Fresh Vegetables Create Fresh Markets

Tomato-Genuwine-PanAmericanSeed
‘Genuwine’ tomato is part of the Heirloom Marriage collection from PanAmerican Seed. ‘Genuwine’ is a cross between ‘Costoluto Genovese’ and ‘Brandywine.’

There’s nowhere for the vegetable trend to go but up, say experts from top breeding companies who have their eyes closely on the market. The demand for unique, flavorful, locally grown vegetables and fruit is growing, and new farmers’ markets and roadside stands are continuing to open and flourish.

While patio vegetables are still quite popular, breeders are also noticing that home gardeners with even a small plot of land are jumping on the bandwagon, as well. Breeders are looking for varieties that will suit those gardeners and the fresh market farm sector.

Eat Local Movement Creates New Markets

“We are not breeding tomatoes that are suitable for transportation 3,000 miles away,” says Josh Kirschenbaum, new crops manager for PanAmerican Seed. “Flavor is our primary emphasis, as well as exceptional fruit quality and earlier and longer harvest. That’s really important if you are a fresh market farmer or a home gardener. We are also figuring out how our products can be used to extend the season, such as in high tunnels and greenhouses.”

Kirschenbaum says he is well aware of the trend of flower growers beginning to grow vegetables during the gaps in
their seasons.

“We’ve started working with growers to see their operations, and are looking at ways we can fit our existing varieties into those systems, as well as think about some of the new varieties we are working on for the future,” he says. “A lot of growers have been doing this for just a year — it’s a perfect tie-in for us to start investigating, because we are learning together. We also have a group of customers we have worked with for many years, and we can get products into their hands right away for them to trial. We want to get their feedback.”

Jeannine Bogard, business product manager for Syngenta Flowers, says vegetables are not a one-size-fits-all solution for everyone, and it is important for the industry to look into the demographic makeup of the gardener.

“The way to position vegetables with each [demographic] group is going to be different depending on where they are in life,” she says. “You’ve got to look at the footprint of where they live. If there are small footprints, you want to offer a container program. But if they are participating in a community garden, then the plants can go in the ground.”

Bogard says she sees more young people wanting to grow their own food.

“There are so many things driving their interest in growing their own right now,” she says. “The food safety issues, the eat local movement and the trend toward more gourmet cooking are big factors.”

New Genetics Raise Productivity

With new genetics, or enhanced versions of old ones, it’s not necessary to have the large, half-acre garden of your grandparents to grow a useful amount of produce. Bogard says she is “bringing the farmers’ market to the front porch.”

“All the benefits the local farmer enjoys — disease resistance, high-yield — makes an easy-to-grow experience for the home gardener,” Bogard says.

At PanAmerican, Kirschenbaum is also working on increased productivity. One example he cites is the new heirloom tomato series, Heirloom Marriage. While many heirlooms are bred with modern varieties to increase productivity and disease resistance, the Heirloom Marriage varieties have two heirloom parents.

“Heirlooms are very popular right now,” Kirschenbaum says. “We looked at hundreds of varieties and chose the ones we liked for color, shape and especially flavor, and started crossing them. The Heirloom Marriage varieties have much higher yields, fewer fruit blemishes and are much earlier to mature.”

Kirschenbaum says this series is a good example of how new breeding can tap into the farmers’ market sector.

“Heirlooms aren’t very productive, but people still want them, so farmers are still growing them,” he says. “But they are not having a lot of success or productivity with them. Neither are home gardeners, for that matter. So this series will give some nice added value to those folks.”

Being Different Makes All The Difference

While many flower growers like to stick with tried-and-true varieties, Bogard says they should try a different approach with vegetables.

“Vegetable people will make room for one more thing,” she says. “There’s a group of gardeners out there who are trolling for that new plant. And they are having a hard time finding it. That’s why the mail-order companies are doing so well — some have 200 to 300 varieties of tomatoes. Veggies are trending. I think the only thing that will hold the trend back is that we aren’t feeding that urge to have something different. Growers say, ‘I won’t grow it unless they ask for it.’ I say, they are asking for it, but we aren’t listening.”

