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Commercial Horticulture

Marketing Issues

Milton’s Riverwalk Market

This venture is paying off! The number of vendors has doubled since last year. I counted 14 sellers present during the peak of the spring fruit and vegetable season.

Located at the corner of Berryhill streets in downtown Milton, the Market is providing an excellent opportunity for sellers of fresh produce to connect with customers. Also, customers are provided with the most tasty, freshest products available.

The challenge is to keep the Market open year round. Some local farmers are gearing up to grow fall and winter crops in order to extend the season. Anyone who is interested in selling at the Market should contact Joan Hughes, Market Manager at: cell phone: 748-3655, home: 850-983-7515 or at the Team Santa Rosa Office: 623-0174.

Marketing Tips

Volumes have been written on improving customer relations, customer satisfaction, and what good customer service really is. Research has shown that the element of surprise increases customer satisfaction substantially. While meeting expectations is the critical foundation, exceeding those expectations creates the element of surprise and boosts satisfaction.

Here are some things that you can do to achieve this elevated level of customer satisfaction:

Respond in a timely manner.

Make a follow-up phone call to the customer, even if only to say that you don’t have the answer yet, but that you are working on their request.

Follow-up to see if the solution or suggestion you proposed is working.

  • Send a thank you note for using your service.
  • Invite them to contact you again.

From: IFAS Marketing Matters Newsletter

Vol. 1, No.2, September 2003

Regulatory Issues

Sudden Oak Death

This disease continues to be a potential threat to ornamental nurseries and home landscapes. Earlier in the year infected plants were found in three Florida nurseries on plants that had been shipped from California . The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services then halted the importation of all plant nursery stock from that state.

Sudden Oak Death, caused by the fungus Phytophthora ramorum, is not harmful to humans or animals. It is however a very virulent pathogen, affecting at least 59 plant species. Symptoms of the disease mimic those caused by other diseases and disorders. Early signs appear as leaf scorch or sunburn. As the disease progresses, lesions appear on the leaf stems, twigs and branches. Leaf drop and dieback soon follows.

Extension agents have received training and have been instructed to watch for any suspicious symptoms. We are to concentrate on three plant species – Rhodendron (all azaleas), Camellia and Viburnum.

Obviously, we don’t know if Sudden Oak Death will become a serious problem in Florida , only that it has some potential. In the mean time we should be vigilant, watching for symptoms especially on the three species previously mentioned.

Information about this disease is readily available and the Florida Department of Agriculture provides periodic updates at http://doacs.state.fl.us/pi/index.html Or reach the Department by phone at 850-983-4570. The University of Florida has published a nine page fact sheet PP197 – “Sudden Oak Death”, covering the symptoms and biology of the disease. The University also maintains a SOD (Sudden Oak Death) Home Page. Go to: http://spdn.ifas.ufl.edu/FL_SOD_Conference.htm

Regulations – Many, Costly

The Competitive Enterprise Institute has suggested that Congress should become more involved in approving regulations proposed by federal agencies because of the cumulative cost of regulation. The federal government issued 4,148 new rules in 2003, which were reported in 71,269 pages of the Federal Register. The total cost of federal regulations is estimated to be in excess of $800 billion. EPA is one of the most rule-producing entities, along with the USDA, Treasury, Transportation and Homeland Security Departments. These five groups account for nearly half of the rules under consideration. The EPA also spends more than any agency to enforce regulations. In 2004, the EPA is expected to spend $4.8 billion on this activity, which accounts for 17 per cent of the $28.8 billion expected to be spent by all regulatory agencies combined.

From: Pesticide and Toxic Chemical News 7/5/04

IFAS Chemically Speaking July, 04

Pesticide Issues

All agricultural producers who apply restricted use pesticides are required to be licensed. The license is initially obtained by study and by passing the required tests. Producers are licensed under Chapter 487 and these tests are given at the Santa Rosa County Extension office and other testing centers around the state.

Once the license is obtained, there are two ways of keeping it current. The producer can take the required tests again when necessary, or accumulate enough CEUs (Continuing Education Units) for renewal. CEU opportunities are provided through field days, classes, seminars and workshops throughout the state.

