Most producers own farms ranging in size from five to 75 acres. The farms vary in production, but most consist of a few livestock – dairy, hogs, draft and light horses – intensive grazing and fruit and/or vegetable plots. The larger farms may have a few acres planted to hay, wheat and corn.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
Approximately forty produce growers want to market organic integrated pest management regulated produce by means of a produce auction. The produce growers are from LaGrange County and surrounding counties. The auction barn will be centrally located in LaGrange County. We want tot encourage other farmers to develop this innovative marketing practice to increase farm income and contribute to sustainable rural agriculture.
Many livestock producers, especially smaller landowners and family farms, face financial difficulty with low prices and high land prices. The auction market will allow the conventional farmer an alternative way to utilize their land by growing fruits and vegetables on five to ten acre plots.
A committee has been formed to oversee the auction concept of marketing and an investment group has volunteered to build an auction barn. Producers will buy memberships and investors will assist with some of the equipment in the beginning. Eventually sales receipts will fund salaries and maintain the project. However, presently there are no available funds for start up. Enough money is needed to start the marketing process by hiring a project auction manager to find buyers, promote produce by advertising and provide workshops for growers. Also assistance is needed for essential start up auction equipment.
The end of 2002 season was good, although still not meeting all costs, ending at $425,000.00.
We have stepped up in production with growers having more signature crops in cucumbers, melons, peppers, and onions.
Melons average per grower, 8 acres
Onion, 20,000 plants
Peppers, 15 to 20,000 plants
Cucumbers, 4-5 acres
Growers are finding out what they grow best, how they are able to control pest, fertilizer programs, yield per acre was better, and most growers use irrigation on all crops except pumpkin and sweet corn.
Through Extension efforts I have been able to speak in winter meetings at Vegetable congress in Indianapolis, Grand Rapids and in county meetings of future leaders of our country. We are also finding good outreach in press releases and all the brochures we can possibly hand out.