roberta Cook, U.C. Davis marketing specialist

Educate your customers about your products. Whether you are selling to a wholesaler, chef or farmers’ market customer, the more the customers know about your product, how it is used, and what goes into producing it, the more they are willing to pay a premium for top quality.

Know your merchandise. If you are a retailer, know what your market carries, the location of each item carried, and information about what you sell, such as how to use your products, nutritional facts, and special values. Be an expert on your merchandise. Read trade magazines, and convey your enthusiasm about your products to your customers – it’s catching. A retail market introducing organic produce, for example, might put out a newsletter to its customers with articles about organics and about their organic farmer-suppliers. The store might also carry point-of-purchase educational brochures about organics beside the products, and encourage growers to sticker their products with organic labels.

Other steps you can take to educate the customer include:

• Make educational brochures and flyers available (special recipes for low salt, low fat, low sugar, low cholesterol, or high fiber foods, for example).

• Conduct on-farm demonstrations and workshops.

• Submit educational articles to your local newspaper food editor.

• Demonstrate a recipe on television or answer questions about fruits and vegetables.

• Present educational slide shows at local service clubs.

• Print product information on labels, such as nutritional content, storage tips and recipes.

• Publish a newsletter.

• Invite people to your farm for tours.

Michael Abelman, owner of Fairview Gardens in Goleta, California, produces some 100 organically grown crops on his 12-acre site, and he has worked at being accepted by his urban neighbors. One way he does this is by selling produce to them at his roadside stand. He is also developing an educational center at his farm, where he holds classes, puts on tours, and hosts open-house/field days for the community. He also is establishing a library and resource center in a barn. “Farming in the urban environment does present some difficulties,” he says, “but it also provides unique opportunities – an opportunity to sell organic produce directly to the public, and an opportunity for the public to learn what organic farming is all about.”

Take time to train your sales staff in the use of your products. If a customer is looking at the cabbage, an employee might ask: “Do you use sugar when you can sauerkraut?” After the ensuing discussion about canning, the customer may go home with 20 pounds of cabbage to make canned sauerkraut!

To educate your employees and your customers, you’ll first have to educate yourself. As an expert in your field, you’ll soon be consulted by all kinds of people – and perhaps even be invited to speak at the local junior college or garden club on your chosen topic. These contacts will bring some of your best customers.

Nutritional knowledge is a basic to produce retail selling. You should be able to answer many customer questions concerning food. Study books such as the USDA’s The Food Guide Pyramid (published by the Human Nutrition Information Service, Home & Garden Bulletin #252, available from Consumer Information Center, Department 159-Y, Pueblo, CO 81009). Other useful books on nutrition and food composition include Nutrition Handbook by Jane Brody; Vitamin Bible by Earl Mandell; Nutritional Almanac by John Kirschmann; Barry Ballister’s Fruit and Vegetable Stand by Barry Ballister; and Laurel’s Kitchen by Laurel Robertson. These are available in bookstores and health food stores. At the Sierra Nut House in Fresno, California, customers find that owner JoAnn Arvanigian is a storehouse of knowledge about nutrition. “Did you know,” JoAnn asks, “that pecans are very high in vitamin B6, or that sesame seeds are the highest source of calcium? Customers really want to know these things!”

Excerpted with permission from Sell What You Sow! The Grower’s Guide To Successful Produce Marketing by Eric Gibson. Free brochure on request or send $25 postpaid to New World Publishing, 3085 Sheridan St., Placerville, CA 95667. (916) 622-2248.

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Farms Keep Tax Rates Lower Than Developments

Nationwide, for every $1 of taxes paid on farmland, just 25 cents is required for services – contrasted with suburban developments, which require $1.30 in services for every $1 collected in taxes.

Source: Weekly Farm Bulletin, N.H. Dept. of Ag., Jan. 29, 1997; citing the American Farmland Trust.

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Cooperative Promotion

Network with convention bureaus or chambers of commerce that can help get the word out about nearby agricultural products and events. Contact business and industry groups, service clubs, farm bureaus, travel agencies, church groups and women’s organizations. Many are willing to hear a speaker from your association, or view a slide show or video about your group. Contact convention bureaus and offer farm tours as meeting breaks or off-hours recreation.

Encourage other groups and associations to include your farm attractions in their calendar of events, and include those with a country theme in yours. Encourage restaurants to promote “A Taste of (Your) County” recipes, either as specialties or regular menu items. Promote a farm-map placemat to local restaurants. Provide local motels with apples and farm trail maps to place in rooms. Farm employees, in turn, can refer travelers to restaurants, lodgings, and other attractions in the area.

Contact the “gatekeepers”: motel clerks, restaurant employees, campground hosts, state park employees, gas station attendants, etc., who deal with tourists and travelers – the very people you’re trying to let know about your farm attractions! Tell them about your farms. Then they will have a ready answer when guests ask what there is to do in the area. Take free produce or snacks to them and give them free passes to your farms.

