Organic Farmer October/November 2019

jcsmarketinginc10

October/November 2019

Scaling Up Your Farm—Is It for You?

Organic Price Premiums Under Pressure

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Organic

FARMER

4

IN THIS ISSUE

Scaling Up Your Farm—

Is It for You?

PUBLISHER: Jason Scott

Email: jason@jcsmarketinginc.com

EDITOR: Kathy Coatney

ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Cecilia Parsons

Email: article@jcsmarketinginc.com

PRODUCTION: design@jcsmarketinginc.com

Phone: 559.352.4456

Fax: 559.472.3113

Web: www.organicfarmingmag.com

12

Organic Price Premiums

Under Pressure

4

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS

& INDUSTRY SUPPORT

16

22

28

Mating Disruption for

Navel Orangeworm

Available for Organic

Nut Crops

Organic Methods to

Control Filbertworm and

Other Hazelnut Pests

Organic Plant Breeding

Yields Superior Cucurbit

Varieties

Danita Cahill

Contributing Writer

Roland Fumasi

Senior Horticulture

Analyst, Rabo

AgriFinance

David Haviland

Entomology and

Pest Management

Advisor, UCCE Kern

County, Jhalendra

Rijal UCIPM Advisor,

Northern San

Joaquin Valley

Tammy Howard

NCAT/ATTRA

Sustainable Agriculture

Kiki Hubbard

Organic Seed Alliance

Lynn M. Sosnoskie

Specialty Crop Weed

Scientist at Cornell

University

34 Transitioning a

Conventional Apple

Orchard to Organic

38

42

Integrated Weed

Management Practices

for Controlling Unwanted

Vegetation

Growing Herbs the Old

School Way

34

UC COOPERATIVE EXTENSION

ADVISORY BOARD

Kevin Day

County Director and

UCCE Pomology Farm

Advisor, Tulare/Kings

County

Steven Koike

Director, TriCal

Diagnostics

Emily J. Symmes

UCCE IPM Advisor,

Sacramento Valley

Kris Tollerup

UCCE Integrated Pest

Management Advisor,

Parlier, CA

46

USDA Market Facilitation

Program

38

The articles, research, industry updates,

company profiles, and advertisements in this

publication are the professional opinions of

writers and advertisers. Organic Farmer does

not assume any responsibility for the opinions

given in the publication.

October/November 2019

www.organicfarmermag.com

3


SCALING UP YOUR FARM—IS IT FOR YOU?

By TAMMY HOWARD | NCAT/ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture Specialist

LOCAL FOODS PURCHASING

has moved beyond farmers markets

to mainstream grocery stores. As

consumers become more interested in

purchasing local foods, chain grocery

stores from Walmart to Safeway tout

their support of local farmers and are

trying to back it up by purchasing from

local or regional farmers. At the same

time, many established farmers want

to move out of time-consuming, often

saturated, direct marketing channels

such as farmers markets and community

supported agriculture models.

What is “Scaling Up?”

One approach is essential, however—

scaling up requires planning. Planning

for improvements and growth within

your operation can help alleviate

growing pains and excessive debt. This

article will include some strategies, but

your approach will depend on your

existing resources and markets, as well

as how much risk you are comfortable

with.

Considerations for Farm Growth

Perhaps the most important question to

ask yourself when considering expanding

your farm and farm markets is why?

Does the expansion align with your

farm goals? Is it going to significantly

affect your quality of life—for better

or for worse? Consider revisiting your

goals. If you have not developed goals

Continued on Page 6

In a recent article titled “How to know

when to scale up,” in Growing For

Market newsletter, Jed Beach a farm

consultant and farmer at 3 Bug Farm

says this term is used a lot by service

providers and consultants to signify

an expansion in scale of marketing

channels, production area or animal

numbers to meet regional marketing

demands for local foods. He argues

that for the most part there are better

ways for farmers to meet their quality of

life and profitability goals than a farm

expansion. It is important to keep in

mind that there is not a one-size-fits-all

approach to expanding your farm.

Gardens of Eagan started focusing on wholesale production initially as a certified organic supplier to

the coop chain in the Twin Cities in Minnesota. Eventually the farm was bought by the coop to be a

direct supply chain for the farm. As of 2015 the coop was considering selling the land as it was in a

highly desirable suburban corridor. See: https://atinadiffley.com/history-of-diffleys-gardens-of-eagan/

All photos courtesy of Tammy Howard, NCAT.

4

Organic Farmer October/November 2019


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Not all scaling up is through wholesale

marketing. Johnson’s Backyard Garden, literally

started in Brenton Johnson’s Backyard. Now it is

the largest organic farm and CSA in Texas.

Continued from Page 4

for your farm or written your goals

down, see the ATTRA publication

Evaluating a Farming Enterprise for a

goals worksheet at https://attra.ncat.

org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.

php?pub=277. Most farmers choose

to expand due to market factors. If

market demand increases or changing

to an intermediate or wholesale market

channel is in order, expansion will be

inevitable.

Market Assessment and

Considerations

Expanding your farm requires a wellthought-out

marketing plan. Wholesale

markets require product quality and

consistency. It is important to consider

whether or not you are able to produce

a quality product consistently throughout

the season. One of the best ways

to make this determination is through

excellent planning and record keeping.

Did you produce more product at a

consistent quality than you could sell?

Then expansion may be a good choice.

Intermediate markets are a good

segue into larger wholesale channels.

Producers are one step removed from

the end user—think small grocery

stores, restaurants, aggregators. They

allow the producer to maintain a brand

identity and have a higher return on

their product. They are ideal for midscale

producers and are a great way for

farmers to dabble in wholesale markets

and farm expansion, but with a lower

risk. Below is an overview of intermediate

marketing channels to consider

when expanding your farm:

Grocery Stores

Grocery stores vary widely in their

volume and food-safety requirements.

Independent grocery stores and food

cooperatives can be more amenable to

limited volume and lack of consistency.

Larger chain grocery stores may have

shelving fees and regional distribution

models that might make it harder to

break into supplying them. The best

way to find out about grocery store

requirements is to contact the produce

manager.

See the ATTRA Marketing Tipsheet

Tips for Selling to Grocery Stores

https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/

summary.php?pub=387

CSA

There are several very large farms that

sell through a community supported

agriculture (CSA) model. CSAs are

complex in that you have to manage

a lot of different crops as well as deal

with your customers. It is important to

have experience selling through a CSA

before expanding to a larger scale. It is

also important to consider your goals

for expansion. Is your expansion goal

to specialize and simplify the number

and types of crops that you grow? If so,

a CSA is probably not a good marketing

option.

For more information, see ATTRA’s

publication Tips for Selling

through CSAs

https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/

summary.php?pub=391

Restaurants

Selling to restaurants can be a great way

to scale up the farm. This opportunity

really depends on the restaurant and

their purchasing volume, however.

Some restaurants will want small

quantities of very specialized products

from farmers but buy larger quantity

items from a wholesale distributor.

Contact chefs that have expressed a

desire to purchase local foods. Many

local food organizations have events

that connect producers with restaurant

and other wholesale markets. Keep an

eye out for these types of events locally.

Some restaurants and grocery stores are

willing to finance equipment purchases.

Gallatin Valley Botanical in Bozeman,

Montana worked with a large restaurant

in Bozeman to scale up their farm. Ale

Works has partnered with Matt and

Jacy Rothschiller since 2010, when they

invested in the family’s organic vision at

a key moment when expansion capital

was needed.

Their first initiative—Cash for

Carrots—helped Matt and Jacy purchase

farm equipment to expand their

carrot production such as a seeder and

root washer. Ale Works was paid back

in veggies. The collaboration earned Ale

Works an EcoStar award in 2014.

They also stepped up to help the family

purchase neighboring Rocky Creek

Farm in 2018, increasing their acreage

and ensuring the longevity of an organic

family farm just three miles outside

busy downtown Bozeman. (Montana

Ale Works, 2019)

Aggregators and Food Hubs

If your operation is not quite large

enough to reach wholesale volumes, you

may need to aggregate your product

with products from other growers.

This can pose a challenge for product

quality, consistency, and traceability.

Aggregating can also have significant

implications for food safety and marketing

(Day-Farnsworth et al., 2009).

6

Organic Farmer October/November 2019


There are many innovations and

solutions that have helped growers

successfully aggregate their products to

sell to larger markets. Food hubs coordinate

the aggregation of products from

multiple producers. Some food hubs

can be Internet-based, or virtual. Others

provide the physical infrastructure for

packing and shipping quantities that

most small-scale producers find difficult

to manage on their own. An older study

of marketing through food hubs as a

way to meet the demand for local foods

at a wholesale level, researchers found

the following innovations to be most

successful:

• Pre-season planning among grower

pools can help match supply to demand

and give growers a better idea of what it

costs to produce specific products.

• Buyers, growers, and distributors can

collaboratively project product sales in

advance of the season, and growers can

plant according to these projections.

•Aggregators and distributors can

provide buyers with product availability

updates at least weekly during the

growing season.

• Growers and entrepreneurs can pool

their resources to improve their storage

capacity, make transportation more

efficient, and streamline logistics.

• Development of processing infrastructure

can build markets for blemished

produce that may not make the cut

for fresh market sales but can serve as

ingredients in processed foods (Day-

Farnsworth et al., 2009).

For more information and models

on aggregating, see the Good Food

Network’s Food Hub Center. This

includes information and resources

on starting and managing foods

hubs. http://www.ngfn.org/resources/

food-hubs

Schools and Other

Institutional Buyers

Selling to institutions such as schools,

hospitals, and government agencies

can be a challenge because they often

have tight budgets, are locked into

contracts with certain distributors, and

have limited cooking capacity. There is

growing interest on the part of hospitals

and schools in sourcing local products,

however. It is likely that food safety

requirements will be greater in these

settings, and producers will need higher

liability insurance. If you intend to sell

to institutions, it is also important to

Continued on Page 8

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Continued from Page 7

consider whether or not you are able

to provide a consistent quantity and

supply, and if the price point is acceptable.

Contact the food service manager

at the institution you are interested

in selling to, in order to find out their

requirements.

For more information, see ATTRA’s

publication Tips for Selling to

Institutional Markets

https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=399

With wholesale markets, there is

typically not a higher price point or

brand identity retention. Some growers

appreciate the security of forward

contracting and less time spent on

marketing despite the lower price point.

Wholesale Success, is an essential guide

for fruit and vegetable farmers that are

considering scaling up for wholesale

markets. See the Resources section of

this article for information on purchasing

this manual.

Tips for Wholesale Success—

Excerpted from Wholesale Success by

Family Farmed

• Buyers want larger quantities—many

prefer pallets. Production should yield a

consistent weekly supply.

• Producers must build relationships

with wholesale buyers and stay in touch

regularly to communicate issues such as

timing, quantity, price, quality, etc.

• Field heat must be removed with

proper cooling. The “cold chain” must

be maintained from the field to the customer

with refrigerated storage of most

fruits and vegetables.

• Products must be sorted uniformly

to match United States Department of

Agriculture (USDA) grades. Food safety

procedures must be followed including

necessary record keeping.

Distributors

Produce distributors are businesses that

aggregate product and resell it in small

or large quantities to their customers.

