One of the things that many growers have said to me over the 5 years that I’ve been at UF in this position is, “I wish we had a statewide organization”. Or something like that…(I’m paraphrasing). With the industry as large as it was in the 1980s, I was actually surprised that there wasn’t an organization.
However, “necessity is the mother of invention”- and the Central Florida Peach Growers Meeting was initiated by a great group of extension agents – Chris Oswalt, Alicia Whidden, Gary England, and Cami Esmel McAvoy. This has led to a regular meeting/roundtable that has given growers a great opportunity to “ask the scientist” and to learn from each other.
But what about those in S. Florida and N. Florida? Thus, there is a need to form a statewide organization. I’ve introduced this topic at the Winter Workshop in Fort Pierce last month and I presented a short introduction to possible organization scenarios. The good news is that there was a Florida Peach Growers Association before, so the name is “on the books” in Tallahassee.
Now comes the tough part. We need people to volunteer to help us out. Growers, commercial folks, nursery personnel, marketers – everyone is welcome to the table. We need representation at the table when something comes up, like providing input on a Caribbean Fruit Fly Protocol so that our peach fruit can be accepted into other states, as well as other industry challenges that may need a nimble response, or research/extension priorities.
Many of those involved in the peach industry do not solely grow peaches and have experience with, or are members of other organizations. I’d like to be able to take the things that work well in those organizations for you and duplicate that for this statewide organization! We also need to think about large, medium, and small growers so that this group can put out information that is appropriate for all operation sizes.
The next steps are to:
- Set up a meeting – I was hoping to shoot for the last week in January or first week in February (please attend and let’s see what we can get done!)
- Decide on group objectives
- Define industry challenges and discussion solutions
Please let me know what you think. I hope to have more information next week on a possible location and topic discussions. Stay tuned!