More than 100 growers and members of the Louisiana Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association learned about LSU Agricultural Center research, upcoming guidelines and regulations, and where they can market their produce May 21 at the association’s spring field day 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, LSU AgCenter gardening specialist Kiki Fontenot said.
Broccoli and strawberry trials were discussed, and information on the farm-to-school movement and good handling practices was presented, Fontenot said.
With a perishable crop such as fruits and vegetables, the growers are 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, 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, he said.
“We’re looking at Oklahoma’s model, where instead of buying the big old bags of prechopped-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, which is set to be implemented next year.
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.
Pam Ferrin, of East Baton Rouge Parish, was elected to serve as treasurer, and Fontenot, of the LSU AgCenter, was named secretary.
Advisers to the board from the LSU AgCenter are: Robert Turley, extension agent, Calcasieu Parish; Charlie Johnson, horticulturist; and Alan Morgan, entomologist.