Distributors may range in size from an

individual with a van to a company with

a fleet of eighteen-wheelers.

Distributors primarily purchase directly

from farmers, although they may also

buy from brokers or packing houses.

Most distributors will expect producers

to follow stringent food safety requirements

and use an invoicing system.

For more information, see ATTRA’s

publication Tips for Selling to Produce

Distributors

https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=403

Infrastructure Evaluation and

Needs

Equipment

The type of market will dictate the level

of infrastructure investment. Typically,

a farm that expands to sell through

wholesale channels moves from a

very diverse operation to one that is

more specialized. Nationally, there are

several regional CSAs that have scaled

up to serve more than 1,000 members.

Managing 50 + crops at that scale can be

very difficult but there are some farmers

that have successfully pulled it off.

Generally, however, most farmers that

scale up decrease the diversity of their

crops. While you may grow fewer crops,

these crops should be available consistently,

for a longer period of time, to

satisfy your markets. If you choose to

grow fewer crops, it is also important

to manage soil quality on your farm

through crop rotations, cover cropping,

and other measures. This will typically

require specialized planting, harvesting

and cultivation equipment. Many farms

that choose to expand, have acquired

equipment over a period of time,

however.

As Jean-Paul Courtens of the Roxbury

Agriculture Institute and Hudson

Valley Food Hub says in his Roxbury

Farm Equipment manual “The ideal

equipment system for your farm is (a

Continued on Page 10

This flatbed trailer is converted into a field based grader in the peak harvest season. Consider what

your current farm resources are. Where do you need to specialize, and what equipment investments

can address the “weak link” on your farm?

8

Organic Farmer October/November 2019


October/November 2019

www.organicfarmermag.com

9


Continued from Page 8

decision) you must make before you

spend a nickel. Purchasing equipment

narrows your options for future purchases.

Try to discover what the weakest

link on your farm is. The chain breaks

at the weakest link. Out of this you

create a list of priorities of equipment

to purchase. At our farm we are very

dependent on good plant establishment

from transplants. For years we set our

plants out with a water-wheel planter.

As we grew in size, this method developed

problems: it was time consuming,

the planter was not ergonomically well

designed for long periods of work, and

plants would not get into the fields

when we had only small windows of

opportunity. Our field production

suffered, so the process of transplanting

became our weakest link. Reducing the

number of transplants was in our case

not an option. We bought a high-speed

carousel planter that allowed us to

increase the efficiency of transplanting

by 300 percent It is important to

be realistic about the scale you will be

operating at and allow for improvement.”(Courtens,

2006)

Land

Often, one of the limiting factors for a

farm expansion is land access. Leasing

land can be a great option if financing

a land purchase is not possible. It also

gives you the opportunity to try farming

at a larger scale without committing to a

piece of land through purchasing. When

renting, however, it is important to have

a lease that is fair and legal. Research

the market price of land rentals in your

region. Your county cooperative extension

office or farmland preservation

organizations may have local land-lease

rates. The Farm Commons provides

information on leasing and lessee and

landowner rights. It also provides

sample leases. See https://farmcommons.org/land-matters

Another consideration when leasing

land is the quality of the land and

the existing infrastructure. If you are

leasing, it is important to use land that

will not take a lot of time and resources

to improve. If the land is excessively


When renting, however, it is important to have

a lease that is fair and legal. Research the

market price of land rentals in your region.

weedy or has poor soil, it is likely not

worth investing time because you will

not get any equity out of your land

improvements. It is also important to

consider access to the land, as well as to

water and electricity.

The ATTRA publication Tips for Farm

Leases and Contracts: Creating Smart,

Effective Documents (https://attra.ncat.

org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.

php?pub=427) can help you understand

the considerations in developing an

effective and fair farm lease.

If expanding your farm has been a part

of your long-term goals, buying land

may be a better option than leasing.

Purchasing can be costly, especially

if you live in an area that has high

land prices. Financing the purchase of

land can be difficult. The USDA-Farm

Service Agency (FSA) can be a great

option for obtaining a low-interest loan

for the purchase of land or equipment

for your expansion if you do not qualify

for a conventional loan. Any financer

will expect you to have a projected cash

flow statement to demonstrate that your

expansion will be profitable.

The ATTRA publication Finding

Land to Farm (https://attra.ncat.

org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.

php?pub=174) includes important considerations

as well as helpful resources

on leasing or purchasing land.

Labor

Labor is a very important, if not the

most important consideration for

scaling up your farm. Labor costs can

quickly eat into gross sales on a vegetable

farm of any size. Labor requires a


whole new level of planning, financial

management, and communication. Yet,

if you are scaling up your farm, you

most likely will need to hire labor. It

can be difficult to find labor and many

farmers refrain from scaling up for this

reason alone. Consider whether you

enjoy working with people and feel like

you have the management skills to take

on employees. Check into your state’s

labor laws before hiring anyone. If you

intend on hiring labor, at the minimum

you will need to pay workers compensation

tax and the state’s minimum wage.

In a study about livelihoods of several

different scales of market farms, the

Center for Integrated Agricultural

Systems found that vegetable farms

over 12 acres often have crews of 10

or more people during the growing

season. A 20-acre vegetable farm may

require 12,500 or more total labor hours

per year. The four large-scale organic

operations in their study ranged from

462 to 613 total labor hours per acre

and averaged 554. The farmers themselves

accounted for between 17 percent

and 45 percent of the total labor hours

in these enterprises. Payroll expenses

consumed between 19 percent and 41

percent of gross farm sales (average of

32 percent) (Hendrickson, 2005).

Return on Investment and Gross

Margin—In Other Words, are

you Financially Equipped for a

Farm Expansion?

Jed Beach in his article in Growing

for Market recommends that every

farm have an understanding of their

“gross margin” before considering an

expansion. He says “Gross margin is an

10

Organic Farmer October/November 2019


important measurement of efficiency

for any farm—it measures your ability

to convert sales into gross profit. The

higher the gross margin, the better.”

Calculating gross margin happens by

simply subtracting your variable costs

from your gross revenue (AKA your

sales). This calculates your “gross profit.”

Next, divide your gross profit by your

gross revenues. This calculates your

gross margin—the percentage of every

dollar in sales you make that is gross

profit (Beach 2019). He suggests tracking

your gross margin over time. If it

starts to go up—maybe it is a good time

to expand your farm.

Another important consideration is

your return on investment. In other

words, will you make more money

based on your investment if you

expand? The publication titled Fearless

Farm Financing helps farmers gain a

deeper understanding of their finances.

Chapter 13 on Farm Investment

Analysis is a great place to start in

breaking down the decision into a series

of questions that you should consider

when thinking of making investments

to expand a farm enterprise. Fearless

Farm Financing is a great book to have

in your farm library.

Fork. 2019.

https://www.montanaaleworks.com/

farm-to-fork

Day-Farnsworth, Lindsey, Brent

McCown, Michelle Miller, and Anne

Pfeiffer. 2009. Scaling Up: Meeting

the Demand for Local Food. Center

for Integrated Agricultural Systems,

Madison, WI. www.cias.wisc.edu/

scaling-up-meeting-the-demand-forlocal-food/

Resources

ATTRA Scaling up for institutional

markets tutorial

https://attra.ncat.org/tutorials/

Scaling up your Vegetable Farm for

Regional Markets

https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/download.php?id=469

Produce Safety tutorial and videos

https://attra.ncat.org/food_safety/

Padgham, J., Dietmann, P., Chase,

C., and Blanchard, C. 2012.

Fearless Farm Finances. Midwest

Organic and Sustainable Education

Service. https://mosesorganic.org/

fearless-farm-finances/

Diffley, A. and Slama J. 2012 Wholesale

Success: A Farmer’s Guide to Food

Safety, Postharvest Handling, Packing

and Selling Produce. Family Farmed.org

Comments about this article? We want

to hear from you. Feel free to email us at

article@jcsmarketinginc.com

FREE online ag resources

publications, podcasts, videos, and more

Scaling up your farm to meet regional

market demand takes a lot of planning

and investment. Revisit your farm goals

to insure that a farm expansion aligns

with your farm and lifestyle goals. Be

sure to do some return on investment

calculators to make sure your expansion

will pay off in the not so distant future

and finally, before expanding, make sure

you have a thorough marketing plan.

References

Beach, Jed. April 2019. How to know

when to scale up. Growing for Market.

Courtens, Jean—Paul. 2006. Roxbury

Farm Equipment. Regenerative Farming

Practices-Information for Farmers.

https://www.roxburyfarm.com/

information-for-farmers

How can ATTRA help you?

Trusted technical assistance for your ag challenges

Call toll-free 800-346-9140 or 800-411-3222 (español)

Montana Ale Works Web site. Farm to

October/November 2019

www.organicfarmermag.com

11


Organic Price Premiums

Under Pressure

By ROLAND FUMASI | Senior Horticulture Analyst, Rabo AgriFinance

THE ORGANIC PRODUCE

market has had tremendous

growth over the last five years. But

could the sector’s rapid expansion be

damaging its own prices?

A few years ago demand for organic

produce was expanding faster than the

industry was growing supply. The telltale

signs were rising prices alongside rising

volumes. Between 2013 and 2015, retail

prices for the top seven organic produce

items rose by an unweighted average of

1.3 percent per year. Recently however,

there are indications that growth in

organic movement has changed as

retail prices have declined by an annual

unweighted average of 0.4 percent in

2016-2018.

In spite of softer prices, retail volume

growth has slowed for these top-selling

organic products. In 2013-2015, retail

volume rose by an unweighted annual

average of 13.8 percent. In 2016-2018,

retail volume growth slowed to 8.9

percent per year. Growth in organic berry

volumes is a notable exception, as volume

growth was higher in 2016-2018, but

the rate of growth ticked lower in 2017

and 2018.

At Rabo AgriFinance, we dove into analysis

mode to make sense of the numbers.

The data suggest that things have changed

and will continue to change. It is likely

that for some fresh produce crops,

short-run demand by consumers who

strictly buy organic has been satisfied

by increasing supplies. The value-chain

must now move additional supplies to

consumers with a different demand

profile. This second group—the majority

of U.S. consumers—are willing to buy

organic produce some of the time but

are much more price sensitive than strict

organic consumers. As organic supplies

have increased, this price sensitivity has

resulted in weaker organic prices.

Shipping-Point Volumes

Continue Higher, But Prices Have

Declined

Reported organic shipping-point volumes

were higher for most crops in 2018,

and annual increases in shipping-point

volume have accelerated for some fresh

produce items. Organic apple, orange,

strawberry and bell pepper movement

have all shown continued acceleration

in growth. In 2010-2012, average annual

growth in volume for apples, strawberries

and bell peppers were 6 percent, 14

percent, and 145 percent, respectively.

From 2016 to 2018, average annual

reported volume growth was 14 percent,

26 percent, and 185 percent, respectively.

Annual growth in organic blueberry,

cantaloupe, and grape tomato volumes

continues, but growth rates have moderated

in recent years (Figure 1, see

page 13).