The internet can play a role, as well.

“I was asked by a commercial customer about a tomato called ‘Carmello,’” Bogard says. “It has been on the market for awhile. I looked into it and found out ‘Carmello’ has a huge following online. It’s a French hybrid with a thinner skin, 5- to 7-ounce red fruit, great productivity and full flavor. It’s a home garden variety, and now we are offering it.”

Kirschenbaum also sees the desire for flavor and uniqueness as paramount, saying cooking shows, blogs and websites that focus on cooking are creating that interest.

“There is a trickle-down effect,” he says. “If a farmers’ market has something different available, people will buy it and like it and may want to grow it. If a chef mentions something on TV, everyone wants it.”

Selling The Story

With vegetables, it’s not really as much about how the plant looks in the garden as it is with flowers. It’s about the back-end performance — the harvest. It’s important to tell that story to customers so they understand the real value of what the plant will provide.

PanAmerican is grouping many of its vegetable offerings as the HandPicked Collection. Most have been on the market for several years, and are suitable for home gardeners and the fresh market garden.

“This is something important to us that we intend to grow into the future,” Kirschenbaum says. “We have a nice cohesive collection now and are ready to introduce it to the world.”

Marketing materials have been developed to tell the story of the varieties in the collection, including bin cards growers can download and print.

Bogard says vegetables are about eating and sharing, and growers need to adapt their mindset accordingly.

“When I talked about how to grill vegetables and what to do with them at one of our trials, growers were suddenly interested,” she says. “When I shared what they were going to experience later in the summer, not what they were going to deal with in the greenhouse, they got all excited.”

The Future Is Bright

Kirschenbaum says the demand for locally grown vegetables will continue to grow.

“It’s something that makes sense to people, whether it is about the cost of transporting a head of lettuce from California to Ohio or about the nutritional value of locally grown food,” he says. “Whether local in your backyard or local at a farmers’ market, is not just a fad because it really makes sense.”

Topics:

Leave a Reply

More From Vegetables...
Hendriks-Half-Open-Roof_GGS

March 26, 2015

10 Greenhouse Products For First-Rate Growing Environments

From coverings to fork-lifts, greenhouse suppliers offer a variety of products to make growing easier. Check out the slideshow to learn more about these, plus several other products that can offer you value, versatility and durability.

Read More
Rose rosette on Knockout rose, April 2012. Photo credit: Alan Windham, University of Tennessee

March 25, 2015

$58 Million In APHIS Farm Bill Funding Will Support Horticulture Priorities

Nearly $58 million as been allocated by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to support the industry's Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program, under Farm Bill Section 10007. The program will support mitigation efforts for specialty crops, including providing research and other funding to address plant pest and disease priorities for the specialty crop industry, including floriculture and nursery crops.

Read More
AFE scholarship_Ryan Dickson

March 25, 2015

AFE Educational Grant And Scholarship Application Deadlines Approaching

Apply now for American Floral Endowment (AFE) scholarships or educational grants. Applications can be found online. For educational grants for 2015-2016, applications must be submitted no later than June 1. Scholarship applications are due May 1. AFE will award $40,000 in scholarships for 2015.

Read More
Latest Stories

November 24, 2014

Root Crops And Plug Trays: A Perfect Match

Growing a plant to maturity in plug trays might be foreign to ornamental growers, but with a little help from plug tray manufacturers and breeders, there is little to hold growers back in this root crop category.

Read More

November 14, 2014

First Vegetatively Propagated All-America Selections (A…

All-America Selections (AAS) honors two vegetatively propagated impatiens with AAS winner status.

Read More

October 8, 2014

Gotham Greens To Build Rooftop Farm In Chicago

Gotham Greens announced October 7 that it has partnered with Method Products, an eco-friendly cleaning product company - to build what they are calling the "world's largest rooftop farm" at Method's new manufacturing plant in the Pullman neighborhood, on Chicago's south side.

