Hats off to you vegetable growers!

Editor’s note: This article is from the archives of the MSU Crop Advisory Team Alerts. Check the label of any pesticide referenced to ensure your use is included.

As we near the end of the 2009 growing season, and the publication of these weekly Vegetable Crop Alerts, I would like to offer a brief tribute to Michigan’s vegetable producers. Although my work is primarily confined to eight West-Central Michigan counties, I know that my comments will apply to growers anywhere else in our two peninsulas.

As I have watched you, Michigan’s vegetable growers, go about your work each season, I have often been struck by the many challenges that you face time and time again. Whether you are part of a large farm selling primarily to the wholesale channels and large chain retailers, or operate a smaller farm where you go to the various farmers’ markets or sell directly from your own retail establishment, your experiences as a produce grower are quite similar. You deal with ever-present financial risk, trying to make a profit and survive in a very competitive environment. Shortly after one season’s harvest is in, you take on new production loans for the next season, having faith you will have the ability to repay them. You deal with labor management and regulation; the constant uncertainty of changes to state and national labor laws. You try to keep pace with changes in technology and production practices. Sudden spikes in energy costs have a profound impact on you bottom line. Your crops are placed in the ground each spring, without any foreknowledge of what Mother Nature will have in store. You must adapt to changes in customer purchasing habits and marketplace demands for stringent food safety practices. New regulations regarding everything from pesticides and nutrients to water usage and transportation seem to appear with growing frequency. Weeds, insects and diseases usually take a portion of the crop that you had hoped to keep for yourselves.

Despite all this, you get up every morning and continue the work. Most of you find satisfaction in owning a piece of land and watching a new crop mature from seedling to harvestable produce, knowing that it is people like yourselves that feed the rest of us. Times of discouragement are a given in your business, but you press on. It is for this that I and my colleagues tip our hats, offer a salute, and say thanks for keeping on!

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