The continued growth in organic volumes

has now begun to weigh negatively

on shipping-point prices. During the

2016-2018 period, seven of the eight

organic produce items we compared had

declines in average annual price. Table

grapes were the exception, but they were

also the only crop that had a reduction

in average annual volume. However,

percentage volume gains have been much

higher than the percentage price declines,

resulting in increased revenues for shippers,

and indicating a high level of price

elasticity for organic produce. We also

note that the price declines in 2016-2018

followed sharp price increases during the

2010-2015 period (Figure 2, see page 13).

Due to the increased yield risk and

labor costs of organic produce production,

relative to conventionally-grown

produce, growers/shippers expect to

receive a premium price. The premium

level needed varies depending on the

specific crop, location and grower.

Without an adequate premium to offset

the increased risk and cost, producers

will find it challenging to justify organic

production. Retailers are demanding

increased organic volumes, but retail

prices are being lowered—in some

cases—to adequately move the higher

volumes. As organic produce continues

to become more mainstream and supplies

continue to increase, the organic market

will continue to more closely resemble

the conventionally-grown market.

Over-supply will cause immediate—and

sometimes extreme—declines in price.

These changes are already leading to

decreased organic premiums.

Of the crops in which adequate data

allowed comparison, half showed

clear reductions in organic premiums.

Premiums for organic apples, blueberries,

pears, strawberries and bell peppers

have come under pressure, while organic

premiums are holding up better for cantaloupe,

table grapes, oranges and grape

tomatoes (Figure 3, see page 13).

Note: Prices used were volume-weighted

weekly averages in each year, and were

only compared for weeks in which both

prices and volumes were reported for both

organic and conventional options.

Reported shipping-point movement and

prices for many organic crops have only

become significant since 2016. Organic

premiums for this group of crops are

12

Organic Farmer October/November 2019


average annual change in reported volume

average annual change in reported volume

Figure 1. Figure 1. Changes 1. Changes in in Organic in Organic Shipping

Shipping

Point Volumes, Point Volumes, 2010-2018

2010-2018

225%

225%

200%

200%

175%

175%

150%

150%

125%

125%

100%

100%

75% 75% 75%

50% 50% 50%

25% 25% 25%

0% 0% 0%

-25%

-25%

-50%

-50%

average annual change in reported volume

average annual change in weekly volume-weighted

price

Figure 2. Figure 2. Changes 2. Changes in in Organic in Organic Shipping

Shipping

Point Prices, Point 2010 Prices, -2018

2010 -2018

20% 20% 20%

15% 15% 15%

10% 10% 10%

5% 5% 5%

0% 0% 0%

-5% -5% -5%

-10%

-10%

-15%

-15%

-20%

-20%

average annual change in weekly volume-weighted

price

average annual change in weekly volume-weighted

price

2010-2012 2010-2012 2013-2015 2013-2015 2016-2018

2016-2018

2010-2012 2010-2012 2013-2015 2013-2015 2016-2018

2016-2018

average weekly volume-weighted percent

average weekly volume-weighted percent

premium

premium

average weekly volume-weighted percent

premium

140%

120%

100%

80% 80%

60% 60%

40% 40%

20% 20%

0% 0%

Figure 3. Figure 3. Organic 3. Organic Produce Produce Shipping-Point Shipping-Point Price Premiums, Price Premiums, 2014 - 2018 -2014 - 2018

140%

120%

100%

80%

60%

40%

20%

0%

2014 2014 2015 2015 2016 2016 2017 2017 2018

2018

compared in (Figure 4, see page 14).

200%

Organic premiums for cauliflower,

200%

180%

celery,

180%

kale, spinach and sweet 160%

corn

160%

appear to

be trending positive. 140% Artichoke, 140% green

120%

leaf lettuce, iceberg lettuce and 120% red leaf

100%

100%

lettuce organic premiums 80% 80% have weakened.

80%

For other crops, any 60% discernable 60% 60% trend is

harder to see. 40% 40%

average weekly volume-weighted percent

premium

average weekly volume-weighted percent

premium

average weekly volume-weighted percent

premium

20% 20%

0% 0%

To aid growers deciding whether to

expand more acres into organic production,

we categorized the opportunity

and risk levels for crops. Crops in the

Positive category could experience shortrun

organic supply expansion and most

likely maintain suitable organic price

premiums. The Neutral category crops

may reach undesirable premium levels

if supply expansion occurs too rapidly.

Crops in the Caution category are experiencing—or

are approaching—premium

Figure 4. Figure 4. Organic 4. Produce Organic Produce Shipping- Shipping- Point Price Point Premiums, Price Premiums, 2016 - 2018 - 2016 - 2018

40%

20%

0%

levels that do not adequately compensate

suppliers for the increased risk and

cost of organic production (Table 1, see

page 14).

Short-Run Opportunities

Aren’t Lost

Strategic opportunities still exist for

crops that fall in the Neutral or Caution

categories—which we determined by the

annual averages for organic premium

pricing. There are still seasonal opportunities,

in which organic premiums

remain 2016significantly 2017high. 2017 For 2018 example, 2018 2018

organic premiums for blueberries

averaged 45 percent in 2018 on a weekly

volume-weighted basis. There were nine

weeks, however, in which premiums rose

to above 90 percent and three weeks in

which they were above 100 percent. The

opportunity to take advantage of these

market opportunities depends heavily

on the specific growing region, which

influences the ability to target particular

market windows.

Another consideration is that the

presented data are averages across all

varieties, pack sizes and grades. There

may be opportunities for crops in the

Caution category when more specific

agro-economic conditions are considered.

The level of price premium needed to

compensate for increased yield risk and

production cost will also vary by grower/

supplier. We tend to use a minimum of 40

percent premium as a rule-of-thumb, but

some producers may need more, while

Continued on Page 14

October/November 2019

www.organicfarmermag.com

13


2010-2012 2013-2015 2016-2018

average weekly volume-weighted percent

premium

compensate suppliers Figure 3. Organic for the Produce increased Shipping-Point risk and cost Price of organic Premiums, production 2014 - 2018(See Table 1).

140%

Table 1: Cauon is Warranted for Short- Run Supply Expansion in Specific Crops

120%

Positive

100%

Neutral Caution

Artichokes 80%

Kale Broccoli Apples

60%

Cabbage Oranges Carrots Bell Peppers

40%

Cantaloupe 20%

Spinach Iceberg Lettuce Blackberries

Cauliflower

0%

Sweet Corn Lemons Blueberries

Celery Sweet Potatoes Red Leaf Lettuce Green Leaf Lettuce

Grape Tomatoes Table Grapes Romaine Lettuce Pears

Honeydew

Strawberries

2014 2015 2016 2017 2018

Source: Rabobank 2019

average weekly volume-weighted percent

premium

200%

180%

160%

140%

120%

100%

80%

60%

40%

20%

0%

Figure 4. Organic Produce Shipping- Point Price Premiums, 2016 - 2018

2016 2017 2018

Continued from Page 13

others will be adequately compensated

with less. Growers who have implemented

strategies that effectively lower their yield

risk in organic production will have a

stronger incentive to continue to increase

organic production—even in the shortrun—for

crops listed in our ‘Caution’

category. Shippers who maintain organic

premiums at levels higher than competitors—through

branding, quality of

product, or quality of service—will have

greater incentive to continue expanding

organic offerings. And they will be better

able to compensate their growers.

Mid-to Long-Term Opportunities

Remain, But the Game has

Changed

Driven by consumer and retailer-centric

demand forces, as well as regulatory

pressures that favor organic production,

we expect organic produce production to

continue to increase, and that long-run

opportunities will continue to exist in

the space. Growers will have to continue

to adapt to effectively take advantage of

changes in the market.

Further out, as more millennial consumers

grow their disposable income and

start families, it is likely that the demand

for strict, organic-only produce purchases

will continue to grow; especially given the

continued expansion of organic promotion

by retailers. However, with greater

financial responsibility, comes the potential

of increasing price sensitivity for this

group of consumers as well. Generation

Z consumers will ultimately add fuel to

these trends.

Organic produce availability has now

become mainstream, which means

that the organic produce market will

continue to more closely resemble the

traditionally-grown produce market.

Price strength—or weakness—has and

will become most heavily influenced by

supply-side gaps and gluts. Technological

advances and continued improvements

in production practices will help ensure

long-run profitability for adaptive

suppliers. Figuring out how to produce

organically at a unit cost that is similar

to conventional production is the evasive

but long-run goal.

Comments about this article? We want

to hear from you. Feel free to email us at

article@jcsmarketinginc.com

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Organic Farmer October/November 2019


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October/November 2019 www.organicfarmermag.com 15


Mating Disruption for Navel

Orangeworm Available for

Organic Nut Crops

By DAVID HAVILAND | Entomology and Pest Management Advisor, UCCE Kern County

By JHALENDRA RIJAL | UC IPM Advisor, Northern San Joaquin Valley

Photo courtesy of David Haviland.

16

Organic Farmer October/November 2019


EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT OF NAVEL

orangeworm requires an integrated approach to

pest management. This is especially true in organic

nut crops where insecticides that are industry standards

in convention orchards are not available. This puts

added emphasis on the need for variety selection, winter

sanitation, timely harvest, and mating disruption.

Mating Disruption

Mating disruption works by using dispensers to flood

an orchard with synthetically-produced pheromone,

thus interrupting the ability of male moths to find and

mate with females. Reductions in eggs and larvae occur

if females fail to mate or if there is a delay in when

mating occurs.

There are currently two mating disruption products

registered for use in organic nut crops in California.

The first is Cidetrak NOW Meso from Trécé. The ‘Meso’

dispenser looks like a foot-long strip of rubber that

releases pheromone passively throughout the season.

The emitters are typically hung in the orchard at a rate

of 20 per acre, with the label allowing a range of 15 to

Semios pheromone dispensers include climate sensors for automatic,

in-canopy degree day tracking and pest flight predictions. Photo courtesy

of Kelly Petersen.

28. Dispensers are hung in the orchard prior to moth emergence

in the spring. Pheromone is released throughout the season for

approximately 150 to 180 days and there is no need to recover the

emitters at the end of the season.

The second product is called Semios NOW Eco from Semios.

This product releases pheromone from pressurized aerosol

Continued on Page 18

October/November 2019

www.organicfarmermag.com

17


Hand-applied pheromone mating disruption dispenser

for navel orangeworm in pistachio. Photo courtesy of

Trècè, Inc.

Crack a mummy nut and you may find a navel orangeworm inside.

Photo courtesy of Kelly Petersen.