Go in with non-farm businesses to offer package deals to tourist companies. This might include reduced prices for a ski resort’s lift rides, a bed-and-breakfast stay, and a theater presentation. Special group tours might visit farms and farm festivals, packaging and processing facilities, and nurseries and restaurants. The Southwest Michigan Tourist Council offers a Lake and Country Tour, an Apple Country Tour, and an Orchard Tour, among many other tours. Make arrangements for reduced-rate overnight accommodations for groups; this encourages people to stay for more than a day.

Many tourists hesitate to purchase local agricultural products, thinking they will spoil before they get home. Educate them on how to transport fruits and vegetables. A simple suggestion, such as keeping the produce out of the sun, may be sufficient. Use protective, recyclable containers; customers won’t mind the extra cost. For storage tips, write to the commodity group of whatever crop you grow; it is likely to have pamphlets available on storage and different ways to use the product. Ask if it’s okay to use this pamphlet with your name and logo printed on it, with due acknowledgment to the commodity group.

Tourists often think that they have to purchase farm products in large quantities; they are concerned about spoilage while traveling and prefer small quantities. Let them know that small quantities are available, with special packaging if needed for traveling.

Tourists sometimes think that on-farm products are more expensive than grocery store products. If your products are not expensive, let your customers know this. If your products are more expensive, emphasize the “extras” – the fun, educational experience of visiting farm trail farms, and the homegrown authenticity of the products.

Excerpted with permission from Sell What You Sow! The Grower’s Guide To Successful Produce Marketing by Eric Gibson. Free brochure on request or send $25 postpaid to New World Publishing, 3085 Sheridan St., Placerville, CA 95667. (916) 622-2248.

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Plant Diseases? Take Two Aspirin …

To help protect plants against pathogenic fungi, bacteria and/or viruses, Greg and Pat Williams suggest dissolving two uncoated five-grain aspirin tablets in a quart of water and using the solution as a foliar spray or root drench – after testing for phytotoxicity. Repeat every week or two. The acetylsalicylic acid in aspirin can stimulate plants to fend off attacks of disease organisms, they say.

Source: “Plant Headaches?” by Greg and Pat Williams, in Plants & Gardens News, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Fall, 1996; original reference: W. Quarles, “Protect Your Garden with Aspirin and Salicylate,” Common Sense Pest Control 12(2), Spring 1996, p. 16-18 (BIRC, Box 7414, Berkeley, CA 94707).

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Black Knot Control

Black knot disease causes grotesque black knots on the twigs and branches of plum, cherry and peach trees, including ornamental cultivars. It is common on wild plum and cherry and can occur in orchards where pruning and management practices are not regularly practiced.

The disease is caused by a fungus that produces spores on one- and two-year-old wood from early spring through early summer; the spores are spread by wind and splashing rain. When the spores contact young wood, they germinate and penetrate the bark either directly or through wounds. Infection generally occurs during warm, wet weather from the end of April through June.

The first symptoms are small, light brown swellings of the current or previous season’s growth. These swellings may be difficult to see and often go unnoticed. The disease becomes evident only after knots enlarge and become olive-green with a velvety texture. Soon after this stage the knots become darker and by fall they appear as black, hard knots that are especially noticeable after the leaves fall. The knots continue to grow until they girdle and kill the branch. The fungus overwinters in the knots and is the inoculum source for new infections the next spring.

The best way to avoid black knot is to select resistant varieties. The President plum has shown high resistance; European and Japanese varieties range from very susceptible to moderately susceptible, so be careful. Purchase only disease-free stock from reputable nurseries. Never purchase trees that already show visible knots or swellings on twigs and branches.

Prune and destroy (burn, if possible) all diseased wood during late winter and definitely before the first of April. When trees are not wet, carefully remove and dispose of infected branches. Dip pruning shears in rubbing alcohol between cuts to disinfect them. Cuts should be made 4 inches below the knot. Do not allow the prunings to fall and remain on the ground, because they can still be a source of infection there. Destroy all clippings or bury them in the ground.

Wild plum and wild seedling cherries can be a source of infection and should be removed from fence rows and nearby wooded areas for a distance of 600 feet from cultivated trees. This will also eliminate other types of disease and insect pests.

Source: “‘Black Knot’ Ruinous to Cherry, Plum Trees,” by George W. Hamilton, UNH Coop. Extension, in Weekly Market Bulletin, N.H. Dept. of Ag., Feb. 26, 1997.

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Hot Water Inhibits Gray Mold of Strawberries

After a series of trials using various temperatures, Spanish researchers recommend soaking freshly picked strawberries for 15 minutes in a thermostatically controlled water bath at 111 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit to slow the growth of gray mold. Higher temperatures can damage fruits, while lower temperatures provide less protection. Following the hot water dip, fruits could be stored at room temperature for four days with less than 10% decay, versus untreated fruits, which lasted only two days before exceeding 10% decay.

Source: Greg and Pat Williams, “Hold the Mold,” in Plants & Gardens News, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Fall, 1996; original reference: J.M. Garcia, C. Aguillera and A.M. Jimenez, “Gray Mold in Quality of Strawberry Fruit Following Postharvest Heat Treatment,” HortScience 31(2), April 1996, 255-257.

