Good Fruit Grower

November 2016

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52 NOVEMBER 2016 GOOD FRUIT GROWER things relating to food production, including genetic engineering; the application of herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, hormones, and antibiotics; water use; fertilizer use; land use; labor. And their opinions can be very strong." Regrettably, he said, they are often basing those concerns and opinions on suspect sources. "The conversation currently is dominated by people like Dr. Oz and TV chefs, rather than by the experts who actually know what they're doing in terms of food production," Folta said. He also pointed to "very deliberate and intentional misinformation put online by people who want to change the way we eat and the way we farm." Some are politically driven, others are anti-corporate, but regardless of their motivation, he said, "these sources can be very compelling to consumers because it's about what they feed their families." With such an inundation of misinformation, he said, the time has never been better for growers to begin speaking up. Talking to customers In speaking with customers, growers should lead with ethics and values, Folta said. "Farmers have to start by talking about what's important to them: their families, their land, the quality of their products, and why they do what they do. If people are interested in where food comes from, tell them. That's how we can change public perceptions." He gave the example of pesticide usage. "Here, a farmer might say, 'It's most important for me to minimize the amount of chemicals I use, because they're expensive, it costs us money to apply them, plus I want to keep them out of my environment. And I always have to use them very carefully within the limits so I know my fruits or vegetables will be safe to eat,'" Folta said. "That's a perfectly solid case that communicates to a skeptical consumer that the grower is concerned about the environment and consumer safety." For older customers who recall some issues with agricultural chemicals from the mid-20th century, he said, growers can explain how the understanding of chemistry and its impacts on the environment have greatly expanded since then, as have the regulations of the approved sprays. "Growers can tell the consumer that today's chemicals are targeted, they're specific, and we know how to use them safely. We are always learning and adjusting, so what we use today is tremendously safe compared to products years ago," Folta said. From there, he said, the grower may want to address genetically modified foods by describing it as a way to add a trait that isn't present naturally, and by so doing, reduce the need for insecticides to even lower levels. Examples include the addition of a trait to papayas that essentially saved that fruit from devastation due to an aphid-borne virus, or a genetic modification to eggplants that allowed farmers in Bangladesh to vastly reduce pesticide use, realize a profit on the crop and share their seeds. "These are all great success stories of GM technology," he said. The examples and the wording will vary based on the conversation, but the important thing to remember is to make a connection with the consumer first by leading with ethics and values, and then provide the "The conversation currently is dominated by people like Dr. Oz and TV chefs, rather than by the experts who actually know what they're doing in terms of food production." —Kevin Folta PHIL BROWN WELDING CORP. PHIL BROWN WELDING CORP. PHIL BROWN WELDING CORP. 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With Orchard-Rite ® wind machines we are able to have a more consistent crop from the top of the tree to bottom every year on both apples and cherries. We are very pleased with the service we get on the wind machines. The Superior Wind Machine Service guys give them the once-over every year, keeping them in top-notch condition for the upcoming season!" -- Bob Bush Bush's Apples New Era, MI "With Orchard-Rite® wind machines we are able to have a more consistent crop from the top of the tree to bottom every year on both apples and cherries." 6919 Kra Avenue Caledonia, MI 49316 Phone: 616-971-8177 Fax: 616-971-8178

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