W MESO Continued applied in from pistachio Page orchard 17

Semios NOW Eco) reduced captures of

male moths in pheromone traps by 93

canisters contained within dispensers. and 90 percent, respectively. The difficulty

of

ch, distributer

The dispensers

with

are

Bear

placed

River

in the tree

Supply

at a

used CIDETRAK®

males to find pheromone traps

rate of 1 per acre prior to moth emergence

MESO in the last spring. year The and standard said, rate “It’s a good were interfering tool in with the the tool-

use of phero-

served as an indicator that the systems

NOW

e will for be pheromone using it puff again by the this dispenser year.” is mone as a way for males to find females.

at 15-minute intervals when moths are At harvest, these two systems reduced

that have active. used The timing CIDETRAK® of pheromone CMDA release + overall NOW damage MESO by 46 or percent, CIDE- including

is controlled remotely via a wireless 22.3 percent reductions for Nonpareil,

OW MESO

network

alone

that allows

or in

the

combination

dispensers to

with

59.7

insecticide

percent reductions

sprays

for Monterey,

found modify to be daily very or effective.

hourly rates based on and 63.5 percent reductions for Fritz

pest pressure, weather conditions, crop across all three locations.

n immediate phenology, need and seasonal to protect phenology your harvest from NOW. Left

of navel orangeworm. Moth activity Similar results were found during 2017

, the economic damage on growers will be devastating. The

is tracked using camera traps that are and 2018 as part of a Pest Management

t is now. remotely The monitored need is immediate.

over a wireless Alliance Project that was funded by

network. The system also includes the California Department of Pesticide

leading weather innovator stations, in a password-protected

mating disruption Regulation, and control also in systems, almonds. This

onventional grower computer and organic interface use. to monitor project did side-by-side comparisons

moths and weather, and degree-day of orchards that were managed conventionally,

typically using sanitation

models. Dispenser installation, maintenance

and removal is provided by the plus one or two insecticide applications,

manufacturer.

versus a neighboring orchard using

®

Trécé Incorporated the same management Tel: 1-866-785-1313 program plus

UC Research 7569 Highway 28 West mating disruption. Fax: 1-918-785-3063 At sites in Lost Hills

INCORPORAT ED

(2018) and Ballico (2018), Cidetrak

NE & KAIROMONE SYSTEMS

Adair, Ok 74330

custserv@trece.com

Trials by the University of California NOW Meso reduced male captures in

USA

www.trece.com

have shown that both mating disruption

systems are effective within translated into 41.9 and 50.0 percent

traps by 100.0 and 94.0 percent, which

conventionally-grown almond orchards. reductions in the pounds of damage

During 2017, side-by-side comparison

trials using 40-acre plots in three At sites in Wasco (2017 and 2018) and

kernels per acre at harvest, respectively.

Kern County orchards were funded by Turlock (2017 and 2018), Semios NOW

the Almond Board. They showed that reduced male captures by 94.7 1/15/19 to 100.0 10:56 AM

Cidetrak NOW Meso and Semios NOW percent with percentage reductions the

Extra (the conventional equivalent of pounds of damaged kernels averaging

63.9 percent.

A separate set of demonstrations in

Modesto during 2018 evaluated the use

of Cidetrak NOW Meso in ~25 acre

orchards. Across all three varieties,

male captures were reduced by 96.4

percent and damage was reduced by

60-90 percent at the center of each plot,

although overall NOW nut damage was

less than 1 percent.

Economic Analysis of Data

Economic analysis of data from all

research trials showed that mating

disruption typically paid for itself.

This was due to a decrease in yield

losses from damaged kernels, and due

to improved quality assessments that

define price premiums at the huller. As

an example of how this worked, imagine

a 2,500 pound per acre conventional

orchard with 3 percent damage. The

grower might typically receive $2.79 per

pound ($2.75 base price plus a $0.04

cent bonus) for a total value of $6,875

per acre. If damage were reduced by 50

percent (typical for mating disruption),

the grower would now have 1.5 percent

damage. The grower would get paid

for another 37.5 pounds of undamaged

kernels, and the entire load might

receive $2.89 per pound ($2.75 base

price plus $0.14 bonus) for a total value

of $7,333 per acre. This is an increase

of $358 per acre, which is two to three

Continued on Page 20

18

Organic Farmer October/November 2019


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© 2019, Trécé Inc., Adair, OK USA • TRECE, PHEROCON and CIDETRAK are registered trademarks of Trécé, Inc., Adair, OK USA • TRE-1602, 8/19


Continued from Page 18

times the cost of using any mating disruption

product. In hindsight across all

research sites, the cost of mating disruption

exceeded the return on investment

if damage without mating disruption

was under 1 percent, broke even if

damage was around 1.5 to 2 percent,

and very quickly turned into a positive

return on investment any time damage

exceeded 2 percent.

Organic growers considering mating

disruption should develop their own

cost-benefit analysis. This is especially

true considering that organic almond

orchards typically have reduced yields,

but higher per-pound prices than the

previous example. Growers should

also consider other benefits of mating

disruption, such as increased crop

exportability due to decreased risk

of aflatoxins, increased ability to sell

in-shell nuts, or the value of marketing

the sustainability of production

practices.

Individual Orchard Conditions

Individual orchard conditions should

also be considered when determining

the fit for a mating disruption system.

This includes the size and orientation

of the orchard as well as the surrounding

landscape. Effective mating disruption

assumes that a solid plume of pheromone

can be maintained within the

orchard. This means that when implementing

mating disruption, bigger is

better. Efficacy is also increased when

orchards are shaped like squares or rectangles.

Efficacy is reduced as orchards

become longer and skinnier, especially

in areas known for high winds that can

blow pheromone off-site.

Orientation of the orchard within the

landscape should also be considered.

This is especially true because mating

Aerosol mating disruption dispenser. Photo

courtesy of Pacific Biocontrol Corporation.

disruption cannot control gravid

moths that fly into the orchard after

mating elsewhere. Mating disruption

works best when the surrounding

landscape does not contain navel

orangeworm hosts, or where the

neighboring growers have effective

sanitation and spray programs. The

ability of navel orangeworm to move

back and forth among neighboring

orchards makes communication with

neighbors essential when trying to

control this pest at a landscape scale. In

an ideal situation, the organic grower

using mating disruption would be

surrounded by neighbors who are also

using mating disruption to contribute

to an even larger, contiguous pheromone

plume.

For more information on mating disruption,

consult with the University of

California Integrated Pest Management

Guidelines found at the UC IPM Web

site (http://ipm.ucanr.edu). Once at

the site, click on Agricultural Pests,

followed by Almonds, Pistachios or

Walnuts. Additional information can

also be provided by your local UC

Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor.

Comments about this article? We want

to hear from you. Feel free to email us at

article@jcsmarketinginc.com

20

Organic Farmer October/November 2019


October/November 2019

www.organicfarmermag.com

21


Organic Methods to

Control Filbertworm

and Other

Hazelnut Pests

By DANITA CAHILL | Contributing Writer

Adult filbertworm. Photo courtesy of Vaughn Walton.

Filbertworm Control Session

GO AHEAD AND GET A

little batty if you want to control

filbertworms in your hazelnut

orchard. Since bats eat night-flying

insects, including the filbertworm

moth, attracting them to your orchard

is a beneficial and organic way to help

control filbertworm population. Give

bats a place to call home by installing

bat boxes.

The Oregon Organic Hazelnut Co-op

(OOHC) sponsored a filbertworm

presentation at the Nut Growers Society

Summer Tour in Albany, Oregon. Two

of the four-member panel of experts

had opposite results with bat boxes.

Linda Perrine put up boxes, but never

had a single bat move in. Kirk Reinecke

had better results. He went online to

search out plans, and then built his own

boxes, which the bats sleep in during

the day.

Groundcover going into winter

can create increased filbertworm,

(Melissopus latiferreanus Walsingham)

populations, since debris on the orchard

floor creates a habitat for the overwintering

larval stage. Overwintering larvae

are called hibernacula, “This describes

the larva in its protected case which

is woven from silk and debris,” said

panelist Betsey Miller, an Oregon State

University (OSU) Fruits and Small Nuts

research assistant.

It’s hard for the larvae to overwinter in

extremely wet soil.

Flailing is an important aspect for

organic control of filbertworm. Flail

thoroughly and often. Give orchards

a flail in the spring to remove debris.

Flail after initial nut drop to destroy

larvae—a ½ inch long, cream-colored

worm with brown head that lives inside

the shell and eats the kernel. Flail all

nuts if not picking.

Panelist Taylor Larson said there have

been studies done using fire in hazelnut

orchards in the early to mid-fall to

control filbertworm larvae. “Permitting

is the issue,” he said.

One grower from the audience shared

how he uses pigs to help clean up his

orchard. He puts up hot wire stands and

releases about 30 pigs at a time into the

orchard. When the pigs have cleaned

up one area, he moves them to another.

He later sells the pigs, and raises a new

batch the following year.

Mating Disruption

Using mating disruptor pheromone is

useful for maintaining a low filbertworm

population. It’s a good method

to keep the insects in check, but it’s

not as helpful if there is already a large

population of filbertworm moths in the

orchard. When large quantities of moths

are present, they could still flutter upon

one another by chance.

“Pheromone is heavier than the air, so

it will sink in sloped areas,” Miller said.

About the pheromone dispensers, she

said. “Put them up into the top onethird

of the canopy.”

Other advice from OSU extension

service about organic control of filbertworm:

Use monitoring traps to keep

tabs of insect levels in the orchard. Place

these traps up into the top one third of

the canopy as well. Use four traps for

the first 10 acres. Use one trap per each

additional four acres. If you count two

to three filbertworm moths per trap, or

five filbertworm moths in any one trap,

it’s time to take action. Side note: Very

early moth flight may not be a threat to

crops, especially if there are no nuts yet

developing.

22

Organic Farmer October/November 2019


"It’s best to hang them

before bud break.

Dispensers are easier

to hang at that time of

the year"

Filbertworm larvae on hazelnut. Photo courtesy of Chris Hedstrom.

Other moths will also fly into the traps.

To identify the filbertworm moth, look

for a small moth with gold scales on the

wings. “They are approximately 1 cm

from head to wing tip with an 1.8 cm

wingspan. The golden bands along their

wings are distinct markings; they have

a metallic shine in the sunlight,” Miller

explained.

OSU Extension advice when using

pheromone, or mating disruptors: The

Meso dispensers/rings work best in

orchards of at least 10 acres in size, and

"Not seeing

moths in your

traps? Don’t

worry, that’s

actually good

news."

in those with more “core” than “edge.”

Follow the label recommendation of

20-plus dispensers per acre. It’s best to

hang them before bud break. Dispensers

are easier to hang at that time of the

year. Also, they’ll be in place before

the first flight of the moths, which

can happen as early as mid-May. The

orchard canopy helps hold the pheromone

in the orchard.

Not seeing moths in your traps? Don’t

worry, that’s actually good news. The

pheromone point source is the trap,

which is releasing a cloud of pheromones.

The pheromones emitted

imitate those given off by female moths

to attract mates. If the male moth can’t

find the trap, it means he’s confused by

the pheromones and likely can’t find

the female moth, either. It’s a sign that

mating disruption is working.

Perrine used Entrust for nine out of

ten years to control filbertworm and

other insects that overwinter. The active

ingredient in Entrust is Spinosad. Use

10 fluid ounces per acre at egg hatch.

The year Perrine tried a different

product wasn’t as good a production

year for her. But she has concerns about

using the same spray year after year.

“We are going to build up resistance if

this is the only product we have to use.”

Hazelnut susceptibility to the filbertworm

is based on shell thickness.

Thinner-shelled varieties such as

McDonald, Wepster, Dorris, Yamhill,

Willamette and Sacajawea are more

susceptible. Jefferson and Polly O are

in the middle of the road, as far as shell

thickness and susceptibility goes.

