Couldn’t make it to Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention this year? We’ve got you covered. Growing is on the ground, covering everything you need to know at the show.

Here are four of the top moments from Wednesday, Feb. 1.

1. The Right Point of Sale System

Jennifer Brodsky of Kitchen Table Consultants

Jennifer Brodsky of Kitchen Table Consultants

The six steps to choosing the right point-of-sale (POS) system:

  1. Business needs: Take inventory; write down brands and models for reference; Will a system have compatibility with existing hardware; Growers need to “think big” about this decision
  2. Cost and budget: POS systems are expensive; most cloud-based POS software (Revel, Epicor Eagle, NCR Silver, etc.) cost in range of $99-$199 per month
  3. Research, reviews, and POS comparison: One size does not fit all; Consider features, functionality, speed of solution, location, areas of expertise and warranty information
  4. Text drive (demo): Take advantage of this time; Create and remove items Test out their customer service functions: A lot of hidden issues could be found in testing.
  5. Implementation and set up: Implementation specialist are valuable when selecting a POS system: Features may include online training to help employees with the new system. There could be some “hand holding” involved throughout the process.
  6. Getting the most out of your system: POS systems will allow growers to use customers Relationship Management to implement loyalty programs, email marketing and promotions to help track customer data trends.

There’s isn’t a perfect solution for everyone. It’s important to be honest with what you’re trying to accomplish and how much you want to take on. Growers should also be aware of what is driving the change in a point-of-sale (POS) system; especially if you coming from a cash register or a cash box system: This is a whole new world.

Don’t forget about your staff: Make sure that they are trained and feel comfortable with a new POS system; maybe tell your customers about the new change as well: A perfect time to over communicate.

– From the session, “Marketing 101: Finding the Right POS System” with speaker Jennifer Brodsky, Kitchen Table Consultants.

2. The Effects of Dairy Manure-Based Compost on Vegetable Soils and Crops

Speaker Dr. Matthew Kleinhenz, Ohio Ag Research & Development Center: “When asked what are the long-term effects of compost on vegetable soils and crops, I begin to ask them some questions”:

Is it a true compost or just aged manure? Because they are not the same. If it’s not a certified compost, it’s just aged manure. The composition of that material and its effects will differ. Sometimes that question alone ends the conversation until a grower can find out what they are exactly applying.

Other questions:

• What is the exact composition of the compost? Rate? Timing?
• What is the soil type?
• Are you growing in a field or high tunnel?
• What crops are you growing?

We all agree that compost is a positive thing. But, too much of it in the wrong situation can be a problem. Applying compost repeatedly without adjusting other practices could be detrimental.

Six points when using manure and compost

1. There are many types: composition (saw dust, dairy manure, mushroom, etc.) potential short- and long-term effects on soil health differ between and within categories.
2. There is unanimous agreement that compost use is “good in agriculture, particularly vegetable and organic.
3. Whether making your own compost or using someone else’s, threat it seriously as input and test it often (certified may be best).
4, Consistency and predictability are key.
5. Verify that use conforms with standards associated with obvious food safety/GAP concerns.
6. Manure and compost can enhance and reduce soil health depending on use, component of soil health.

Major effects:

Soil properties: Decreased bulk density, altered microbial community; increased nutrient levels
Yield: Application tends to increase 1.2-4 times

Repeated applications of compost alter soil chemistry and biology. They may also alter soil physics and/or crop yield and quality. Therefore, changes triggered by repeated applications of the same type of compost need to be monitored because they may not be positive.

Compost can be an asset in vegetable production. However, like any asset, it needs to be used well.

– From the session, “General Vegetables: Long Term Effects of Dry Compost Application” with speaker Dr. Matthew Kleinhenz, Ohio Ag Research & Development Center.

3. Roundtable: The Future of Apple

Ben Rice of Rice Fruit Company

Ben Rice of Rice Fruit Company

What is the apple industry doing to stay competitive?

Ben Rice, Rice Fruit Company: “One of the interesting things we are doing at a local level is looking beyond the local environment for new ideas and strategies. As we talk about the competition within our industries, there is also elements of regional competition. So, we need to recognize that and consider looking to other areas of the country and see what they are doing, and how it is working out for them. Clinging to the notion of ‘How we do it around here is how we do it around here’ really shuts us off to opportunities that we otherwise might need.”

Where are the major trends where growers need to “pick up their game”?

Rice: Size. That’s one of the things we heard. People are talking about their crop size. I think we are seeing pressure from the nationwide chains we service. There are persistent exceptions made, but that doesn’t last forever. That’s not new information, but when I say that quality is going to be increasingly important; growers aren’t going to do anything different than they have been.

Size should be considered as a competitive attribute. Within my work in production and the quality department, we’ve noticed a coloration between maturity and harvest timing, and long-term quality. If you’re able to get your apple harvested tightly, the effect that has on your long-term marketability is just enormous.

Labor is going to be very important. Looking at current (Trump) administration in the next couple of years, there is little to say with a lot of certainly. So, one thing that I would say considering orchard changes or organizational changes is to keep your options open in terms of labor flexibility. Because making strong bets in your orchard based on current availability of labor is risky.

– From the session, “Tree Fruit: Projections for Apple Industry’s Future: How to Remain Competitive” with speakers Robert Pollock, Jim Bair, US Apple Association, Ryan Hess, Hess Brothers and Ben Rice, Rice Fruit Company.

4. Lesson of Agritourism

Rose Robson, Robsons Farm, Wrightstown, New Jersey on business card presentation:

“Have a good business card. Having a bad business card is like having a bad handshake”people will throw your card in the trash.”

On reaching new markets:
“Pay close attention to what customers are responding to that you already do. Can you take it to the next level? How can it be enhanced? What value can be added? Be a dedicated reader and listener. Be playful and have child-like enthusiasm. But always be original. Nothing is more embarrassing than copying somebody else.”

Steven Specca of Specca Farms, a pick-your-own vegetable farm in Burlington County, New Jersey, a state with a booming Indian population. Considering that it’s the second largest immigrant population in the country, Specca said his operation saw this as an opportunity, and it proved to be a great fit.

On expanding into ethnic communities:

“We found that most Indians are vegetarians, and 74 percent are proficient in English. Most that come here are accustomed to rural areas. They get farm life more than most Americans would. The community is tight knit. So, if you do a good or bad job, word gets around.”

On appealing to Indian culture:

“We speak their language; take the time to make them feel welcomed: Say hi in their language. It’s like if you were in China: You would feel really welcomed if someone said in English, “How are you? Would you like a cheeseburger?”

– From the session, “Learning from Our Experiences: Grower Panel” with speaker Rose Robson, Robsons Farm; Steven Specca, Specca Farms; and Kurt Alstede, Alstede Farm, LLC.