We Need to Step Back and Find New Uses for the Apple

Earlier this year I challenged each of you to come up with a new use for the apple. My example was what positives flowed from the introduction of taking raw peanuts and creating peanut butter? This then merged with jelly to yield an American classic peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We still are looking for that new mix for our consumers.

If we step back even more and begin to unpeel the onion so to speak, I think we are already slow to invest in apple food research. We have a nutritional crisis on our current doorsteps. US citizens are no longer dying from starvation, but they are dying from obesity. Today 1 in 3 young Americans are too fat to enter the armed services. Since the 60’s obesity has tripled to now be 42% of our population.  No surprise this has led to increased health care costs. There is a reason most health insurance companies will pay for your health club membership.

Food companies see this and are investing huge sums in food research. Traditional protein sources have come from our animal production. The heavy meats and milk products today are destroying our health. We need to invest in ways to have consumers enjoy the taste of their meat products but from plant-based crops. Burger King has the Impossible Whopper now in their menu. They are not alone. Many other companies are investing in this shift away from the dominance of animal-based foods.

People have long predicted that the world population would grow faster than our ability to produce enough calories. What has happened in fact is due to our creativity on the farms we are producing more food than the world is consuming. This has kept food priced below where it should be. Result, we are eating too much because of price and taste.

China will soon be facing a huge food challenge. Due to improved earning capacity the Chinese have gone away from basic food dependence such as rice to more meat based. The demand for this meat-based food simply will not be available for this growing population. This will cause both domestic and international stress.

To try to draw this to a conclusion. We still must feed the growing world/US population in the future. Meat based food production is taking too much of the available acreage. We must learn to reduce the percentage of calories we consume from this group. It will never go away. Soy milk can replace some of the need for dairy based milk for example. We grow apples. We can grow given demand more than we currently do. We need to be investing in food research to use the apple in newer ways. Who would have thought that you could pour a glass of milk from almonds?

In short, we need to make certain our apples are being used even more in the future. If we combine all sales of farmer’s markets, CSA, pick your own, roadside markets, farm to school and direct sale to restaurants from our farms it represents less than 1% of the food we produce in this country. Commercial agriculture is a necessity to feed this planet.

The hope that local and organic will increase consumption has not become a reality. Only 2% of all farm commodities are grown organically. Less than 1% of our acreage is devoted to this usage. To win the health and obesity issues that are on our table we need to encourage new consumption trends. I suggest we make certain apples are in the heart of this revolution.

If you are interested in this topic, I suggest you read Resetting the Table by Robert Paarlberg.

