Dora Ann Hatch, Chaney, John A., Pyzner, John R., Coolman, Denise | 5/4/2005 2:33:49 AM
POLLOCK – Warm, homemade biscuits and mayhaw jelly adorn many Louisiana dinner tables starting about this time of the year, and the LSU AgCenter is helping producers learn how to grow and market the fruit that makes Louisiana’s official "state jelly."
"Marketing Strategies for Mayhaw Producers" was one of the topics discussed during the 10th Annual Mayhaw Conference and Field Day held at the LSU AgCenter’s Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center Saturday (April 30).
Dora Ann Hatch, an LSU AgCenter community and economic development agent, said there are several marketing strategies people can use to market mayhaw crops. One of those is "niche markets," she said.
"Niche markets include farm stands, farmers’ markets, specialty shops, grocery stores and fairs or festivals," Hatch said. "Some products sold at niche markets are jams, jellies, juice, sauce, flavorings, ice cream, pie fillings, coffeecakes, wine and butter."
Mayhaw jelly has been deemed Louisiana’s official "state jelly," Hatch said. Producers can include this fact in information about their mayhaw products to tie the products to the whole state.
Hatch also pointed out that Tourism Week is May 8-15. This is a good time to promote Louisiana products by placing the products in tourist centers, she said, explaining that producers could contact tourist centers in their area for information and approval.
"Give free samples with contact information," she said. "This will promote your product, it will promote the state, and it will give people contact information they can use after they get home."
Hatch also provided information on how to use agri-tourism, e-commerce and cooperatives to promote Louisiana agriculture.
Marketing mayhaws is something growers should look more closely at doing, according to the experts.
Charlie Hutchins of the Grant Fruit Processing Co. in Pollock said even though mayhaws are "a pain to grow, a pain to harvest and an even bigger pain to process," there is a market for the fruit. Mayhaw production in the state has almost doubled in the past year, he said.
"Mayhaws are growing in popularity," Hutchins said. "The market is there, and we’ve found the best way for us to market mayhaws is by processing them into a juice."
Hutchins said people all over the United States contact him about buying mayhaw juice.
"Marketing is a big factor in selling anything," Hutchins said. "Once you get the word out and people like your product, it’s (marketing) one of the best things you can do for your business."
In addition to learning about marketing their products, participants in the Mayhaw Conference learned about controlling pests in their orchards. Dr. John Pyzner, an LSU AgCenter horticulturist, said there are two distinct diseases growers should be on the lookout for.
"Quince rust is one major disease," Pyzner said. "There is no true resistance for this disease. One way to prevent quince rust from getting in your mayhaw orchard is to keep cedar trees as far away as possible from the mayhaw trees."
Symptoms of quince rust are swellings or pustules on the fruit, which erupt to reveal yellowish to orange powdery spore masses, Pyzner said. When each pustule erupts, a white fringe develops around each spore mass.
"This fungus must have eastern red cedar, dwarf or prostrate junipers as alternate host to complete its life cycle," Pyzner said. "To control this fungus, remove alternate host plants in the vicinity."
Removing cedars will help, but Pyzner said it is hard to obtain complete control, since the spores can be blown a half mile or more. Pyzner said another step growers can take is to remove all galls left by the fungus. Growers also can follow a regular spray program starting when the trees begin to blossom and continuing until the fruit is formed.
A combination of the control measures may have to be used, Pyzner stressed.
Fire blight is another disease Pyzner talked about. This disease affects blossoms, leaves, twigs and young fruit. Because no products are labeled for use on mayhaws to control the disease, using cultural practices such as reduced fertilizer use and pruning out infected limbs can aid in control, Pyzner said.
Another of the conference’s speakers, Bubba Hoggatt of Union Parish, talked about his experiences as a mayhaw grower – and most of his presentation was based on "what not to do." This included trimming the trees.
"I’ve made all of the mistakes," Hoggatt said. "One thing I can tell you to do is not to trim your trees too high. If you do this, the trees get top heavy and bend. Another thing I can tell you to do is to irrigate all sides of the trees. If you don’t, the root systems tend to grow just on one side."
Hoggatt, a pastor, said he also doesn’t do anything in his orchard on Sundays.
"Working on Sundays is one thing I don’t believe in," Hoggatt said. "So, I don’t do anything in the orchard on Sundays and things have been going well so far."
In addition to marketing, diseases and personal experiences, other topics covered during the conference included the differences in antioxidants among the different mayhaw varieties, how to budget mayhaw production, and the different grants available to producers.
According to the Louisiana Summary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, there were 126 mayhaw producers in the state in 2004.
Mamie Bordelon of Cloutierville is one of these producers. Bordelon said she enjoys growing and canning mayhaws, and said she plans to do so as long as she can.
"I like the way my house smells when I’m cooking mayhaws," Bordelon said. "It’s a sweet, natural smell…a pure smell. Not like an air freshener or anything like that. I wish my house could smell like that all of the time."
For more information on this and other agriculture-related information, as well as information on economics, education, finances, health and a variety of other topics, go to www.lsuagcenter.com.
Dora Ann Hatch at (318)927-9654 or firstname.lastname@example.org
John Pyzner at (318)644-5865 or email@example.com
John Chaney at (318) 473-6589 or firstname.lastname@example.org
A. Denise Coolman at (318)547-0921 or email@example.com