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The backroom where the fruit and vegetable guys play


Table of Contents:

  • Imagine Southeast agriculture as a casino and farmers as the players in that casino.
  • Nobody plays for higher stakes and risk than fruit and vegetable growers.

I thought about that story as I drove home from the Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference in Savannah, Ga., earlier this year. I’ve been going to it for many years and it is as good a farm conference as I attend. More than 3,000 folks go to it with jam-packed educational sessions and a trade show larger than many small Southern towns. Put on by the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and South Carolina Peach Council, it brings growers from Florida, too, and plenty from North Carolina and other Southeastern states.

I always learn a lot there. But one general thing impresses me the most while I’m there: to successfully grow, handle and market fruits and vegetables takes exceptional management skills, or skills to somehow swing the game’s odds into your favor. From labor shortages to food safety regulations, from tough, or at times bad, press coverage to rain, freezes, bugs and diseases, it’s a tough game with plenty of heart-stopping adrenaline jolts to clear out the blood stream throughout the growing season.

And I’ve also learned over the years while attending the SE Fruit and Veggie Conference that fruit and vegetable guys like to play hard, too, or have fun. But that is not for reporting here (a few growers have more evidence on me in the "fun" category than I have on them. If they keep their mouths shut on me, I’ll keep mine shut on them).

Again, all farming is a gamble. But, I have to agree that the fruit and vegetable guys do have their own particular game of chance and a special room to play it in way back there in the Southeast Ag Casino.

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