Northwest Winter Fruit Seminar Series

https://ag.umass.edu/fruit/news-events/new-england-winter-fruit-seminar-serie16

Northeast Winter Fruit
Seminar Series
(NYSDEC Recertification Credits Available)
Due to the current COVID 19 situation, we will not be able to hold face-to-face meetings for the foreseeable future. However, in an effort to provide fruit growers in the New England region (and beyond) the same quality educational opportunities we have in the past, fruit Extension Educators throughout the region joined forces in a collaborative effort to develop a winter series of online educational programming.
ENYCHP specialists are working closely with this group to make NYSDEC credits available for a number of these meetings.
Upcoming Talks in February and March:
Tuesday, February 9, 2021 – 11:45-1:30PM (1 DEC Credit)
Speakers: Dr. Terry Bradshaw (University of Vermont), Jessica Foster (University of Vermont), Dr. Renae Moran (University of Maine), and Elizabeth Garofalo (University of Massachusetts)
Tuesday, February 16, 2021 – 11:45-1:30PM (1 DEC Credit)
Speakers: Dr. Jaime Piñero (University of Massachusetts)
Wednesday, March 3, 2021 – 11:45-1:30PM (1 DEC Credit)
Speakers: Dr. Suzanne Blatt (Ag Canada Kentville Research Station)
Wednesday, March 10, 2021 – 11:45-1:30PM (1.25 DEC Credits)
Speakers: Dr. Jaime Piñero, (University of Massachusetts) and Glen Koehler (University of Maine Extension)
Wednesday, March 17, 2021 – 11:45-1:30PM (1.25 DEC Credits)
Speakers: Dr. Renae Moran, (University of Maine) and Glen Koehler (University of Maine Extension)
Tuesday, March 23, 2021 – 11:45-1:30PM (1.25 DEC Credits)
Speakers: Dr. Terence Bradshaw (University of Vermont)
Tuesday, March 30, 2021 – 11:45-1:30PM (1.25 DEC Credits)
Speaker: Dan Olmstead (NYS IPM Program)
To receive NYSDEC credits, New York growers must:
1. Register at the above links by no later than the Friday prior to the meeting date. Participants seeking credits must enter their applicator ID # at registration. Each license holder must register separately and participate on their own device to earn credits.
2. Email, text, fax, or mail a photocopy of their applicator ID to Mike Basedow no later than the Monday prior to the meeting date.
3. Log on to the meeting at 11:45 for a virtual roll call.
4. Attend the entire meeting.
5. Respond to all poll questions that will occasionally be asked.
This series is presented by: Ms. Elizabeth Garofalo, Mr. Jon Clements, Extension Educators, University of Massachusetts Extension Fruit Program; Dr. Terence Bradshaw, Assistant Professor, University of Vermont; Mr. Jeremy Delisle, Ms. Olivia Saunders, Field Specialists, UNH Cooperative Extension, Fruit and Vegetable Team and George Hamilton, Food & Agriculture Field Specialist, UNH Cooperative Extension, Hillsborough County; Dr. Renae Moran, Professor of Pomology and Mr. Glen Koehler, Associate Scientist Maine Food and Agriculture Center, University of Maine; Ms. Heather Faubert, Research Associate, University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension; Ms. Mary Concklin Visiting Extension Educator, IPM Program Coordinator, University of Connecticut.

Curse of Our Fathers

Harvest 2020 is now in the books. Time to review and reflect. For myself I have had the opportunity of sharing in the ritual of harvest. I never grew up in the old West, but I imagine harvest was similar to being on a cattle drive. Sounds fantastic in the beginning but sandwiched between the start and the finish are tired bones and long unglamorous moments, but for the very few who have had the opportunity it was priceless. There is an expression that to really understand an event you have to walk in those shoes. To those who never wore those ‘shoes’ you can only imagine.

So, my question is what motivates a person to desire the right to wear those shoes? Over the years I have jokingly said of Sons in the business it is because of the “Curse of our Fathers”. Over the decades we have had many generations of Fathers who have passed on this “curse”! I just tried to list the names of successful Family operations. I back spaced because I could not create a list without omitting a worthy family. The point is we have been strengthened and advanced because of the decades of family commitment to the New York fruit industry.

The vision of these generations needs to be recognized. The one driving constant was what we were doing today was only a first step to the improved future. This unselfish vision was once again illustrated by the re

commitment to our apple marketing order. This unselfish family positive vote opens so many new opportunities for research, marketing, legislative voice and more.

I think I have shared my point and approval of the marketing order being passed again. I really do not feel it is a “curse” but a very unique “blessing”. Enjoy the winter. It is noticeably short! Plan and dream of better harvests yet ahead. To those of you who have the opportunity to experience this “curse” enjoy your good fortune.

Allow me to share with you one of my favorite moments in life. Once all the crops are harvested, safely in storage. I prayed for a furious storm to rage over my house.  The louder and more powerful the better! I would lie there and just smile from ear to ear and say I withstood all that Mother Nature had to challenge me with! See you next spring old friend!

New Crop in 2020 But is There Anything Else New?

There is a famous saying, “If you do the same thing over and over-looking for a better end, why should you expect any new outcome?”

Since early America we have been growing apples in New York State. Always received as a favorite fruit by the people consuming them. Primary usage has been fresh eating out of hand, cider or baking of desserts. Later we introduced apple sauce to the mix. Near the end of the last century we tried to link apples with health. In my mind only limited market success. Nothing negative but not really a shot in the arm for movement.