As for cost, mating disruption is comparable

in cost to that of chemical spray

management of filbertworms. Some

growers choose to use mating disrupter

pheromone in the orchard and use

conventional full-coverage insecticide

spray along the border, whether growing

organically or conventionally. Perrine

discourages organic growers from using

conventional spray in the border. She

sited climate change and an already

large decrease in insect populations as

the reason.

In at least two studies, there was no

difference shown in crop damage between

mating disruption plots and grower standard

plots. However, filbert aphid counts

Continued on Page 24

October/November 2019

www.organicfarmermag.com

23


Continued from Page 23

were higher in the grower standard plots,

and beneficial parasitic aphid wasp count

was higher in the mating disruption plots.

Other takeaways from the OOHC presentation,

which took place at the Linn

County Fair & Expo Center: With climate

change comes hotter, drier summers. To

help maintain moisture in the root zone

of trees, use compost or wood chips.

Organic Bud Mite Control Session

Perrine said she’s had a 5 to 10 percent

reduction of nuts due to bud mites.

Mite infested buds do not produce nuts

and can cause abnormal vegetative

growth. Bud mites are a nearly translucent,

microscopic insect shaped like a

cigar. They live and feed inside new buds,

damaging or “blasting” the buds, which

swell (bud gall), dry up and drop off.

The mites then migrate from the blasted

buds to new buds in the spring. If using

either a conventional or an organically-certified

spray to control bud mites,

this is the time to apply. Mite migration

generally happens in late-March through

early April and into May in Oregon’s

Willamette Valley.

"As for

cost, mating

disruption is

comparable in

cost to that of

chemical spray

management of

filbertworms."

The Oregon Organic Hazelnut Co-op sponsored a presentation on Filbertworm control at the NGS

Summer Tour. Panelists from left: Linda Perrine, Taylor Larson, Kirk Reinecke and Betsey Miller. Photo

courtesy of Danita Cahill.

There are two varieties of mites that

feed on hazelnut leaves, flowers and

catkins, (Phytocoptella avellanae

and Cecidophyopsis vermiformis).

As nature would have it, there is

also a variety of beneficial mite,

(Galendromus spp). This cannibalistic

beneficial mite lives among, and feeds

on the damaging mites, as well as on

spider mites, which also cause hazelnut

damage. Unfortunately, release of

predatory mites may not be practical,

or cost effective, in a commercial

setting.

Some of the legacy varieties of

hazelnuts are the most susceptible

to bud blast—Daviana, Ennis

and Royal, although mites are not

common in the catkins of the pollinizers

Daviana and Royal. The OSU

breeding program selects against bud

mites, so although blasted buds are

fairly rare in recent cultivar releases,

severe infestations have been noted

in Casina, Clark, Lewis and Yamhill.

Barcelona, which is susceptible to

Eastern Filbert Blight, is not susceptible

to bud blast.

Monitor for mites with tacky insect

glue, sticky cards or double-sided

sticky tape. Place sticky monitor traps

on branches below blasted buds.

Since the mites cannot be seen with

the naked eye, use magnification to

count them regularly.

Mite flare ups could be linked to

uses of broad-spectrum insecticide,

causing a loss of biological control.

Organic Aphid

Control Session

“Aphids are a lover of moisture,”

Perrine said.

There was also talk about the aphid

parasitoid—or parasitic wasp (Trioxys

pallidus). It was imported to the US in

the 1960s. The adult wasp is very small,

only 2-3 millimeters (mm) long. It has a

shiny black head and thorax. Its abdomen

is long, slender and orange or yellowish

in color.

The adult wasp lays an egg inside an

aphid nymph. The egg hatches. The

larvae feasts on the inside of the aphid.

It pupates inside the aphid shell, or

mummy, then emerges as an adult wasp

through a small exit hole in the mummy.

Although the wasps are challenging to

spot and identify, you can monitor their

numbers by counting the aphid mummies

in your orchard. To protect the tiny predator,

Miller said, “It’s important to spray

as little as possible.”

“Let the natural biology process take

care of it,” Perrine said about aphid

populations.

If you do feel the need to spray, Impede is

a certified organic product with a sticker,

which helps keep it on the leaves through

the next rain. Apply it in late February

through early March.

Comments about this article? We want

to hear from you. Feel free to email us at

article@jcsmarketinginc.com

24

Organic Farmer October/November 2019


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Organic Farmer October/November 2019

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Andreas Westphal, UC Davis, Kearney Agriculture

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CE Credits: 30 Minutes, Other

NOW Management

Brad Higbee, Field Research & Development

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CE Credits: 30 Minutes, Other

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Water Availability Outlook

Beth Pandol, Executive Director, Kern Water Association

GROWER TRACK

Getting the Most Out of Your

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Richard Kreps, CCA

Top 5 Regulatory Topics Growers

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Christopher McGlothlin, Director of Technical Services,

Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA)

Jodi Devaurs, Director of Regulatory Affairs,

Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA)

9:30 AM

Integrated Pest Management

in Grapes

Steve Vasquez, Technical Viticulturist,

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CE Credits: 30 Minutes, Other

Pistachio Varieties

Craig Kallsen, UCCE Kern County

10:00 AM

10:30AM

Break

Trade Show CE Credits: 15 Minutes, Other

11:00 AM

11:30 AM

Asian Citrus Psyllid

Control in Citrus

Judy Zaninovich, Kern County

ACP-HLB Grower Liaison

CE Credits: 30 Minutes, Other

How to Diagnose Plant Diseases:

Lessons from Kern County

Mohammad Yaghmour Ph.D., Area Orchard Systems

Advisor, Cooperative Extension Kern County

CE Credits: 30 Minutes, Other

Diversifying with Hemp

Glenn Fankhauser, Kern County

Agricultural Commissioner

Chris Boucher, CEO, Farmtiva

12:00 PM

1:00 PM

Lunch

Adjourn

October/November 2019

www.organicfarmermag.com

27


Organic Plant Breeding Yields

Superior Cucurbit Varieties

By KIKI HUBBARD | Organic Seed Alliance

FARMERS LOOKING FOR

disease resistant cucurbits now have

more choices thanks to the release

of new cucumber and melon varieties by

Cornell University, the result of years of

research by public plant breeders and organic

farmers. These varieties are a result

of participatory breeding efforts focused

on cucurbits most in need of improvement,

and exhibit exceptional resistance

to evolving diseases as well as production

and culinary characteristics important to

organic farmers.

“Our approach to plant breeding

involves a close collaboration with

farmers, regional seed companies, and

other researchers to test varieties in the

environment of their intended use,” says

Michael Mazourek with the Department

of Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell

University. “In the case of these cucurbit

varieties, they were all bred with the

needs of organic farmers in mind.”

Pathogens emerge and evolve quickly, and

breeders struggle to stay ahead with new

resistant varieties. Downy mildew and

bacterial wilt are two devastating diseases

that too often wipe out entire cucurbit

crops. While conventional cucumber

growers rely on synthetic chemical inputs,

such as neonicotinoid seed treatments

and sprays, organic growers don’t have (or

want) that option and instead rely even

more on protecting crops from the inside

out: through plant genetics resistant to

diseases.

“The beauty of our success is that these

high-yielding, disease-resistant varieties

are as beneficial to conventional growers

as they are to organic,” Mazourek adds.

The varieties now available were developed

with support from the National

Institute for Food and Agriculture’s

Organic Research and Extension

Initiative (OREI), housed within the

United States Department of Agriculture

(USDA). Partnering with Cornell

University on the Eastern Sustainable

Organic Cucurbit Research Project

(ESOcuc) were Auburn University, North

Carolina State University, and Organic

Seed Alliance. Farmers, extension agents,

and seed companies along the East Coast

also played an important role.

The four objectives of ESOcuc were

to evaluate the most popular cucurbit

varieties for yield and pest and disease

resistance; breed improved varieties;

examine on-farm management strategies

to overcome environmental and

economic challenges; and make data

available to farmers through field days,

webinars, and other resources.

New Cucumber is Already a

Commercial Hit

Farmer-breeder Edmund Frost says he

can’t keep up with the demand for seed

that he grows and sells of DMR401, a

downy-mildew resistant (DMR) slicing

cucumber variety that was completed

through ESOcuc. Frost helped Mazourek

test this variety and related DMR lines

from Cornell on his farm for four years to

collect data on how it compares to other

commercial varieties on the market.

“There’s really nothing else like it,” says

Frost, an organic farmer and researcher

based in Louisa, Virginia, who also operates

a seed cooperative called Common

Wealth Seed Growers. “I’m excited to

get this variety into the hands of more

growers. Trials up and down the East

Coast continue to show that, in terms of

resistance, DMR401 stands out as the best

available.” The variety even beat those

developed by the biggest industry players,

including Monsanto’s Seminis (now

owned by Bayer).

DMR401 is an open-pollinated (OP)

variety that was bred and trialed in

organic systems. Because it is an OP with

no seed-saving restrictions, growers are

encouraged to make their own selections

to further adapt the genetics to their local

farm conditions and climate. The variety

grew out of an earlier release, DMR264,

which was funded in part through

USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research

Initiative (AFRI).

“The great arc of continued public

plant breeding funding is crucial,” says

Mazourek. “Key programs like AFRI

and OREI are essential to our success as

public breeders so that we can develop

new cultivars like DMR401 that have

characteristics farmers urgently need.”

In some cases, Mazourek explains, private

funds have followed public investment.

One example is the Clif Bar Family

Foundation, which awarded a Seed

Matters fellowship to Cornell PhD candidate

Lauren Brzozowski. This fellowship

allowed her to work on DMR401 until it

was ready for the marketplace.

DMR401 is now available for purchase

through Common Wealth Seed Growers,

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, and

High Mowing Organic Seeds.

Continued on Page 30

Cucumbers from an organic variety trial in Louisa,

Virginia. All photos courtesy of Organic Seed

Alliance.

28

Organic Farmer October/November 2019


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Continued from Page 28

Meeting the Needs of High

Tunnel Producers

When Zaid Kurdieh met Michael

Mazourek at the Stone Barns Center for

Food and Agriculture five years ago, the

first thing out of his mouth was: “Michael,

we need better cucumbers.” Thus began a

breeding partnership that quickly turned

into a friendship.

Kurdieh is the operator of Norwich

Meadows Farm, an 80-acre diversified

vegetable operation in Norwich, New

York, that serves 1,000 Community

Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscribers

and six farmers markets in New York

City. Increasingly chefs and restaurants

are major purchasers, now making up

about half of his sales. Cucumbers are

one of the farm’s most important crops

because of the diversity they offer.

Dr. Michael Mazourek describes his organic plant breeding work in a field of squash trials as part of

the 2018 Student Organic Seed Symposium.

“We work with a lot of chefs, and one of

the things we’re able to do is introduce

them to new flavors and textures—

entirely new cucumbers they’ve never

heard of before—which causes an explosion

in interest,” Kurdieh says.

“Our first breeding goal when we started

working with Cornell was to achieve

better flavor,” Kurdieh adds, noting his

Middle Eastern origin and disappointment

with everything in the market when

he moved back to the U.S. over 35 years

ago. “I couldn’t find a cucumber with

good flavor, so that was the impetus: to

find the real deal.”