Read More

August 19, 2014

A Look Ahead At Food Safety For Commercial Greenhouse V…

If you grow food in your greenhouse that is sold for consumption, food safety regulations will affect you. Here is a recap of Debbie Hamrick’s (North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation) Cultivate'14 presentation on food safety for commercial greenhouse vegetable production.

Read More

July 22, 2014

Bright Farms Launches Crowdfunding Campaign To Build Ur…

Urban farming pioneer Bright Farms is attempting to crowdfund what it hopes will be the "world's most productive urban farm," in Washington, D.C.

Read More

July 18, 2014

Meeting The Demand For Edibles: Go Green Agriculture In…

Read about how Go Green Agriculture Inc. took its business from the classroom to commercial reality in one of four articles on how growers are appealing to the growing interest in edibles.

Read More

July 18, 2014

Meeting The Demand For Edibles: Peace Tree Farm

Interest and response to Peace Tree Farm’s annuals and foliage plants continues to increase, but herb and vegetable starter plants is where the company makes its money. Read about it in one of four articles on how growers are appealing to the growing interest in edibles.

Read More

July 18, 2014

Meeting The Demand For Edibles: High Meadows Farm

Grants brought opportunities for High Meadows Farm to start growing raspberries and tomatoes. Read about it in one of four articles on how growers are appealing to the growing interest in edibles.

Read More

July 18, 2014

Meeting The Demand For Edibles: Altman Plants

Read about Altman Plants' venture into greenhouse vegetable production in one of four articles on how growers are appealing to the growing interest in edibles.

Read More

July 15, 2014

Cultivate’14: Vegetable Production Tour Highlight…

Check out photos from Greenhouse Grower's visit to CropKing Inc.'s research greenhouses as part of he vegetable production tour at Cultivate'14.

Read More

July 8, 2014

Veterans Are Well-Suited For Grower Jobs, And AgVets Is…

AgVets is breaking ground this summer with the first of up to 30 hydroponic greenhouse operations located throughout the country to provide produce to lower- and middle-income consumers.

Read More

June 27, 2014

Growing Beyond New York, Gotham Greens Is Developing Pr…

Gotham Greens is considering the potential for partnering with growers for new ventures in cities across the U.S.

Read More

June 27, 2014

Gotham Greens Takes Locally Grown Produce To A Whole Ne…

Gotham Greens broke the boundaries of agriculture by building the country’s first commercial-scale rooftop greenhouse operation in Brooklyn, N.Y. Now it’s taking that vision further with two more locations and contracts to build in more cities.

Read More

June 25, 2014

New Trends, New Crops Offer New Possibilities For Edibl…

New small-space vegetables, container trends and flower/vegetable groupings contribute to a resurgence of interest in growing edibles.

Read More

April 11, 2014

Eight Standout Vegetables From Spring Trials [Slideshow…

Reflecting the consumers' passion for growing food, a number of breeders introduced attractive and flavorful vegetable varieties. Here are a few of my favorites.

Read More

April 10, 2014

Syngenta Opens Application Period For Grow More Vegetab…

The Syngenta Grow More Vegetables Seed Grant Program supports schools and community organizations interested in establishing or enhancing garden programs. Applications are now being accepted for 2014.

Read More

April 10, 2014

Managing Organic Food Waste In Your Business

The single largest component of the nation’s waste stream by weight is food waste. Here is what you need to consider before implementing a food waste collection system at your business.

Read More

April 10, 2014

Vegetalis Is Working To Make Growing Vegetables Easy Fo…

For the past four years, Vegetalis has presented container vegetable crops at Spring Trials, and while growers and retailers have been excited about Vegetalis’ offerings, there haven’t been enough sales. So this year, the company is working on a few new marketing concepts to bring Vegetalis’ considerable number of container veggies to retailers nationwide.

Read More