Fast forward to 2020. We have asparagus and strawberries every day of the year. Fruits and vegetables no longer have seasons associated with them. Today’s commodities are expected to be on the consumers shopping lists year-round. What are we offering new in 2020 other than a new club variety to be used as it was 300 years ago? Let’s be honest here and admit we are in a bit of a rut.

I took the time to drive around the area recently. I saw incredible innovations in horticulture skills and

Paul Baker,
Executive Director
NYSHS

applications. I witnessed an operation inside a major apple packing plant that was combining apples with potatoes, cucumbers, onions and carrots. This was to move 20 pounds of produce to national distribution. The combination of including apples with other commodities was moving product. It was keeping apples in the daily usage. It was not a stand-alone product, but it was moving product!

I think we have become victims of tradition. Ford Motor began making one car model. Henry quickly observed he needed to make different models, colors and even trucks. We live in a time when anything NEW has a noticeably short shelf life. What I am suggesting is we have a time proven product but a very stale delivery. For example, is the target of our promotions the housewife alone? True she has held most of this responsibility overtime. Ask yourself, how does an item get on her list? Have we as an industry offered enough fresh stimulus to rate being on this critical list?

I personally think we have failed miserably for years to influence the buying power of children. Disney certainly saw the wisdom of making entertainment designed for children. They In turn influenced the adults to become consumers. Children have special needs. They have loose or missing teeth! They have braces that make eating a challenge. Do we ignore these children during this critical time or search new ways to deliver our product to them in a form they can enjoy? I think slicing has been a success here. Question here is, have we done all we could to develop this market?

Open your imagination again. Peanuts grown in the south found a great partner in the north in grapes. Introducing the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Hot dogs and french fries, macaroni and cheese and so on. My question is what product are we searching for and willing to promote to become our “peanut butter and jelly sandwich?’

Apples are a great product. However, I think we need to reintroduce the product to a new consumer. Every promotion will not be a winner. I think the challenge for the apple industry is for the marketing and sales departments to keep up with the horticultural advancements I witnessed in the modern orchard. We can not only improve the orchards. Our job is not completed until our product is in demand on a daily basis. Yes, it is a challenge, but as farmers I think we do our absolute best when faced with challenges.

Send me your ideas for the new apple “peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”

A Final Farewell to George Frederick Lamont

On March 13, 2020 we all lost a generational person. George was simply in a field of his own.  I find it very “George” that he passed on Friday the 13th. He always had his own spin on any event. I think George’s greatest gift was he was never satisfied. This is not to say he was a negative thinker. On the contrary he simply felt we just have not researched enough to be content. He unlike most embraced change. If everything was to remain fixed, we would all be driving horses. To George it never was a question if the glass was half full or half empty. If we were questioning the state of the bloody glass it was long overdue to get a new glass.

I will not begin to list his many personal and industry accomplishments. To all of you, like myself, we each have a favorite story of just how George Lamont interacted with your life. My first memory of George was in the living room of my home growing up. George was the youngest member at this gathering of forward-thinking apple leaders.  He was already looked upon as an innovator that deserved to be heard by seasoned leaders in our industry.  If George was involved in any discussion it was a certainty that he would be questioning why we were not heading in a new direction.

Today the fruit industry is facing grave challenges in marketing, new labor regulations, varietal shifts

Paul Baker,
Executive Director
NYSHS

and a list that seems to increase daily. In truth this was the world of George Lamont. He always projected a calm air of confidence that we would survive the current challenges and rise to a better place as a result. For every question there must be an answer. It may take a while to uncover but it was always there if you had the imagination to look beyond the present.

Even in his later years he created challenges most people would not ever consider. The last time I personally talked to George was at Jim Allen’s retirement party. He told me that he was living in Saranac Lake. I asked him why there? He quickly named the highest mountains in the Adirondacks. It was his personal challenge to climb each one. I do not know if he ever finished this last project. If not, it was certainly not for trying.