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Managing Living Mulches

Living mulches can be planted before, during or after planting cash crops. Plan crop spacing so that you will be able to mow or till the cover crops during the growing season (i.e., have pathways as wide as your mower).

Planting

A dense, uniform stand of the crop maximizes benefits of the mulch. Living mulch crops can be planted in the fall (if they are winter hardy), in the early spring, or undersown in a vegetable crop during the growing season. Since directly planting a vegetable crop into a living mulch can reduce yields, the soil immediately near the cash crop should be free of mulch. The alternate spacing of living mulch strips with raised beds that grow several rows of vegetable crops is effective. For field systems without raised beds, seed may be broadcast over the entire field and tilled prior to planting vegetables, or the mulch may be planted in rows, leaving strips of bare ground for the vegetable crop. For best stands, drill the seed. For gardens, till the soil, broadcast the seed, rake it in and water it immediately.

Management

Monitoring the growth cycle of both the cash and cover crops is important, since simultaneous vigorous growth causes competition for nutrients and water and will decrease the health of the vegetable crop. Mow or till the living mulch before the cash crop undergoes its critical growth period. When mowing, mulches must be cut very low to the ground for adequate suppression. The best time to mow is immediately before the cash crop enters active growth and whenever the cover crop gets too tall. The stress of mowing a leguminous plant causes a burst of nitrogen emission into the soil, where it may be taken up by the cash crop. Properly timed mowing encourages a dense canopy and can prevent many weeds from going to seed.

Source: “Planting and Management of Living Mulches,” Garden City Seeds (778 Hwy. 93N, Hamilton, MT 59840), press release, March, 1977.

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Blanching Celery With Milk Cartons

Keith Bellinger, of northern Pennsylvania, doesn’t hill his celery to blanch it. Instead, he grows it in milk cartons. He starts the celery inside, and when they’re about 2” tall, moves them to a cold frame. A couple of weeks after transplanting, when their roots have had a chance to develop, he surrounds each plant with a one-quart milk carton. He cuts three edges of the bottom, then folds the flap back. Then he puts the carton over the celery plant and covers the flap with soil to hold it in place. The celery grows up inside the carton. When it’s time to harvest, he pulls the whole thing up, slides the milk carton off and cuts off the roots, leaving “the cleanest bunch of celery you ever saw.” He grows a wheelbarrow full of celery in a 4’ x 8’ plot.

– Sue Smith-Heavenrich, Candor, N.Y.
(from Countryside & Small Stock Journal, March/April 1997)

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Gleaning Programs

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not be so thorough that you reap the field to its very edge, nor shall you glean the stray ears of grain. Likewise, you shall not pick your vineyard bare, nor gather up the grapes that have fallen. These things you shall leave for the poor …” – Holy Bible, Lev. 19:9-10

One of the best ways to support food distribution programs is through gleaning programs in which farmers invite volunteers to harvest food that is either too big, too small, cosmetically blemished (but otherwise perfect in food value), or overripe for marketing.

In Contra Costa County, California, Project Glean harvested 288,000 pounds of surplus produce last year. According to former Project Glean Coordinator Jill Kohler, about a third of the food goes to seniors living on supplemental Social Security incomes of $500 a month or less, and another third goes to children.

Everyone benefits from gleaning: food that would rot on the ground goes to people who need it, and insect pests that might be attracted to the rotting fruit are foiled. Mostly, though, farmers simply participate in the joy of giving to those in need.

Some farmers express the following concerns about gleaning:

• Volunteers might damage the crop or might pick in non-designated areas. Make sure that the volunteers have been well-instructed, and that a field supervisor will be present to monitor their harvesting.

• Giving away food will hurt the market for the crop. A reputable food distribution group will give only to those in need. The people going to a soup kitchen cannot afford the food otherwise.

• Liability. Volunteers working for a hunger program are generally not a sue-happy group. Some states have “Good Samaritan” laws that absolve farmers from liability. The gleaning volunteers can sign a waiver of liability. Some gleaning groups take out liability insurance.

• Farmers don’t want to give to people they think could be working to support themselves. Most of the people served by food distribution programs are children or seniors, single parents, or the disabled, who are living on low incomes.

For the gleaning volunteers, the benefits of gleaning include a sense of purpose and a feeling of self-worth; the opportunity for physical exercise and social interaction; and a way to fulfill the need to be needed.

Emile and Margaret Lacrampe, Project Glean volunteers, put on work clothes and sun hats a couple of times a week and join other volunteers harvesting surplus fruits and vegetables. “The work is hard, and sometimes it would be easier to stay home and let someone else worry about feeding the hungry,” the Lacrampes exclaim. “But there’s a huge amount of enthusiasm, and it’s very rewarding, knowing that what you’re doing is helping others.”

To find out more about starting a gleaning program, send for the pamphlet Gleaning: Pointers On How To Begin, which is available free from New World Publishing, 3085 Sheridan St., Placerville CA 95667.

Excerpted with permission from Sell What You Sow! The Grower’s Guide To Successful Produce Marketing by Eric Gibson. Free brochure on request or send $25 postpaid to New World Publishing, 3085 Sheridan St., Placerville, CA 95667. (916) 622-2248.

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