What is in this article?:
• John Aplin’s family has been growing vegetables in some form or fashion in southeast Alabama since 1952, but the survival of the farm has depended on a constant willingness to change.
JOHN APLIN OF Aplin Farms in southeast Alabama challenges the state’s fruit and vegetable growers to “dare to be different” in deciding what to grow and how to market it.
“My recipe works for me, but it may or may not work for you. Stick with what works for you. A niche market will work for a little while until everyone starts doing it, and then you have to find something else. Always have something that makes you unique.”
But don’t get greedy, he adds. “If you’re in this business because you need a job or you need something to do, you’re in the wrong business. You need to be happy with what you’re doing. Greed will take over your marketing strategy if you’re in it for the wrong reasons.”
Growers need to be proactive and not reactive, says Aplin.
“Too many times, we wait until we see a disease or an insect pest in our crops before we start to spray. You don’t want to grow your crop and then think about how you’re going to sell it — that should have been the first thing you thought about.
“The marketing plan should be the first thing you think about, at or at about the same time that you’re figuring out what to grow. Plans don’t always work, but you still need to have one.”
Building good relations with the media also can pay off in the long-run, says Aplin.
“If you live in south Alabama, you’ve probably seen me on television. When it’s a slow news day, they may come out and do a story on some strange facet of agriculture.
“I don’t turn them down — never run from the media. When they want to come out and do a story, be cooperative. It can be used as a form of free advertising in the long run.
“When they do decide to talk to you in front of the camera, and they want to interview you about how the drought is affecting your crop this year, don’t say that you’ll lose the whole crop.
“You’ve just told everyone that you won’t have a crop this year. Be as positive as you can. Any press is good press if you make it that way.”
Finally, Aplin says growers should dare to be different. “Two years ago, we started out growing pumpkins and that’s unheard of in south Alabama. Now it’s a success. You just never know.”
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