Mazourek and Kurdieh first went to

the USDA collections to get 50 varieties

of Middle Eastern cucumbers. They

grew them out and selected for flavor.

Meanwhile, disease issues began to accelerate

on Kurdieh’s farm and on others’

operations in the region.

Kurdieh grows cucumbers in high

tunnels, 10-acres worth, which can make

managing pests and diseases more challenging.

Controlling cucumber beetles is

particularly important as they transmit

bacterial wilt. Mazourek explains that

there is a lot of water moving through the

plant and the bacteria end up clogging

Edmund Frost of Common Wealth Seed

Growers gives a tour of his organic cucurbit

plant breeding projects focused on downy

mildew resistance.

the vascular system, killing the plants.

Conventional growers rely on neonicotinoid

seed treatments and sprays to

control the disease but fungicides are

expensive and not always effective, as

fungicide resistance can also emerge with

the disease. Neonicotinoids are the most

widely used pesticide and frequently

make headlines because of growing

concerns about their harmful impact

on insect pollinators. Certified organic

growers aren’t allowed to use synthetic

chemicals like neonics to manage pests

and diseases.

Mazourek's breeding team has made swift

progress in developing hybrid varieties

that are routinely tested under organic

conditions and in high tunnels. Two varieties

will be released soon, and, according

to Kurdieh, they contain characteristics—

including good flavor—that are superior

to what’s currently available. The varieties

also help conventional growers who want

to cut input costs or are experiencing

Edmund Frost of Common Wealth Seed

Growers.

fungicide resistance to chemical controls.

Kurdieh and Mazourek say the project

is ongoing. The long-term breeding goal

is to achieve an even bigger package of

desired characteristics that go beyond

flavor and disease resistance to eventually

include insect resistance.

“This is the most fun I’ve had farming in

years,” Kurdieh says. “The experimentation

keeps me going.”

Kurdieh says another reason he’s excited

about organic plant breeding is that it

helps him meet the organic seed requirement

under the organic standards.

Organic farmers are required to use

organic seed when commercially available,

but when an equivalent variety isn’t

available, organic growers can use conventional

varieties that aren’t genetically

engineered or treated with a pesticide

seed treatment, like neonics.

Continued on Page 32

30

Organic Farmer October/November 2019


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Continued from Page 30

“More investments in organic breeding

will help me and my fellow farmers

who need access to more organic seed,”

Kurdieh explains. “We grow over 1,000

varieties of vegetables and my organic

certifier is always encouraging me to

source more organic seed. We prefer

buying organic seed but it isn’t always

available.”

‘Trifecta’ Melon Lives up

to its Name

Downy mildew is also wiping out

melons. ‘Trifecta’ was first released in

2015 and consistently ranked highest

for yield, quality, and DMR in Cornell’s

trials.

The variety was named by Frost, who

identified the variety as a standout among

several experimental melon lines from

Cornell, and was most excited about the

variety’s ability to consistently rank high

in three targeted breeding goals: yield,

quality, and DMR.

“It’s among the best downy-mildew resistance

we’ve seen,” says Mazourek. “We

made it a priority to distribute the variety

through organic seed companies operating

in the Southeast because there is an

urgency in the region for varieties that

reliably demonstrate resistance.”

Frost first noticed the seedstock that

became ‘Trifecta’ for its eating quality

in 2012 trials at his farm. In 2014, Frost

received a grant from the Sustainable

Agriculture Research and Education

(SARE) program, administered by the

USDA, to test melon, cucumber and

squash varieties in late-planted conditions

when downy mildew is most intense.

Trifecta again stood out for its excellent

eating quality and yield—even under

levels of DM pressure that defoliated

most commercial melon varieties. The

variety also exhibited good bacterial

wilt resistance in the trial, and has done

so in several trials Frost has conducted

since then.

Frost recently received a grant from the

Organic Farming Research Foundation

to continue work on bacterial wilt and

downy mildew resistance in cucumber

and muskmelon seedstocks, including

new slicing and pickling cucumber

varieties he is developing to resist both

diseases.

‘Trifecta’ is currently available for sale

through Common Wealth Seed Growers

and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

Organic Research Investments

Yield Big Impacts

As mentioned, ESOcuc is funded

through the USDA’s competitive grant

program focused on organic agriculture,

the Organic Research and Extension

Initiative (OREI). Organic plant breeding

relies heavily on the OREI program,

which is reauthorized as part of the

farm bill approximately every five years.

Fortunately, the 2018 Farm Bill more than

doubled the amount of funding available

for organic research. Over the course

of the next farm bill, OREI funding will

increase from $20 million in 2019 to

$50 million by 2023. The importance of

these research dollars to the growth and

success of organic agriculture cannot be

overstated.

“So little public breeding underway is

focused on the needs of organic farmers,”

says Frost. “There’s so much room for

improvement in terms of the varieties

we’re using that, with a small investment,

and with time and energy, we’ll be able

to make a big impact on agriculture by

coming up with varieties that are better

suited to our regions, disease pressures,

and organic practices.”

Frost also believes in the power of participatory

breeding, adding efficiency and

value to these types of partnerships.

“Michael Mazourek has been an important

mentor to me,” says Frost. “Farmers

provide a helpful perspective to plant

breeders and the efforts and ideas of

university researchers in turn helps us as

growers.”

Mazourek echoes this sentiment, pointing

to the results these collaborations yield in

the form of superior varieties now available

to farmers.

“All of our successes with DMR are owed

to farmer input,” says Mazourek. “We

took moderately resistant material that we

had at Cornell, moderately resistant material

identified by organic farmers, and

people are seeing the literal cross-pollination

of these partnerships in our DMR

varieties.”

Comments about this article? We want

to hear from you. Feel free to email us at

article@jcsmarketinginc.com

32

Organic Farmer October/November 2019


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Transitioning

a Conventional

Apple Orchard

to Organic

By DANITA CAHILL | Contributing Writer

IN 2014, A SMALL GROUP OF INVESTORS

bought Queener Farm, a 40-acre plot in Scio, Oregon

with over 115 heirloom and modern varieties of

apple trees. Jeannie Berg and Chris Homanics operate

the orchard. Transitioning a 2,000-tree heirloom apple

orchard from conventional to organic has proved a

challenge, although after five years, Berg and Homanics

are beginning to feel like they’re getting a handle

on it. For the first year and a half they took a hands-off

approach, letting the orchard sit and heal.

Apples coated with Surround, an organic clay coating used to prevent

sunscald. All photos courtesy of Danita Cahill.

34

Organic Farmer October/November 2019


The previous farm managers sprayed conventional herbicides.

“It took three years to get anything to grow under the trees,”

Berg said. “We’ve had to do some things slowly over time.”

Farming Practices and Challenges

As Berg and Homanics have discovered, managing such a

diverse orchard is a true test of their skills. “It’s a lifetime

project. Something you do over time,” Berg said about learning

the traits of each tree. With the different varieties and the

different rootstocks, she figures there are about 2,500 variables

on the farm.

For the operators, rainy days and hot days create more work.

To prevent sunscald on days over 95 degrees, when the sun is

hitting the orchard at a direct angle, Homanics and Berg use

backpack sprayers loaded with a product called Surround.

It’s an organic clay coating that they spray on the shiny apple

varieties. It covers the honey crisp apples with white splatters.

When honeycrisp are fully sugared, they are more susceptible

to sunscald than some of the other varieties.

Jeannie Berg bags apples for a customer at Queener Farm.

Without protection, super-hot days can cook the apples on

the tree. The inside of an apple can reach 120 degrees in direct

sun. “It turns them brown, starts to rot,” Berg said. After

harvest, they will wipe the white splatters of Surround off the

apples. If the weather is expected to be hot for only a short

time, a spray of cool water is enough to prevent sunscald.

What can be even more damaging to apple trees and their

fruit than hot days are wet days. “The Willamette Valley

is so damp, fungal diseases are really the challenge. Hours

of dampness leads to lesions,” Berg explained. But she and

Homanics try to stay away from copper as much as possible,

even though it’s a widely-used organic fungicide. “Copper is

quite toxic to the operator,” she said. When she and Homanics

first started working the orchard, the soil tests came back

high in copper. For tree health, they rely largely on potassium

bicarbonate, and yucca extract. “It’s not cheap,” Berg noted

about the yucca. But it’s safe. Safe enough to even taste. She

describes it as being like “a molasses that smells of tequila.”

Yucca is reputed to help plants utilize water more effectively

and help protect them against stress.

Berg and Homanics also use some extracts of teasel and

knotweed. Knotweed—yes, the obnoxious, invasive weed—

is anti-bacterial, anti-cancer and anti-fungal, according to

Homanics. The extract has a 48-hour effective window. They

use it when there is going to be more than 10 to 12 hours of

moisture on the trees to fend off fungal issues.

For fertilizer and orchard clean up assistance, Homanics and

Berg release a flock of chickens into the orchard. The chickens

eat larvae and debris and recycle it into fertilizer. Other

fertilizer comes in the form of kelp, fish and organic milk

mixtures.

Heirloom apple Belle de Bokoop.

To fight coddling moth (apple worm), Homanics and Berg

apply virus bodies of cydia pomonella, plus half-a-billion

nematodes. In the style of European organic orchardists,

Homanics and Berg start spraying the biological control

early in the season. They use low doses and spray weekly. It’s

expensive, Berg says, but it kills the coddling moth without

harming the pollinators.

Continued on Page 36

October/November 2019

www.organicfarmermag.com

35


Organic apples ready for harvest.

You pickers head out to the apple orchard.

Continued from Page 35

Taking Care of the Birds and

the Bees

To protect the pollinizers, which are

so crucial to trees setting fruit, Berg

and Homanics carefully time mowing

of the orchard floor. “Spacing mowing

was super key to pollinators,” Berg

said. While dandelions and wildflowers

bloom on the orchard floor, Homanics

and Berg don’t mow. As the apple trees

begin to blossom, they mow, which

pushes the pollinizers up into the trees.

By the time the trees stop blooming,

the orchard floor has re-bloomed.

Pollinizers can then move back down to

the flowers for food.

A retired entomologist came out to

the orchard to look at the insects. “He

found things here that were rare,”

Homanics said. Besides an array of bees

and hover flies, Homanics has noticed

bird species in the orchard, such as

killdeer, that weren’t there when he and

Berg first took over operations.

Before Queener Farm, Berg managed

a CSA (Community Supported

Agriculture) vegetable farm in

Independence, Oregon, where she

still lives.

Future of the Farm

Homanics and Berg are planning a

new orchard. “We’ve realized a couple

things,” Berg said. The rows in the

established orchard are planted north to

south. “The morning side dries off faster

than the afternoon side,” she said. They

will plant the rows in the new orchard

east to west to alleviate that problem.

The winds, which usually blow east to

west, would create more air flow. Also,

east to west planting would offer better

sun positioning.

Out of the more than 100 varieties

currently growing in the orchard, Berg

said she’d choose about 70 of those to

keep. They’ve already done a lot of top

grafting to some of the trees which are

most susceptible to disease. Those trees

just aren’t cost effective to grow organically,

Berg said. Some of them aren’t

even producing. They’ve hired a grafter

with 40-years of experience. He cuts

2/3 of the tree away and grafts a new

variety onto the trunk. They had 200

trees grafted in 2014, 150 in 2015 and

50 more in 2018. “We could probably do

another four hundred,” Berg said.

