Fresh Produce Sales Up in 2013

unitedfresh-logoUnited Fresh Produce Association released the 2013 Year in Review edition of the FreshFacts® on Retail report, which examines overall retail trends in produce for the past year. The report shows that during 2013, the produce department averaged more than $47,000 per week per store, which was up 4.8 percent over the previous year.

The FreshFacts® on Retail report, produced in partnership with the Nielsen Perishables Group and sponsored by Del Monte Fresh Produce, measures retail price and sales trends for the top 10 fruit and vegetable commodities, as well as value-added, organic and other produce categories.

Highlights of this “Year in Review” report include:
Over the past year, all of the top 10 fruits posted volume increases
– Fruits average weekly dollar sales increased 4.5 percent versus 2012
– All of the top 10 vegetables posted increases in weekly dollar sales
– Among value-added fruit categories, value-added fruit and fresh-cut fruit both posted increases in weekly dollar sales
– Snacking value-added vegetables posted an increase of 15 percent in weekly dollar sales
– Avocados posted the highest growth in the fruit category, with dollar sales increasing 11.7 percent and volume increasing10.3 percent
– Packaged salad and tomatoes, the two top-selling vegetable categories in 2013, increased dollar sales 6.7 percent and 3.4 percent

This quarters’ FreshFacts® report also features a spotlight on organic produce. Recent trends show that even with increases in retail prices, volume sales continue to grow in all organic fruit and vegetable categories. The growing demand for organic produce resulted in dollar and volume increase, roughly 20 percent for both organic fruits and vegetables overall.

Canadian Cranberry Time

Shergill Cranberry FarmThat cranberry was this big! At least that’s what it looks like Mike Wallis, BC Cranberry Growers Association Mgr., is saying during a presentation at Shergill Cranberry Farm, the second stop for the “farm bikers” tour group during the Canadian Farm Writers’ Federation conference. Also on hand was farm manager Bob Deroche. They talked to us about the farm and answered questions before we walked out onto the bog area that was not yet flooded.

If you’d like to learn more about Canadian cranberry production you’ll enjoy listening to their presentation. I tasted a few in the field. At that time they looked pretty ripe and tasted very tart. First up in the presentation is Mike and Bob chimes in during the Q&A.

You can listen to the presentation here: Shergill Cranberry Farm

2013 Canadian Farm Writers’ Federation Photo Album

Iowa Accepting Grant Applications for Specialty Crops

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has announced that the IA Dept. of Ag is accepting grant applications for the Specialty Crop Block program. The estimated $271,000 grants are available to support projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops grown in Iowa and are contingent on federal funds being made available to the Department. Grant awards will be considered up to a maximum of $24,000 and projects can have a duration of up to 30 months.

speciality crops grown in Iowa“Specialty Crops” that are eligible under this program are fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture. Both fresh and processed specialty crops are eligible.

“The Specialty Crop Block Grant provides funds to support food safety, research and marketing efforts that will encourage Iowans to choose the products that are produced right here in our state,” Northey said. “Specialty crops are a very important part of Iowa agriculture as they allow farmers to diversify and give customers access to locally grown products.”

Iowa agencies, universities, institutions, and producer, industry, and community based organizations are all eligible to apply for funding to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. In addition, single organizations, institutions, and individuals are encouraged to participate as project partners.

Proposals must be received by IDALS on or before 4:00 p.m. on Friday, May 3, 2013. Click here for more information.

Upcoming Blackberry Field Day

Growing blackberries in the Midwest has been productive and profitable. Richard Barnes, a produce grower and founder of Trellis Growing Systems (TGS), invites growers to see and hear firsthand how blackberries are being grown in Ohio and surrounding states with great success at a field day on Friday, Nov. 2nd at Rhoads Farms in Circleville, Ohio.

Field day participants will talk one-on-one with industry experts and learn about the production systems, marketing and overall profit potential of this crop. Speakers will include Richard Barnes, Trellis Growing Systems founder, Brett Rhoads, farmer/owner, Dr. Fumi Takeda, USDA Research Horticulturist, Stan Crafton, Giumarra, Larry Shafer, Agro-K and Doug Foster, TRICKL-EEZ Company.

The Trellis Growing Systems Field Day will be Friday, Nov. 2nd at Rhoads Farms, 1360 Kingston Pike, Circleville, Ohio. Sign-in will begin at 9 a.m. with the program starting at 9:30 a.m. The field day will conclude with a free lunch at noon.

Growers who have a serious interest in a multiple-acre blackberry growing operation and media are invited to register by Oct. 26 here.

Read more in a previous post about blackberries as an alternative crop in the Midwest.

