Don't give away the produce, farmers are told Extension agent holds seminar

January 31, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Central Maryland vegetable growers should value their products enough to charge customers what they're worth, farmers were told at a meeting sponsored by the Maryland Extension Agency on Friday.

"Too often, we're guilty of giving it away too cheaply," said Ed Kee, a vegetable crop specialist with the Delaware Cooperative Extension Agency. "Don't apologize that you are out to make money. Know your cost to produce your product and go from there."

The meeting, a daylong educational session, covered such topics as vegetable research, integrated pest management and management practices. It also successful growing methods for pumpkins, strawberries and watermelons.

Research at the University of Maryland's Wye Center this year showed a 5 percent loss of pumpkins treated with a fungicide, compared with a 23 percent loss of non-treated fruit, said Robert Rouse, a vegetable and fruit specialist at the Maryland extension agency.

Agents assessed the loss rate after the pumpkins were harvested, sat in the field on pallets for two weeks and were stored in a shed for another month, he said.

Mr. Rouse said he was also surprised at how successful the Trick or Treat brand of pumpkin was in the testing.

"I had written that off as a variety," he said. "But we never lost a pumpkin in spraying or non-spraying crops in two years."

The breed's only disadvantage is the lack of an large, attractive stem, or handle, Mr. Rouse said.

"We're going to test this again this year," he said. "If it goes for three years in a row, I'm going to look for a way to put handles on it."

Researchers also found that plasticulture strawberries were not economical on a commercial basis, even when they used frost protectors such as straw or synthetic covers. In plasticulture, sheets of thin plastic are used for mulch to deter growth of weeds.

In last year's studies, plants yielded only an average of 186 grams of fruit per plant in the most productive tests. However, researchers said the results were still inconclusive, and they are repeating the tests this season. "You need about a pound per plant to make it profitable," Mr. Rouse said.

About 100 commercial vegetable growers from Carroll, Baltimore and other counties attended the conference at Friendly Farms Restaurant in Upperco.

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