Notes from our New President: Serving a Diverse Membership and Marketing Organic Fruit in the Current Situation
Rami Aburomia, Mt. Horeb, WI
With Dan Kelly resigning as President of the OFGA Board of Directors in February, the Board was left with the task of electing a new president. At the March board meeting, former OFGA Secretary Rami Aburomia was nominated and elected by unanimous vote, and he is ready to take over the leadership role. In the following pages, Rami gives us a quick introduction to who he is, how he sees the role of OFGA in the industry, and what marketing challenges he sees ahead of fruit growers as we are gearing up for a different growing season.
Spring on My Farm
After serving as OFGA Secretary for many years, I am excited to take over this new role, and I appreciate the trust of the Board Members. Many of you know me, may have even participated in OFGA Field Days at my farm or have seen me at classes I taught; others I hope to meet in the near future.
For me, this time of the year is special, because we move from finishing pruning and all those farm projects to a focus on the growing of fruit. I will plant the last of my orchard this year. We are getting a couple other varieties of apples and pears planted to fill out the orchard to around 4.2 acres. A small orchard of course, but enough to sink my teeth into. Growing fruit is a big part of my life, I love doing it, and I love talking about it with others.
An Umbrella Organization
I am excited to see that there is a lot of interest in growing organic fruit these days. This winter I was fortunate to co-teach two classes on the topic. The class at the MOSES conference focused on organic apples, and there was a three-day course on beginning apple growing organized by the Center for Agricultural Integrated Systems at the University of Wisconsin.
What we had seen at these classes is that people come to growing organic fruit with a range of goals. For some, it is a hobby, and they want to better manage a few backyard trees. Others are farmers with varying levels of experience with perennial fruit, and are looking for ways to supplement their farm with another enterprise, or to build an entire farm business around fruit.
OFGA has always had a goal to be the umbrella over all these varieties of fruit growing interests. But in the same way it is difficult to tailor a class to a variety of interests, it is a challenge for an organization to attend to the need of its diverse membership. I’ve always felt that the power of OFGA is its networking function. Use OFGA to find those people that best help your situation, whether it is an urban fruit coalition or collectors of cider varieties, and “talk shop!”
We also want to hear from you. What can OFGA do to make you a better grower? Where are your knowledge gaps? What kind of field day would be more useful to you?
Marketing this Season
Now let’s talk marketing in 2020. I, for one, am wondering how the current social distancing situation is going to affect marketing fruit this fall. Farmers’ markets are an important outlet for many small fruit growers. At least for the moment, many markets, considered essential businesses, are still planning to open this spring. However, nothing is certain and there is no guarantee that markets will be open throughout the summer and fall. What other outlets are growers using to sell fruit? I did a quick off the cuff questionnaire of a few OFGA members who market a fruit or apple CSA. One farmer says their sales of CSA shares have been strong, even before the Covid-19 situation. Others are waiting until fruit set to sell shares, but are confident the current situation will help them sell shares up to their goal.
There are a lot of discussion by vegetable growers using on-line order and delivery systems. Would this work for fruit growers with just a handful of products to sell? Farm stands are another outlet that can be set up with fewer potential person to person contacts. There are lots of unknowns for businesses that are built on a close customer relationship. Let’s use the OFGA google list serv or the FB page to discuss your challenges and successes for 2020!
About the Author
Rami Aburomia owns and operates Atoms to Apples in Mt. Horeb, WI.
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