Let’s Move Salad Bars to California Schools

The United Fresh Foundation just announced the new campaign Let’s Move Salad Bars to California Schools. The goal is to donate salad bars to 350 California schools at the United Fresh 2013 convention in San Diego. The campaign is spearheaded by four California produce industry leaders passionate about increasing children’s consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

“This is truly a win-win for all involved. Childhood obesity has become a serious problem in the United States and by providing salad bars to schools, students will develop healthy eating habits and influence their parents to purchase more fresh produce at the grocery store,” said Dick Spezzano, President, Spezzano Consulting.

The United Fresh Foundation set a goal to donate 350 salad bars based on the large number of requests from California schools. The Task Force will raise funds from produce and retail industry colleagues, related businesses and foundations. Over the last two years, more than 180 California schools have already received salad bars through contributions from United Fresh members and other Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools contributors.

“I’ve seen the success salad bars have had in my local schools. The demand for salad bars is driven by students, parents and educators that recognize a trip to the salad bar is an effective way to help our nation reduce childhood obesity,” said Margaret D’Arrigo-Martin, Vice President of Community Development, Taylor Farms.

To learn more about how you can make a difference in California and support the Let’s Move Salad Bars to California Schools initiative, contact Andrew Marshall, United Fresh policy and grassroots manager at 202-303-3407 or or visit

Apples to iPods Contest

Vermont’s pick-your-own orchards will offer a chance to win an iPod during the Apples to iPods promotion that kicks off next week.

In this technology-meets-agriculture contest, one specially marked wooden apple is hidden in an apple tree at 20 Vermont pick-your-own apple orchards. The lucky apple picker who finds a wooden apple wins an Apple iPod, iPod Shuffle or iPad.

This good-natured promotion of Vermont’s working landscape is in partnership with Woodchuck® Hard Cider, Small Dog Electronics, Vermont Tree Fruit Growers Association and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture. The State of Vermont first launched this promotion in 2007 with hopes of growing participation at Vermont pick-your-own orchards. Since the launch, participation has been incredibly ‘fruitful’ across Vermont.

Vermont’s nearly 4,000 acres of commercial apple orchards produce leading apple varieties: McIntosh, Cortland, Red Delicious and Empire. In 1999, the Vermont legislature designated the apple as the state fruit, and the apple pie as the state pie.

New Priaxor and Merivon Fungicides Registered for Use

Growers have two powerful new tools to prevent and control a broad spectrum of crop diseases. BASF has announced the full U.S. EPA registration of Priaxor fungicide and Merivon fungicide.

Priaxor is expected to provide unprecedented disease protection and post-infection disease control from some of the toughest fungal diseases in soybeans, as well as several other crops. Merivon will do the same in several pome and stone fruit crops, including apples, cherries and peaches.

Priaxor is a 2:1 premix fungicide containing F500—the same active ingredient as Headline fungicide—and Xemium fungicide, a new active ingredient in the carboxamide family, providing a new mode of action in row crops. Merivon is a 1:1 premix fungicide of F500—an active ingredient in Pristine fungicide —and Xemium.

From 2009 through 2011, soybeans treated with Priaxor showed nearly 17 percent less severity of Septoria brown spot compared to untreated soybean acres. Priaxor is also labeled for use in potatoes and tomatoes to control disease, leading to improved crop quality. Priaxor has also shown effective disease control in corn, controlling several yield-robbing diseases including Northern and Southern corn leaf blight, gray leaf spot and common rust.

Click here for more product-specific information.

Listen to interviews from Commodity Classic
with BASF Technical Market Manager Nick Fassler and Dr. Caren Schmidt, BASF Technical Service Representative for Michigan and Ohio.

BASF Presents Research on New Fungicides

Last year at Commodity Classic, the buzz from BASF Crop Protection was the new fungicide chemistry Xemium. This year it’s new products incorporating that chemistry.

With the results of field trials from the 2011 season now available, three years of research show Priaxor™ fungicide and Merivon® fungicide provided effective disease control and consistent yield increases in a wide range of crops and the two new products are expected to receive EPA registration yet the first part of this year.

Priaxor research was conducted on row crops – focusing primarily on soybeans – as well as on some specialty crops, such as potatoes and tomatoes. Merivon research was conducted on specialty crops, specifically pome and stone fruits.

“Priaxor in soybeans provides a consistent level of disease control on Septoria brown spot and frog eye leaf spot,” said Nick Fassler, Technical Market Manager, BASF. From 2009-2011, soybeans treated with Priaxor showed nearly 17 percent less severity of Septoria brown spot and 13 percent decrease in the severity of frogeye leaf spot and compared to untreated soybean acres. Priaxor has also performed well in corn on several troublesome corn diseases, including gray leaf spot, common rust, and Northern and Southern corn leaf blight.