A 15-acre chunk of Queener Farm is

leased to a farmer who grows organic

hazelnuts. “It makes for a more interesting

and diverse farm,” Berg said.

Community Farming

Homanics is a plant breeder and a

seed saver, as well as a board member

of the Fruit Growers Society. He’s

also involved with the Dry Farming

Collaborative, which is doing work with

dryland tomato, squash, melon and

potato varieties. Homanics was orcharding

up near Suquamish, Washington,

before heading to Scio. He calls what

he and Berg are doing at Queener Farm

“ecological orcharding.”

The farm is a bustling community hub

on Saturdays, the only day it’s open to

the public. It’s a time to catch up with

local happenings and news. Some of

it is bad news: The Stayton cannery

is “restructuring.” Hundreds of local

employees are facing a lay-off, perhaps

permanently. Some of the row-crop

farmers are left stuck with large stands

of unharvested corn and no more

cannery market. But there’s also good

news: The organic hazelnut farmer

across the road swept his 10-year-old

orchard for nuts the day before.

The customers tend to arrive at the farm

in small packs. Berg greets one group

of you-pickers after another. She hands

customers a sheet of paper that explains

blemishes they may see on the organically-grown

apples. “Leave apples in

bins that have flaws you’re not comfortable

with,” she instructs them. She and

Homanics will later press the flawed

apples into cider.

Berg helps Pat Fyke, a handicapped customer,

pick out some honeycrisp apples

to eat fresh, and two perfect heirloom

Belle de Bokoop apples for Pat to cook

whole with a pork roast.

Queener Farm offers more than apples.

In season, they sell red, black, white and

pink currants, as well as red and green

gooseberries, pears, heirloom squash

and vegetables. The farm is open to

the public June through Thanksgiving.

Locals are invited to join an apple club.

Members pick up their boxes of apples

36

Organic Farmer October/November 2019


at the farm every other week throughout

the growing season. The farm

delivers bulk orders of heirloom apples

and seasonal produce to local restaurants,

co-ops, and small grocery stores

in Eugene, Salem and Portland.

Farming Philosophy

Homanics, who lives at the farm,

really likes the idea of creating community—chatting,

sharing ideas, and

generally getting to know the neighbors.

“Everyday happenings are important,”

Homanics said.

He’s been pleased to observe the influx

of younger people interested in farming.

He thinks it’s great when neighbors and

customers bring their children to the

orchard. The children enjoy looking for

interesting rocks and insects. Homanics

enjoys watching them horse around and

play. He loves to hear the sound of their

exuberant laughter.

“We’re raising a community,” Homanics

said about the farm. “It’s the heartbeat

of the earth kind of idea.”

Redfree is a PRI and co-op series apple.

It comes from a disease-resistant breeding

program cooperative among several

universities.

Williams Pride tastes like strawberries,

Homanics says. “It has a very, very

fruity note.”

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October/November 2019

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37


Integrated Weed Management

Practices for Controlling

Unwanted Vegetation

By LYNN M. SOSNOSKIE | Specialty Crop Weed Scientist at Cornell University

WHILE ALL GROWERS SHOULD STRIVE TO

use integrated weed management practices to

control unwanted vegetation, organic farmers

are more reliant on the strategy than most. The first step

in building any successful weed management system is to

properly identify the species that are present. This will allow

growers to avoid sites populated with difficult-to-control

weeds, such as perennials, and to properly select the types

and timing of management measures that target weeds when

they are most susceptible to control. Recurring scouting

efforts will identify control successes and failures and can

be used to document changes in the composition of weed

communities over time. Many good guides exist to assist

growers, consultants and members of allied industries

with this task including:

• Weeds of the Northeast (Uva et al., 1997. ISBN-13:

978-0801483349)

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• Weeds of the Midwestern United States and Central

Canada (Bryson et al., 2010. ISBN-13: 978-0820335063)

• Weeds of California and Other Western States

(DiTomaso, 2007. ISBN-13: 978-1879906693)

Smartphone Applications

A variety of smartphone apps, such as PlantNet and

iNaturalist, among others, allow the viewer to screen a

picture of an unknown plant against a database of curated

images for identification. The apps are not perfect, and

users should doublecheck results against trusted sources.

Recommendations for improving chances of a successful

ID include: focusing on distinctive features, minimizing

background distractions, and submitting multiple images

of the unknown specimens. County, state and university

personnel are also good resources for growers to assist in

documenting unwanted plants on their properties.

Cover Crops, Mulches, and Cultural Strategies

Cover crops and mulches are valuable tools for protecting

soil health; they can also be effective strategies for

preventing weed seed germination or for suppressing

weed seedling emergence. They may also support populations

of arthropods and other organisms that feed

on weed seed. However, living mulches that are not

38

Organic Farmer October/November 2019


Figure 1. Cover crops, like this rolled cereal rye,

can suppress weeds by preventing light from

reaching the soil and inhibiting weed seedling

emergence. All photos courtesy of Lynn M.

Sosnoskie.

successfully terminated may end up

competing directly with crops resulting

in yield loss. Insufficient cover crop

biomass accumulation may support

weed development by preserving soil

moisture needed for weed growth and

development and by preventing the successful

use of other control tools such as

cultivation or flaming. Make sure that

the cover crop seed you purchase is free

of weedy contaminants to avoid bringing

new problems into a site (the same

holds true for manure and compost).

Weed seed germination and subsequent

seedling destruction in advance of crop

planting (also known as pre-germination

or stale seedbed techniques) can

be useful for reducing the numbers of

weeds that can compete directly with

the crop. The timing of control operations

is crucial as many species can

grow quickly and outpace management

efforts (e.g. Palmer amaranth), especially

when weather events delay entry

into fields. This is a concern as re-rooting/re-sprouting

potential increases

as weeds grow taller and accumulate

biomass. Plants that escape control

measures can directly impact crops by

reducing yields and harvest efficiency;

they also have effects that can span

seasons if they reach reproductive

maturity and propagules enter the

seedbank.

The suppressive effects of the commodities,

themselves, can be maximized by

preparing and planting into as smooth

a seedbed as possible to facilitate

even germination. Seeding depth,

seeding rate and row spacing also play

Continued on Page 40

Figure 2. Weeds, such as bindweed, can move within and between fields on farm equipment.

October/November 2019

www.organicfarmermag.com

39


Continued from Page 39

important roles in achieving a competitive

crop. The use of transplants to

establish a height differential between

crops and their weedy counterparts can

also be an effective tool for suppressing

unwanted competitors. Rotating

between crops with different characteristics

and/or a fallow season that allows

for aggressive weed management can

diversify the timing and intensity of

disturbances that are applied to weed

communities.

Physical Weed Control

With respect to physical weed control,

cultivation is an effective practice for

managing annual species; rhizomatous

perennial weeds, like field bindweed

and johnsongrass, are not likely to

respond to shallow soil disturbance and

can even become more widely spread

via root fragment dispersal. While many

cultivation tools are designed to remove

weed seedlings as close to the crop row

as possible, torsion and finger weeders

can remove weeds from in between crop

plants. Although some weeds are likely

to remain, within-and between-row soil

disturbance can reduce the time needed

to conduct subsequent hand-weeding

operations. Where weed seed densities

are exceptionally high, deep plowing

can be used to bury propagules below

optimal germination depths. However,

some deeply buried seed may be more

protected from fluctuations in temperature

and water environments and

can remain viable longer than more

shallowly buried seed. To avoid returning

germinable seed to the surface

seedbank, deep plowing should only

be used infrequently, depending on the

longevity of the target species. Propane

flame weeders facilitate damage by

causing the sap in plant cells to expand,

which then ruptures the cell walls. Best

results are achieved when weeds are

small (less than two to three inches in

height or diameter); broadleaf weeds

are, typically, more sensitive to flaming

as grass meristems are located below the

ground and are usually protected from

the heat. Avoid use on or around dried

vegetation to prevent fires.

Organic-Approved Herbicides

Organic-approved herbicides are all

contact herbicides, meaning that they

only damage plant tissue that they

are directly applied to. Consequently,

high spray volumes (often 50 to 60

gallons per acre (GPA) or more) are

required to ensure adequate coverage.

As such, these products may be

more cost-effective as spot sprays as

opposed to broadcast applications.

If using organic herbicides for weed

control, be sure to read the label and

select rates appropriately based on weed

species composition and plant size;

newly emerged weeds will be the most

sensitive to these treatments. Check the

solubility of the herbicide in water and

make sure to regularly agitate mixtures

that display separation. Assume that

repeat applications will be necessary

and avoid drift to prevent injury to

desirable plants.

Diversify Weed Management

Strategies

Regardless of which strategies or combinations

of strategies are employed,

try not to let weeds reach reproductive

maturity. Ultimately, the best way to

manage weeds across seasons is to

continuously start clean and stay clean.

It is also important to remember that

weed shifts can occur in response to

any management practice, and not

just herbicides. While the evolution of

herbicide resistance is the most noticeable

development to agricultural forces

directed at weeds, unwanted vegetation

can adapt to all measures that are

applied, repeatedly, over space and time.

For example, close mowing can select

for weeds in lawns that are prostrate in

habit (so as to avoid mower blades) or

that possess a perennial lifecycle (and

have the nutrient reserves to regrow

following defoliation). Diversifying

crop production and weed management

strategies as much as possible is a good

way to reduce the selective pressures

that allow systems to become dominated

by one or a few weed species.

Figure 3. Weeds that escape control measures may achieve reproductive maturity and set seed…

which can impact crops in following seasons.

Comments about this article? We want

to hear from you. Feel free to email us at

article@jcsmarketinginc.com

40

Organic Farmer October/November 2019


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41


Growing Herbs the Old School Way

By DANITA CAHILL | Contributing Writer

The herb display garden, producing

seeds at the end of the season. All

photos courtesy of Danita Cahill.

DIVERSITY, LOTS OF HANDSon

labor, and staying on top of

chores are three keys to the longevity

and success of this Alsea, Oregon

herb business. Not only do Rolfe and

Janet Hagen and their daughters grow

herbs using natural, organic methods,

the family also grew their business in

an organic way, by following the natural

procession of things.

The Beginning

The couple started out with a country

restaurant in the small rural town of

Alsea. Janet used fresh herbs in the

dishes she prepared, so she and Rolfe

planted herb beds around the restaurant.

The herb plants produced seeds, which

they harvested and sold, resulting in The

Thyme Garden Seed Company.

In 1989, the couple sold their home that

Rolfe custom built—his profession before

the foray into a restaurant and herbs—

and bought a modest home on a nearby

80-acre parcel. The land was overgrown

with blackberries, but also had old

growth forest interwoven with wildland

streams. Excited about the property’s

potential, the couple rolled up their

sleeves and started clearing briars and

planting herbs. A year later, in 1990, they

opened The Thyme Garden to the public.

