Reinstating the Florida Peach Growers’ Association

brooksville peachesIt’s been a pleasant surprise in my five years at the University of Florida to see the peach industry grow as quickly as it has. In fact, the industry has grown steadily to the point where a statewide organization would greatly benefit existing, new, and prospective growers.

The Florida Peach Growers’ Association began as a non-profit corporation in October, 1963, probably around the time when the picture show here was taken.

The Florida Peach Growers’ Association is currently listed as inactive and was dissolved by proclamation in 1974, and the simple fact that the organization has a record with the state of Florida eases re-instatement of the association.

There are several benefits to having a growers’ organization, particularly when there are production, legislative, or marketing issues that affect the industry as a whole. These benefits include, but are not limited to, networking with other growers, establishing research/extension priorities, improving access to industry and university resources, and having representation at the table when legislation or regulatory changes are being proposed. For example, this past year, growers exporting fruit to citrus-producing states found they needed to have an appropriate protocol in place to ensure that fruit were free from Caribbean Fruit Fly (Anastrepha suspensa). Although there is a citrus protocol and certification process in place, none existed for peaches. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) was very responsive to our industry needs and were able to put an agreeable protocol in place for the 2015 harvest season; however, in absence of a statewide organization, the adaption of this and other potential protocols lacks a supervisory sponsor organization.

Thankfully, the Central Florida Peach Growers Roundtable was initiated by a great group of UF/IFAS Extension Agents— including Chris Oswalt, Alicia Whidden, Gary England, and Dr. Cami Esmel McAvoy— who saw the need for a more open line of communication among industry peers.  This has led to a regular meeting/roundtable that has given growers an opportunity to “ask the scientist” and to learn from each other. Expanding this type of interaction to a statewide level will keep the industry moving forward, which is what a grower’s association could further endeavor to accomplish.

We need people to volunteer to help maintain a healthy peach industry in Florida.  Growers, private company personnel, nursery operators, marketers, university/extension personnel— everyone is welcome to the table.  We need representation from small, medium, and large stone fruit operations, as well as other industry sectors such as nurseries that may provide additional insight.

Many of those involved in the peach industry do not exclusively grow peaches and have experience with, or are members of other organizations.  We need to take the things that work well in those organizations and apply them to a statewide peach organization. What are the next steps? Consider the following ways you can get involved:

  • Volunteer – we need leaders
  • Attend an organizational meeting to provide input into the makeup and declaration of organization goals and objectives
  • Define industry challenges and successes to build a marketing strategy/message
  • Define activities to meet the industry challenges, which result in solutions

Let’s grow this industry together and reinstate the Florida Peach Growers’ Association!

CREDIT

by MERCY OLMSTEAD, Ph.D., UF/IFAS Stone Fruit Extension Specialist