Listen to or download an interview with Nick here: BASF's Nick Fassler

Dr. Caren Schmidt, BASF Technical Service Representative for Michigan and Ohio says research shows Merivon fungicide will provide apple growers with protection against apple scab and powdery mildew. “We’ve been looking at Merivon and apple scab with Michigan State University,” she said. “We’ve seen very good protection with Merivon application programs compared to current commercial standards.”

Caren says there are current no systemic fungicides in Michigan that are effective against apple scab, so the introduction of Merivon will be very important.

Listen to or download an interview with Caren here: BASF Tech Rep Caren Schmidt

Find out more details about Priaxor™ fungicide and Merivon® fungicide.

2012 BASF Science Behind Photo Album

Coverage of the 2012 Commodity Classic Show is sponsored by BASF and New Holland

Apple Packing at Martin’s Family Fruit Farm

The first stop for the 2011 IFAJ Congress Lake Huron Tour group today was Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. Our host, Steve Martin, gave us a full tour of their apple packing and storage facility. The short video clip below shows the washing process where the bins unload into a wash tank and then the apples move through an automated process than includes some manual sorting and finally weighing and packing.

We got to take our pick of several varieties after we were done. I chose a Honeycrisp which was delicious. The farm grows many varieties including the MacIntosh which I believe someone said is 200 years old this year. Ontario is the top apple producing province in Canada.

2011 IFAJ Congress Photo Album

Coverage of the IFAJ Congress is sponsored by PIONEER Hi-Bred

RCA Trellis Growing System Turns Acres Into Profits

The RCA (Rotating Cross-Arm) System from Trellis Growing Systems is turning marginal land into profits for many Midwestern farmers who have begun to plant a new cash crop – blackberries. Developed by Indiana grower Richard Barnes, the RCA System enables Midwestern growers to successfully and profitably plant blackberries by overcoming some of the traditional challenges associated with the crop.

Barnes began experimenting with blackberries about 11 years ago and like most growers had issues with different aspects of their operation. He began to do research where he spoke with the USDA who was working on developing a trellis system. After receiving their first grant in 2007, Trellis Growing Systems was born and has since received several other grants.

For the most part, blackberry varieties will not survive the winters in the Midwest. Therefore most blackberries are grown in the more temperate climates of the southern Midwest and the majority of them are coming out of California. But with the development of the RCA System, the game has changed.

“With our technology, the RCA System, we can rotate the canes down near the ground in the winter and if necessary we can cover those canes with a floating row cover,” explained Richard Barnes, creator of the technology and founder of Trellis Growing Systems. “That enables the canes to survive the winter with little to no cane damage, and what this does is open up a whole new opportunity and industry for growers in the Midwest.”

Listen to my interview with Richard Barnes here: RCA Trellis Growing System Turns Acres Into Profits

Barnes said growers using this system have been able to earn $45,000+ in revenue per acre. One reason is that per flat prices are higher in July and August when blackberries are harvested in the Midwest, between $15 to $20 per flat. When the majority of blackberries are harvested in May or June in other regions, flat prices are around $12 to $13 per flat.

Trellis Growing Systems, along with Bedford (their manufacturing partner) will be showcasing their blackberry technology during the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois August 30-September 1, 2011 in booth 575. Barnes said growers can get a personal demonstration of the RCA System anytime during the show, or they can pre-schedule an appointment to learn more by calling him at 260-241-3128. You can also get more information on their website at

FarmVille Fanatics to Plant Real Crops

The top players of the popular on-line game FarmVille will get a taste of reality as they leave the virtual farm this month to plant a real fruit orchard in the real town of Farmville, Virginia – courtesy of Edy’s Fruit Bars.

The new orchard in Farmville, VA commemorates a branded integration between Edy’s Fruit Bars and FarmVille. From June 13 to June 19, 2011, FarmVille players across the country will plant limited edition Edy’s Fruit Bars branded crops within the FarmVille game, earning additional profitability and the opportunity to receive mastery recognition for planting, growing and selling the Fruit Bars crops.

A handful of lucky players have been selected to plant trees in real life, as well. Sharyn Martinez is among the FarmVille enthusiasts traveling to Farmville, VA to plant a fruit orchard with Edy’s Fruit Bars. “Being from Los Angeles, I thought the only way I’d get to plant an orchard was on my beautiful virtual farm! But now, thanks to Edy’s Fruit Bars and Zynga, I am getting ready to dig in and plant fruit trees in the real town of Farmville,” says Sharyn.

