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Market Watch

Some unsolicited advice froma dedicated observer.

By Judie Steeves

It’s all about customer satisfaction... A

s a non-farmer who writes about farming, I realize it’s not easy being a farmer.

Your success is completely at the whim of Mother Nature, not to mention the neighbours, your customers, your sales agency, the global marketplace, and, of course, your competitors. However, there are a few things you do have control over which can keep you on the right track, and which might even help influence some of those factors over which it feels like you have no control.

For instance, even if you grow the best fruit possible, you might not be able to protect it from a hailstorm near harvest, but if you escape that, you can certainly sway the consumer over to your side, not to mention your sales agency and maybe even the global marketplace—with perfect fruit. Speaker after speaker at technical

workshops and conferences I’ve attended has pounded home the importance of producing nothing but top-quality fruit.

That means the largest, firmest and the most perfectly ripened cherries; apples with all the characteristics that are getting the best price on global markets, whether that’s the right colour and size, or the right variety; grapes that satisfy all the requirements of the winemaker you grow for, even if that’s you too.

If that means reducing the size of your crop to attain the right size or flavours, then do it, because this is where the money is—in satisfying your customer.

If that means taking days or weeks hand-thinning or pruning to manage crop load or canopy shape, or achieve size—then be prepared to do that. If that means spending money to divert starlings or other pests, to better manage between your rows, or to improve your environmental practices, then take a deep breath and do it.

If that means ensuring your pickers are properly handling the crop that you slaved to bring to the perfect harvest condition—then train them, treat them and pay them well.

Otherwise, the money and effort and the passion you spend farming could be squandered; lost to consumers’ rejection of your less-than-perfect fruit or of your environmentally-unfriendly farming practices.

And, surely there’s not a farmer out there whose aim it is to produce cull fruit. Culls cost everyone—except consumers—and they simply don’t buy them.

This year, that term culls could also apply to grapes as an oversupply in this province affects all discretionary fruit, or that which isn’t already contracted to a winery. Berries that no wineries can be persuaded to buy—likely the fruit that’s of the lowest quality—will have to be composted, uncrushed.

Or, it may be used by the grower, as he chooses instead to start his own winery.


British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2010

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