As I have already reported we face numerous challenges ahead in our industry. We do not know today how we will resolve these new hurtles. I guess we each should ask ourselves if an 80-year-old man can have the vision to climb the highest peaks in the Adirondacks than we should not feel any mountain that lies ahead of us is too tall. When we do solve this new series of challenges do not be surprised if you hear George in the back of your mind ask you “What took you so long? We still have much to do.”

George you will be missed but never replaced. Word of advice George be a little patient with Saint Peter! I doubt he has had many the likes of you to deal with!

2020 year of Opportunity and New Directions

You did not select being a fruit farmer because of the constant repetition in the work. Farming is, at times, too unpredictable but it certainly stretches your personal skills to the max. Let’s take a moment and try to for see what might be lying in wait for us in the next year.

To begin, it will be the first year under the new farm worker bill. Every farm will be attempting to maximize the work schedules and fall close to or slightly above the new overtime limits of 60 hours. I am not too nervous over this as I see it having some side benefits as it forces employers to place higher emphasis on the work tasks assigned. We will each learn to meet this challenge. Honestly I see this as a challenge but need not be one that will drastically put farms in grave risks.

The next needed fresh look or perhaps opportunity will for each farm to stop and reassess the variety

Paul Baker,
Executive Director
NYSHS

break down in their portfolios. As an industry we have always seen new varieties enter and in time push aside older ones. The only difference today it that this evolution seems to now come at a faster pace. The consumer will have the final verdict as to what they will place in their cart. Our farms will forever, moving forward, be driven by this shopping cart choice. Take the time to ask, observe and then act to make certain you are investing those new 60 hour work weeks in the correct spot.

Thirdly we need to understand that the marketing order will be up for certification in 2 years. This offers a great opportunity to review past directions and take a fresh look at how this order can be structured to best serve the present needs of your farm. I strongly encourage you to maintain the order. That being said I just as strongly need you to ask yourself how you want the order to be administered to best help you bring improved financial returns to your farm. If you see the order as an expense than I think you have failed to give the order the direction it deserves to be an asset. Orders only work when they have the support and creative inputs to be successful.

I think fruit production in the future will be different. That is good. We began by agreeing we are not the type of worker who can survive 52 weeks a year doing the same task. We are lucky living here in the north. Once a year it forces us to take a step back due to weather to review what we are doing. Spring will be knocking on your door too soon. Take Mother Nature’s cue and review before you plunge into perhaps outdated tasks. The future is yours to design.

New Season Ahead.  Are You Ready for What Lies Ahead?

Is it just me or is there a feeling of uncertainty about this crop? I think many growers are coming to the reality that too much of their acreage is no longer in peak demand. The shelves are seeing new names that have now so slowly replaced long standing favorites. While the apple shelf space is still impressive it cannot hold all varieties.

A few years ago, the Eastern crop had a record low crop due to poor weather. The apple shelves did not go bear. Fruit from outside the traditional reach found its way to our markets to fill this gap. Life has never been the same. New supple ties were made and new varieties became available to our consumers. We did not lose our apple consumer they simply had a new list to select from.

We need to accept that our consumer is not the consumer of our parents. That consumer was happy

Paul Baker,
Executive Director
NYSHS

to drive a Ford or Chevy. Today’s consumer wants to select from all the types of cars of the world. Our apple consumer is no different. Our challenge is to accept this reality and wisely move forward. To hold onto older varieties is similar to trying to sell yesterday’s newspaper.

So how do we meet this shift? It may sound like a broken record, but we must continue to invest in research. We need to invest in production and marketing research. We may know how to design the modern orchard but what good is it if we have the wrong variety. I believe we need to make the effort to partner with our State and Federal policy makers to invest in much needed research.

We all know the struggles we are currently having with shifts in public policy on farm labor. We cannot allow this debate to dampen our efforts to increase funding for research. If our labor is to cost us more we certainly need to be harvesting the most desirable crop.

I am confident that in many ways this year will see a huge shift in our orchards. We cannot take the attitude that we will grow what we want despite the consumer shift. We truly do farm today from the shopping cart back to the farm. Embrace change but first make every effort to research that change.