Users of restricted pesticides are advised to watch for upcoming CEU accredited programs that meet their needs. Many Extension educational programs are approved, as are some trade meetings and trade shows. Participants are also advised to obtain and file all pertinent paperwork when attending these meetings.

There are many different categories of restricted pesticide licenses, requiring different numbers of CEUs for renewal. The following table lists the most current number required for each category.

Primary Categories # of CEUs Required
Aerial 16
Agricultural Animal Pest Control 4
Agricultural Row Crop Pest Control 8
Agricultural Tree Crop Pest Control 8
Antifouling Boat Paint Application 4
Aquatic Pest Control 16
Forest Pest Control 8
Chlorine Gas Infusion 4
Natural Areas Weed Management 16
Ornamental & Turf Pest Control 12
Private Applicator Agricultural Pest Control 8
Raw Agricultural Commodity Fumigation 4
Regulatory Inspection & Sampling 4
Regulatory Pest Control 12
Right-of-Way Pest Control 8
Seed Treatment 4
Sewer Root Control 4
Soil & Greenhouse Fumigation 4
Wood Treatment 4
Secondary Category # of CEUs Required
Demonstration & Research 4

Note : Effective January 1, 2005 , all applicators must earn 4 Core CEUs in addition to the category CEUs listed above. Until that time, at least 2 Core CEUs are required per category. Contact the Florida Department of Agriculture for more specific information regarding each category. The following web site is recommended: http://safepesticideuse.com/

The local County Extension office can also provide information. Call 850-623-3868.

Horticulture Trials and Demonstrations

Demonstrations and Trials continue to be one of the most important Extension activities. It is sometimes not enough to just describe a new plant, production practice or pest control method. If it can be shown and compared to conventional materials and methods it usually has more impact and is more likely to be accepted, if applicable.

Many Extension Agents around the state and country have ongoing trials and demonstrations in their respective counties. Some of these gain much attention, while others are not widely recognized because they deal with topics that are not of interest to the public at large.

In horticulture some demonstrations and trials are short term, while others continue for many years. A short term demonstration might be a one time planting of a new flower, vegetable variety or fertilization practice. Once the desired audience has seen the result, the project might be terminated in favor of another trial or demonstration during the next season.

The long term trails and demonstrations are some of the most enjoyable and challenging – even frustrating at times. Following are two local projects that that I am working on to serve as examples. Remember that most other agents have such trials and demonstrations in other commodity areas underway too.

Cut Flowers

I am convinced that cut flowers of several kinds can be grown commercially in our area and have been gathering information and providing demonstrations and trials since 1992. A three year cut flower demonstration was completed in 1995 and a paper was written reporting the results from over 50 different kinds of cut flowers that were grown.

Since that time, several people have tried their hand at growing commercial cut flowers. There are two new growers in the County this year, and I am excited about the possibilities.

Further studies are underway this year in an attempt to find other kinds of flowers that might prove to be successful under our growing conditions. Thirty different cultivars have been ordered. These will be grown and the information made available to anyone interested in trying cut flowers as an alternative crop.

Apple Trials

Can we produce apples commercially this far South? It was done 150 years ago near Brewton, Alabama, so why not find out? The apple grown at that time was known as the Shell Apple, developed by a family of the same name.

Plants of this old cultivar have been grafted and should be ready for planting this fall. They will be established on a local farm in a replicated study, comparing them to currently recommended low chill apples.

So, the plan is to have an orchard containing 60 trees of four cultivars or varieties. These will include 15 trees each of the Shell Apple, Dorsett Golden, Anna and Tropic Sweet. All of these will be planted in a randomized block design and all will receive the same amount of care.

I can hardly wait to get started. The down side of this particular project is that it is long term. We can expect fruit within about three years, but will need to collect yield and fruit quality data for ten years or more. While in progress, this should provide a demonstration that many residents will want to see.

Permanent link to this article: http://santarosa.ifas.ufl.edu/commercial-horticulture/