BATON ROUGE, La. –More than 100 interested growers and members of the Louisiana Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association learned about current LSU AgCenter research, upcoming guidelines and regulations, and where they can market their produce at the association’s spring field day on May 21 at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden.
Each spring and fall, the association meets jointly with the LSU AgCenter to hear about the latest research-based information from AgCenter experts and industry professionals, said LSU AgCenter gardening specialist Kiki Fontenot.
“Today we presented results from our broccoli and strawberry trials. We presented information on joining farmers markets, information on the farm-to-school movement and information on good handling practices,” Fontenot said.
With a perishable crop such as fruits and vegetables, the growers are always interested in new potential markets, said Brandt Robin, the association’s new president, who farms in St. Landry Parish.
Copper Alvarez, executive director of Big River Economic and Agricultural Development Alliance(BREADA), which sponsors the farmers markets in Baton Rouge, invited the growers to bring their products because her organization is expanding.
Alvarez said one of the latest approaches has been mobile markets that travel to areas that are considered food deserts.
“It’s a great time to be a farmer because people are looking for local products and want to find out where their food comes from and who grows it,” Alvarez said.
Bryan Alexander, program director for Slow Food Baton Rouge, discussed the farm to school program. The initiative teaches children where their food comes from through school gardens. It will eventually look at ways to bring more locally grown products to school cafeterias.
“We’re looking at Oklahoma’s model, where instead of buying the big old bags of pre-chopped-up vegetables or something that’s just ready to heat up and eat, the schools actually purchase fresh from local producers,” Alexander said.
LSU AgCenter food scientist Achyut Adhikari presented information on the federal Food Safety Modernization Act that will be implemented next year.
“The presentation today is just to get the growers prepared for the new rules that are coming,” Adhikari said. “We also are helping them to implement good agricultural practices, which are not mandatory but are required by some buyers.”
Mike Lindsey, assistant state soil scientist with the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, demonstrated a rainfall simulator to show producers the importance of a conservation plan to avoid soil erosion on farmland.
In addition to the presentations and field tours, the association also held its annual meeting to elect officers.
The new Louisiana Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association officers are:
President: Brandt Robin, St. Landry Parish
Vice President and Central Region Board Member: Robert Poole, Rapides Parish
Southwest Board Member: Eddie Romero, Iberia Parish
Southeast Board Member: Amber Dawn Parker, Orleans Parish
Northwest Board Member: Danny Coombs, Rapides Parish
Northeast Board Member: Sara Nuss, LSU AgCenter agent in Concordia Parish
Treasurer: Pam Ferrin, East Baton Rouge
Secretary: Kiki Fontenot, LSU AgCenter
Advisors to the Board from the LSU AgCenter are: Robert Turley, extension agent, Calcasieu Parish; Charlie Johnson, horticulturalist, and Alan Morgan, entomologist.
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