So, What is Happening as Far as Overtime?

The wheels of Democracy are moving. Exactly where they will stop is the question. As a grower you must be filled with more questions than answers on this legislative activity. I will try to bring you up to speed. I must tell you that at this time it is totally up in the air as to which way it will end.

To begin, we have two basically identical bills in play. Senate Bill 2877 sponsored by Senator Ramos from the Queens. She is a freshman Democrat. The key issues to her bill are the following; Overtime after 8 hours each day and overtime after 40 hours in a week; Collective bargaining; Mandatory day of rest each week. The Assembly has a very similar Bill 2750 carried by Assemblywoman Nolan, Democrat, from Queens. In the next couple months the plan is to have several hearings across the State to review and discuss these bills. At this time the specifics of when and where these events will take place are not set.

In an effort to be objective I think the authors of these bills most likely have good intensions. The issue is they have very incomplete information from which to draw their conclusions. It is our intention that we will be able to bring both sides to a clear understanding of the facts. I will tell you it is currently very difficult as there has been very little effort thus far to understand the conditions on a modern farm in New York State by the two authors of these Bills.

According to a 2019 report from Farm Credit East, mandatory overtime would increase labor costs on farms by almost $300 million and decrease net farm income by almost 25%. Net farm income is down 50% from a few years ago and farmers have little to no control over the prices they receive for the products they offer for market.

Farm workers have repeatedly stressed to farmers that the number of hours available to work weigh

Paul Baker,
Executive Director
NYSHS

heavily in their decision to work on a particular farm.  If a farm must reduce hours to fall under the overtime threshold, it would most likely force existing workers to look elsewhere for a job making a tight labor market even more stressed.

Collective bargaining has long been a grave concern for farms. The reality is that this is not such a threat so long as we can have a “No Strike” clause added. Currently there is none in either Bill. The mandatory day of rest needs to be amended to read “voluntary” day of rest. During peak harvest times neither farmers nor farm workers wish to be forced to sit.

What can you do? As the announcements become known, you need to voice your individual story as to how this Bill would impact your farm. If possible, have your employees offer their voice as to how they feel about the impact of this Bill on their lives. If you can take the time to offer testimony, do so. If not, submit written accounts of this Bill on your future. If the opportunity presents itself, be present to show solidarity to this issue. I cannot stress enough the best time to deal with a Bill is before it gets passed and signed into law. We need to stop or dramatically force changes to this Bill in the Senate and Assembly. Once it passes both chambers most feel there is little doubt the Governor will sign it.

Everyone wishes we were not faced with this challenge. The 8 hour per day and 40 hour per week version will, if passed, dramatically alter New York agriculture. We simply will not be able to meet national prices. As much as you may not like it, some form of overtime will very likely be in play. We need to get these numbers at a level we can still hire labor and remain competitive in the market place.

The details of this bill will have enormous implications on New York State agriculture and the up-state economy. It will serve no one to complain later if we do not make every effort to meet the challenges of this bill head on.

February Reality Check

I just spent two full days taking two groups around Albany. The first day they were from the Berry Industry. On the second day, they were primarily apple growers, but they had other tree fruit interests. Each group had budget items to discuss. At every one of my 30 visits we closed with a Q and A about the possibility of new legislative action on the Farm Omnibus issues. Of all the possible issues, the possibility of overtime at any level but most of all 40 hours looms high.

I am not here to cast any negatives on any sector of our industry. The reality is this as I see it. Dairy is locked in a struggle to cover overhead while they continue to out produce demand. They have no legal right to hire foreign workers like the H2A. Overnight, fruit is seeing that its traditional top four varieties are now listed in the back of their consumer’s demand. The rapid decline of demand for Macs, Cortland, Empire and Red Delicious are leaving producers with over 50% of their acreage in a less desirable demand position. Dairy and fruit are the top two categories in New York. I need not list the issues that are present in the remaining crops. Are they important? Cornell studies say apples account for 1.2 billion dollars annually. Regardless of misconceptions by too many New Yorkers, agriculture is a major economic driver we cannot afford to lose.

