CORE VALUES Northeast: A Northeast IPM - Apple Consumer Education and Market Development Project
Mothers and Others is working in the northeast region to create a supportive market environment for products that are locally grown by farmers striving to maintain healthy, ecologically balanced growing environments. This project centers around an eco-label and farm certification program for apples that are locally grown by farmers using biointensive Integrated Pest Management (IPM) methods. CORE Values Northeast (CVN) is generating greater consumer awareness of the benefits of local, environmentally grown foods and is improving market opportunity for local, ecologically-grown apples. In this way, CVN is increasing orchard acreage under ecological management while strengthening economic and community well being.
* Establish a supportive market environment for ecologically-grown and certified apples.
* Generate greater consumer awareness of the benefits of local, environmentally grown foods.
* Develop a model, knowledge-based certification program to accredit northeastern apple growers utilizing biointensive IPM production methods on their farm.
* Identify and seek to address market barriers that could impede expansion of the CVN program and limit the supply of quality fruit grown according to environmental standards.
* Increase orchard acreage under ecological management in the Northeast.
CVN currently has twenty-four growers and over 3,000 acres in production.
CVN has launched a web site for farmers and consumers.
Mothers and Others will undertake a comprehensive evaluation of the CVN project in 1999. It will address the impact CVN has had upon environmental improvement in northeastern rural communities, the economic benefit received by the CVN farmers, and whether CVN is self-sustaining.
Methods and Results
The ecology and weather conditions of the northeast region make organic apple production extremely difficult. This fact inspired the creation of a biointensive IPM -- rather than an organic labeling program -- in order to realistically encourage pesticide reduction.
Applying a "market pull" strategy, CVN is building consumer demand for, and producer and market supply of, ecologically branded fruit. A regional eco-label that generates strong market pull is inspiring many growers to reduce pesticide use in order to meet the label’s ecological standards. In so doing, this program serves the needs of the farmer, the land, the local economy, the consumer, and future generations.
This eco-label is providing an important vehicle to educate consumers about environmental improvements being applied in food production. By creating an option, CVN enables consumers to apply socially held values to purchasing decisions. In this way, eco-labeling becomes an important part of a larger effort to strengthen alternative economies that support local producers, sustainable agriculture, and regional economies.
CVN currently has twenty-four growers and over 3,000 acres in production. With a pared-down mailing list of over 180 prospective farmers, we are working to significantly increase the number of farmers who join the program by encouraging them with increased market opportunities. Another attraction is the support of the growing community of CVN farmers who provide each other, formally and informally, with technical assistance on the reduction of harmful chemicals in production practices. We are currently advocating for increased research to help CVN growers experimenting with alternative pest management strategies.
CVN apples are currently distributed through farmers’ markets and several supermarkets including D’Agostino’s (New York), Big Y (New England), Kings (New Jersey), and Bread and Circus (New England). As of this fall, the apples are also distributed in all 160 Manhattan public schools, serving 75,000 children 600 cases per week. Through our work with FLIK (a private school food service provider), CVN apples are now available in several Long Island public schools as well as 24 private schools in New York City. Continual efforts are necessary in order to ensure these markets for the future as well as expand the marketplace for CVN apples.
The certification process is made up of a knowledge-based farm plan, which outlines all major aspects of orchard production, including weed, disease, and pest management. The farm plan is reviewed by the CVN Certification Committee, which is made up of two Cooperative Extension agents and IPM specialists, two farmers, a consumer representative, and an independent IPM consultant. The plan also includes a third-party annual inspection of all CVN farms and attendance at annual meetings to exchange knowledge among the CVN growers.
The official CORE Values Northeast web site (www.corevalues.org) launched on September 1. The web site is divided into two categories -- farmers and consumers. It includes information geared toward children, parents, teachers, and growers. One CVN grower has already commented: "I've received a lot of calls this week from people asking for my apples -- people who found out about them through the new CVN web site."
We expect to prove there is enough market support to sustain all aspects of the CVN program, including certification, consumer and retail education, and market development. We are working to promote the CVN program to growers and their support community within the state and the federal agricultural system in the hopes of ensuring long-term security for the program.
As a model project, we expect that CVN can be replicated, and used on other commodities, in various communities. Transferable CVN strategies are now being applied to a national organic cotton fiber project as well. Through the distribution of our educational materials, through lectures and speaking engagements to a wide variety of audiences, and through active networking amongst the larger eco-labeling and agricultural communities, CVN will ensure that its experience and information will be transferable to other communities.
In 1999, Mothers and Others will undertake a comprehensive evaluation of the CORE Values Northeast project. This will be the first critical review of an eco-label, and will analyze its goals, methodology, and results. It will include both qualitative and quantitative analyses, and provide information on the financial costs and benefits to farmers.
Reported December 1998. 1999 Northeast Region SARE/ACE Report.