A Family Affair

Rolfe and Janet raised their two daughters

among the trees, bees, butterflies and

herbs. The daughters, Emily Stimac and

Bethany Glanville, are now grown with

families of their own.

Janet, the cook, has passed her chef

torch down to Emily. Emily inherited

a passion for food and experimenting

in the kitchen, especially with herbs. “I

like creating amazing meals with all the

flavors,” she said. Emily also inherited

all the juggling skills needed to organize

events for a crowd.

Rolfe is the gardener; Bethany has

accepted the herbal torch from him.

She inherited a green thumb, a keen

interest in herbs, along with a curiosity

and passion for growing and harvesting

plants, flowers and seeds. “That helps me

a lot,” Rolfe said. “She starts all the germination

of cuttings and seeds.”

“I love the herbs, knowing when the

seeds are ready to harvest,” Bethany said.

Rolfe is also smitten with herbs. “I so fell

in love with them. The power of what

herbs can do. The power of plants, what’s

going on behind the scenes, what’s going

on inside that plant.”

Growing the Old School Way

“All of our seeds are naturally, organically

grown. We grow herbs the old

school way,” Rolfe said. The family uses

no systemic chemicals and no artificial

fertilizers. In fact, they use no sprays of

any kind in the herb garden, only in the

greenhouses when pests or disease, such

as aphids or fungus becomes an issue.

And then they use natural products, such

as insecticidal oil and pyrethrum. “It’s

a contact spray. It breaks down within

hours of spraying,” Rolfe said. As a fungicide

they use sulfur.

About pests in the greenhouse, Bethany

said, “It’s perfect growing conditions. You

create this terrific oasis for things, even

things you don’t want.” Both she and

her dad noted that the aphid and spider

mite populations have been low this year.

They credit that to achieving a natural

balance. In years when spider mites get

out of hand—end of summer tends to be

the worst—the family buys and releases

beneficial insects from an outfit out of

Southern Oregon.

The farm produces its own population

of beneficial insects. “We have a massive

amount of ladybugs,” Bethany said. “They

overwinter in the ground by the fence

row.” She said the ladybugs hang out

around the hops field in the early part of

the day. “In the afternoon you’ll hear a

buzzing and see these clouds of red flying

to the herb garden.” Ladybug adults

and nymphs have a voracious appetite

for aphids.

Continued on Page 44

Rolfe and Janet Hagen in the hops field, with

their grandson Micah Glanville, and their

daughters, Bethany Glanville and Emily Stimac.

42

Organic Farmer October/November 2019


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Continued from Page 42

The herb display garden is one of the largest of its kind in the

northwest. The Hagens use yellow sticky cards there to keep the

leafhoppers under control. The cards are something they recently

tried and are pleased with how many of the insects hopped or flew

onto the traps. It pretty much took care of the leafhopper problem

this year. And leafhoppers really can create a problem. They are

piercing, sucking insects with toxic saliva that causes white spotting

or yellowing of leaves. Along with transmitting viral diseases,

leafhoppers can cause other damage, too, such as leaf curling,

stunting, and other plant distortion. The Hagens sometimes put

yellow sticky cards to use in the greenhouse and conservatory, too.

The cards trap fungus gnats, and to a lesser degree, white flies.

Bethany Glanville screens seeds.

In the hops field, the Hagen family hand-picks any leaves or shoots

that harbor downy mildew and disposes of them so the mildew

doesn’t spread. They also lop off the first new shoots of vine

growth in the spring, which, because of the wet spring weather, are

more susceptible to mildew. “We remove the primary shoots and

let the secondary growth come out,” Rolfe said. If downy mildew

strikes the hops later in the season, they use a spray of potassium

bicarbonate, which is another form of Epsom salts. It changes the

pH of the leaves, which effectively fights mildew. The potassium

bicarbonate then breaks down into fertilizer. The Hagens also

discourage mildew by watering in the morning, and not late in the

day, so the leaves have a chance to dry before nightfall.

If spider mites prove a problem in the field or garden, the Hagen

family cuts, bags and throws away the affected plant parts. “It’s a

lot of physical labor removing stuff,” Bethany said. “We do a lot of

pruning back and dumping.” As much as the Hagens would like

to compost everything, diseased or mildewed plant bits are the

exception and go in the trash.

A butterfly sips on a flower in the herb display garden.

Clean Up

Clean up is a large part of the process at season’s end, especially

in the greenhouses. “Less habitat for things to grow in,” Bethany

explained. For the overwintered greenhouse stock plants, such

as scented geranium, the Hagens use an all-purpose, slow, sustained-release

fertilizer from Down to Earth in Eugene, Oregon.

They take the stock plants out of the pots “fluff the roots”

and repot.

When planting hop rhizomes, which the family has grown

commercially now for 15 years, they stir a three-manure mulch

mixture (horse, cow and chicken manure) into each planting hole.

Seed Collection

The end of summer and into fall is seed collecting time. Seed

is gathered by hand into paper bags, dried in Rolfe and Janet’s

house. Next comes winnowing the chaff from the seed with a set

of different sized screens, or with an air separator that Rolfe made.

The seeds are labeled and stored in plastic lidded containers in the

seed room. Bethany fills 10 packs of each variety at a time—The

Honeybee on coneflower in the herb display garden.

44

Organic Farmer October/November 2019


special events each year, such as the Fall

Salmon Celebration when, for the price

of a ticket, the public is invited to enjoy

appetizers and watch salmon spawn in

one of the two streams that run through

the property. In 2002, the family started a

salmon restoration project. What started

with two pairs of salmon has grown to

more than a dozen pairs returning to

spawn after years at sea.

All the hand work involved—hand

weeding, hand growing potted herbs

for sale to the public, and hand harvesting

herb and flower seeds, and hop

rhizomes—is a true labor of love for the

Hagen family. They share a passion for

nature, and a reverence for good food and

good company amid the delicate balance

and beauty of the natural world.

Comments about this article? We want

to hear from you. Feel free to email us at

article@jcsmarketinginc.com

Bethany Glanville packages seeds for

The Thyme Garden Seed Company.

Thyme Garden sells nearly 500 different

varieties. “We want the seeds to be as

fresh as possible when we ship them out,”

Bethany said.

Each seed variety has a story. For

instance, the African savory came from a

woman in Africa 25 years ago. She didn’t

have two dollars in American currency

for the herb seed she wanted to order, so

she offered to trade some savory seed.

Janet and Rolfe took her up on the offer.

The plant has been a favorite of the Hagen

family ever since.

Janet reuses the seed-collecting bags

season after season. Each year she makes

notes on the brown paper bags about

harvest amounts. “I’m keeping track

to see if climate change is affecting our

plants and seeds.” The verdict? So far, she

has not noticed an adverse effect.

Special Events

November 20th, 2019

7:00 AM to 1:00 PM

Tulare Fairgrounds

215 Martin Luther King Jr Ave, Tulare, CA 93274

• Free Event

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• Free Industry Lunch

• Free Coffee & Donuts

• Cash Prizes

Growers, Applicators, PCAs, CCAs, and Processors Welcome!

Pre-Register at WCNGG.COM/SVNCC

Over the years, The Thyme Garden

business has matured and evolved. It’s no

longer simply a mail-order seed company

and herb nursery, it’s become an event

destination for weddings, and for special

celebrations put on by the family with

the herb display garden and the forest as

backdrops.

Luncheons are a big draw. There are farm

tours and luncheons, and classes and

luncheons. The family also puts on a few

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October/November 2019

www.organicfarmermag.com

45


USDA Market Facilitation

Program

By CECILIA PARSONS | Associate Editor

ENROLLMENT IN THE UNITED

States Department of Agriculture

(USDA) Market Facilitation Program

will be open through December 6, 2019.

The program, for both specialty and

non-specialty crop producers will

provide up to $14.5 billion in direct

payments. This USDA relief strategy was

developed to assist farmers who continue

to suffer economic damages due to

trade retaliation in some of their export

markets.

In May, President Donald Trump

directed Sonny Perdue, Agriculture

Secretary to craft a relief strategy in line

with the estimated impacts of unjustified

retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural

goods and other trade disruptions. The

Market Facilitation Program (MFP),

Food Purchase and Distribution Program

and Agricultural Trade Promotion

Program are designed to assist agricultural

producers as trade negotiations

continue.

MFP Payments

MFP payments will be made to producers

of certain non-specialty crops and

specialty crops along with dairy and hog

producers.

Payments from this program will be

made to producers of almonds, walnuts,

pistachios, hazelnuts, pecans, macadamia

nuts as well as many other specialty

crops. Each crop will receive a payment

based in 2019 acres in production.

Payments will be made in up to three

tranches, with the second and third

tranches evaluated as market conditions

and trade opportunities evolve. If

conditions warrant, the second and third

tranches will be made in November and

early January 2020.

MFP payments are limited to a combined

$250,000 for non-specialty crops per

person or legal entity. MFP payments are

also limited to a combined $250,000 for

dairy and hog producers and a combined

$250,000 for specialty crop producers.

However, no applicant can receive more

than $500,000. Eligible applicants must

also have an Adjusted Gross Income

(AGI) for tax years 2015, 2016, and 2017

of less than $900,000, or 75 percent of the

person’s or legal entity’s average AGI for

those tax years must have been derived

from farming and ranching. Applicants

must also comply with the provisions of

the Highly Erodible Land and Wetland

Conservation regulations.

MFP assistance for 2019 crops is based

on a single county payment rate multiplied

by a farm’s total plantings to the

MFP-eligible crops in aggregate in 2019.

Those per acre payments are not dependent

on which of those crops are planted

in 2019. A producer’s total payment-eligible

plantings cannot exceed total 2018

plantings.

More information can be found on

farmers.gov/mfp, including payment

information, program application

and locating their local Farm Service

Agency Office. Producers are requested

to contact their local office to make an

appointment.

Agricultural Trade Promotion Program

(ATP) is one of three programs set up to

assist agricultural producers while work

is done to address long-standing market

access barriers.

ATP Assistance

USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service

will administer the Agricultural Trade

Promotion Program (ATP) under

authorities of the Commodity Credit

Corporation (CCC).

The ATP will provide cost-share assistance

to eligible U.S. organizations for

activities such as consumer advertising,

public relations, point-of-sale demonstrations,

participation in trade fairs and

exhibits, market research, and technical

assistance. USDA awarded $100

million to 48 organizations through the

ATP recently to help U.S. farmers and

ranchers identify and access new export

markets.

The 48 recipients are among the cooperator

organizations that applied for

$200 million in ATP funds in 2018 that

were awarded earlier this year. As part

of a new round of support for farmers

impacted by unjustified retaliation and

trade disruption, those groups had the

opportunity to be considered for additional

support for their work to boost

exports for U.S. agriculture, food, fish,

and forestry products.

Already, since the $200 million in assistance

was provided, U.S. exporters have

had significant success. These funds will

continue to generate sales and business

for U.S. producers and exporters many

times over as promotional activity continues

for the next couple of years.

The list of ATP funding recipients is

available at: https://www.fas.usda.gov/

atp-funding-allocations

Comments about this article? We want

to hear from you. Feel free to email us at

article@jcsmarketinginc.com

46

Organic Farmer October/November 2019


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Organic Farmer October/November 2019

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