One quick takeaway that I think is important to mention here. In both Albany and DC we see a huge

Paul Baker,
Executive Director
NYSHS

changing of senior leadership. Albany and DC are having to adjust to a large percentage of new legislators. They are loud and they intend to quickly make their mark. Educating these new legislators is a very new challenge. They arrive, in most instances, with strong convictions. Often times their sources of information are based on perceptions from social media verses facts. So we must defuse these already strong perceptions before we can to move ahead in any discussions.

Here are two examples of what we are facing. In the Senate Veteran Committee there are only two members with any military experience. In the Assembly Agriculture Committee similarly there are only two members with any real agriculture experience. We are seeing committees making policy for us all that have no real world understanding of their respective topics. I have echoed this to you all before. If you decide to not speak, many will fill your absence that have no understanding of your world.

Regardless of what you might think you have heard or hoped for this issue will appear shortly after they complete the arduous budget debates in early April. Perception becomes reality. If you have ever been to either the legislative chambers in Albany or DC you must first pass inspection for security reasons. Trust me when I tell you the ‘weapons of misconceptions’ that are sneaking threw are very dangerous. We must make every effort to continue to be in discussions prior to these legislative floor hearings. I believe, for the most, part people wish the best for each other. Too often however we all may rush to judgment before we truly comprehend the entire topic. We have time between now and the end of this legislative session. I urge you to get involved. It is nearly impossible to get rid of bad legislation. It is often time best served to head it off before it becomes reality.

Will We Ever Reach the Ultimate Success for our Commodity?

Today you can fly from St. Louis to LA in 4 hours. Not so long ago it took 5 months by covered wagon to make this same trip, under ideal conditions. If you had problems, Denver became your new home. Your wagon could cover, on a good day, 20 miles. It carried no more than the capacity of a modern pick-up truck. My point is obvious, I hope. Once you move ahead you never really go back. What will it be like in 50 years to grow apples in New York State? What I know for certain is that it will be very different.

I used to operate a fruit farm. I was fourth generation. At that time, we packed most of our own fruit. It was almost a daily ritual that my Father would come into the packing house to visit. The first place he always went was to the cull bin. I knew the second place with certainty! He would come to question my sanity. He would tell me that I was discarding better apples than he ever raised? What was wrong with my management skills? My Father is gone today but I never really was certain that he could accept the grading standards of those days. The truth is, each year we produce a higher quality product. It has better condition and eating ability. Our consumers have grown to see this “perfection” as the new norm.

Everything in 2018 is better than it was a few years before. ‘New” is a short-lasting piece of time.

Paul Baker,
Executive Director
NYSHS

Change is the norm in everything, not just in agriculture. We must be willing to change with the times. Markets, varieties, customer preferences last as long as the new cell phone models. To accept this, we need to be willing to constantly self-examine all aspects of our business. People will always be looking for someone else to grow their food. Gone forever are the days of populations that were self-sufficient in this task. Not so long ago the world population had more people living in urban settings than rural. In short, this means people are looking for someone else to provide the food and fiber they need to survive.

To meet this reality, we must continue to invest in all forms of research. We need to be willing to accept that change is the new norm. To resist or ignore this is a path to ruin. This means we must take long objective looks at how we both grow and market our crops. Referring back to my Father visiting my packing house, he was not comfortable with how rapidly the industry was evolving. His way of doing business had changed and was never coming back.

I have just concluded my 15th year of helping a modern fruit farm with harvest. I am very grateful for this opportunity to experience first-hand the new reality in fruit production.  I think it is important if I am to be credible in representing our industry that I get my boots dirty on the ground. If I did not, I would be like my Father visiting the cull bin years ago. People will always need fruit. It is our challenge to understand their needs and then surpass their expectations. Those that are successful in the future will always be ten steps ahead of the pack. Embrace the challenge and support those that are willing to invest in ways to improve today. We truly are a work in progress.