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I was right!

My concerns at the Horticultural Expo this winter are bearing out.  I received this in a portion of a newsletter from Barbara, the head of our farmers’ market today:

Food safety saga continues

 
Just when we thought the federal government had come to a long-awaited resolution to the problem of how to regulate food safety for small farms, USDA has proposed new rules to confuse the matter. According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is working with “Big Ag” to push through a National Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement that will add a second and conflicting layer of rules and audits on top of FDA food safety rules. The fear is that the USDA action will shut small and mid-sized farms out of the leafy greens market. Here’s an easy way to learn the details and voice your opinion to USDA.

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TAEP Farmers Market Retail and Marketing Grant Program to Public Farmers Market

Eligible activities for grant: Marketing

  • Brochures
  • Maps
  • Direct promotions
  • Signs and posters (posters can be very artsy and become collectors’ items)
  • Website development
  • Educational scholarships

Retail:

  • counters
  • loading docks
Posted in Horticultural Expo 2011 | Leave a comment

2nd Day of Expo

Sharon and I have split up this morning.  I will try to add entries as I get input from her.  I am attending the flowering shrub in greenhouse talk and she is attending what is new in the industry.  The guy from this first talk is from the company Spring Meadow Nursery from Michigan.  He advises trying 10 different fast growing types of shrubs in the beginning.  He spoke of old wood and new wood varieties, and about pruning.  I believe he is speaking about growing shrubs to sell NOT cut flowers.  They need to be allowed to go dormant.  Also, in order to sell them you need to make sure they are in bloom AT sale time.  Suggested plants by Proven Winner:

  • Butterfly Bush (a dwarf one is Lo and Behold Blue Chip from Proven Winners
    • Blue Chip
    • Purple Haze (no it isn’t Jimi Hendrix flower)
    • Miss Ruby Buddleia (flower color is magenta)
    • Miss Molly Buddleia (the reddest red to date)
  • Forsythia
    • Show-off
    • Starlet (more dwarf)
  • Pearl Bush
  • Hydrangea-don’t trim after July 1, or you’ve trimmed off the buds. Prune aggressively during the growing season to build body.
    • Incrediball, has great stiff stems and gorgeous ball blooms (2-3X normal bloom size)
    • Invincibelle Spirit (pink) is more forgiving with pruning than any other hydrangea
    • Cityline Series
    • Let’s Dance
    • Limelight – lovely greenish bloom (white-lime-reddish tinge as season proceeds)
    • Little lime -dwarf
    • Pinky-Winky – late bloomer, fades to pink
    • Quick Fire

      Quick Fire Hydrangea

      Quick Fire Hydrangea

  • Roses
  • Spirea
  • Lila
  • Wigela

jeremy@springmeadownursery.com

Last night we ordered a thin-crust Domino’s Pizza in, went swimming, and Sharon beat me in Upwards (a rare event).

Posted in Flowers, Horticultural Expo 2011, Plants | Leave a comment

Lunch and after

Well, we went up towards the Grand Old Opry and ate at the fancy Shoney’s (thought we’d splurge).  Sharon had soup and salad and I went for the salad, soup and the rest bar.

Right after lunch we heard the intro to TFVA from Jim Beale and from the commissioner of ag. newly appointed by Haslam.  The good part was the brevity.  Jim Beale spoke of change as not necessarily dumb (though I’d add it is not necessarily better).  One theme I’m noticing is lots of strong-arm talk at this meeting by some speakers.  They would do better to lighten up and realize the budgets of governments are way out of line!  Constant threats of lawsuits from consumers as a way of strong arming farmers and small farmers’ markets is not appreciated!

From the first afternoon panel, did you know as a grower?

  • usda will audit you
  • have a food safety plan (global gap?) go step by step thru the audit (that is evidently online?)
  • document what you do/did for the audit
  • LOL, the government is coming to “help” you I was informed (they are really nice guys…as they audit you)
  • Did you know you have to log people in and out of your fields???
  • Do you code your food?
  • can take as long as 2 years to get a packing house ready for an audit
  • there are definite “problems” with sanitation and Hispanic workers…such as what to do with toilet paper, washing hands, etc.
  • These audits, audits, audits are, well…audacious, what audacity! LOL!
  • As many as 7 regulatory agencies can come and “audit” you at any time, including Homeland Security!!!
  • PRIMUS MANUAL??
  • evidently the farmers/packers request the audits (now why?) One grower called the auditor “hitler”.
  • the overemphasis on “safety” issues evidently are the result of an ignorant public demanding “risk-free” living…it is very scary to me, personally
  • There is enough at this meeting to scare you totally away from farming when listening to this stuff, I’m amazed by the evident acquiescence meekly to over regulation
  • don’t let the auditors take pictures without permission!
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4th Presentation…processed foods

Now, Sharon says this is an interesting talk by John Sanford but I’m zoned out.  I will add to this post later.  I zone out with governmental regulation of virtually every aspect of life!  I think he is going to talk about regulation of home kitchens.  I will say IF you get into this stuff you will have to pay fees, you will have to jump through hoops, and you will be monitored.   You will have to decide if you want all of this hassle, if it is worth the potential profit increase, and if you desire to have you privacy even more invaded than it already is.  It’s up to you.  These are my immediate, instinctual opinions.  I will post Sharon’s after communicating with her on this talk.

Oh, I will say that the list of “pertinent items” makes these home kitchen regs. far more intrusive than your neighborhood McDonald’s.  The labeling requirements alone are excruciatingly painfully ridiculous and sound like they are more restrictive than those for the giant food conglomerates.  Is someone trying to shut down the little guy here??????

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Think presentation and communication!

The 3rd presentation of Farmers Market spoke of presentation, change, growing, keeping up, internet, social networking, night marketing, etc.  These were folks from the very urban Nashville Farmers’ Market.  I will elucidate shortly.  This presentation has had so many ideas that I have to finish this later after getting Sharon’s notes.  I don’t know if the powerpoints are available but I WISH this one were.

Quickly some ideas:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Night markets/parties
  • Interact with other Farmers’ Markets
  • Think about staying on the cutting edge
  • think about advertising
  • Community partner
  • How do we educate the community?
  • Use free promotional tools (social media, website, press, “bounces” off other merchants
  • Visit other Farmers’ Markets for ideas
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