The planting in Farmville, VA is an example of Edy’s Fruit Bars ongoing commitment to revitalizing one of our most precious resources: fruit trees. In 2010, Fruit Bars introduced Communities Take Root, an annual program dedicated to planting fruit tree orchards in deserving communities nationwide. Throughout the summer, Edy’s Fruit Bars invites people across the United States to cast their vote to help twenty communities blossom, one orchard at a time.

Brilliant! Wish I had thought of it!

Introducing…Royal Star Papaya

Tex Starr Distributing LLC, a newly formed company in South Texas announces the unveiling of the company’s new sweet papaya variety called Royal Star Papaya. The proprietary seed variety is a natural hybrid that is sweet, firm, and brightly colored inside and out.

To reach the consumer, Tex Starr Distributing LLC plans to launch a consumer marketing push this summer to align with the product’s availability.

David Peterson, grower and proprietor of Tex Starr Distributing LLC., says, “Foodies, chefs, health and adventure eaters alike are searching for the next big culinary ingredient and we intend to give them Royal Star. It smells and looks enticing, tastes amazing, is great for your body and has a longer shelf life than other papaya varieties available on the market.”

While most Maradol papayas have a shelf life of 3 days once it has been cut, Royal Star Papaya has a shelf life of up to 5 days, even after it is cut. Uncut the fruit can last for up to 14 days.

Contact information for Tex Starr Distributing LLC, the only distributor of Royal Star Papaya, is available at

How to Grow Scrumptous Blueberries

Dr. Micheal Orzolek, a professor in Pennsylvania State University’s horticulture department, can grow a mean blueberry. Orzolek has been involved in growing blueberries for the past few years. He has incorporated some of SollerUSA’s technologies to help rejuvenate the blueberry crop. Currently, he is using both a root applied and folio applied program with drip irrigation and early field tests have shown that this program has increased his yield between 50-100 percent.

DrOrzolekDuring the Ag Associates Conference in Houston this week, Dr. Orzolek shared his results to a crowd of more than 100 people from all over the world. He told me during an interview that specifically he uses Flower Power, which gets really good flower production and also uses Fruit Power which increased the size of the berries as well as made them more succulent.

I asked Dr. Orzolek why treating the roots was so important. He said, “Roots are important because the root caps produce two of the plant hormones we use in plant production and also because all the nutrients come in through the caps. The result,” he continued, “of healthier plants is that we have less diseases and insect problems.”

He mentioned that he is getting a much better crop production with a lot less inputs of insecticides and fungicides.

I asked him what he recommended for other growers currently growing blueberries or considering growing them. He answered that he should consider both soil and foliar treatments and especially stressed the use of the Fruit Power.

Well, it must work because people have been known to try to sneak into his test plots but you’ll have to listen to the full interview with Dr. Orzolek to hear the full story.

Ag Associates Conference Flickr Album.

United Fresh Virtual Marketplace

logoThe United Fresh Produce Association is proud to announce the launch of the United Fresh Virtual Marketplace, the first 24/7 search engine for produce industry products and services associated with a North American produce event.

The United Fresh Virtual Marketplace lists detailed product information in hundreds of categories from over 220 companies, including exhibitors at the upcoming United Fresh 2009 convention in Las Vegas, April 21-24. While the Virtual Marketplace was launched to coincide with United Fresh 2009, the site will continue to add new products and companies all year long.

The new database is built on a state-of-the-art product search platform, allowing visitors a completely free service to search for products of interest in a variety of ways. For example, visitors can search by product category for food safety equipment, packaging materials or new fresh produce items, or they can search for specific companies to see the array of product offerings from each.

The site also provides for an interactive user experience, allowing visitors to send messages to companies requesting additional information or personal meetings, and to create personalized lists of products and companies of interest.

Packing Fresh Apples

Johann SchollerOn my first IFAJ tour stop I spoke with our host, Johann Scholler, Steirerfrucht. They are a fresh fruit packing facility. The main product is apples although they also handle pears and other fruit.

Apples are the number one fresh fruit choice in Austria. After we left the plant we did visit a couple of different apple farms. We were apparently in between seasons when we were at the plant but they were still washing and packing apples. I’ve got some video of it but that will have to wait until later since I don’t have enough time to upload it.

Johann talked about organic apples since his company believes the market for it is growing. In fact, he says some experts are projecting 10-15% growth for the next 5 to 6 years. Like me, he doesn’t see much difference in organic and non-organic other than an emotional appeal since scientifically there’s not any reason to choose one over the other. But you have to give the consumer what they want.

He did say that “organic” trees produce less fruit and that can allow the fruit to obtain a higher sugar content.

You can listen to my interview with Johann here:

Listen to

IFAJ Congress 2008 Photo Album

AgWired coverage of IFAJ 2008 is sponsored by: Pioneer-HiBred and Novus International