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Reasons to Choose Local Produce

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FRESH, HIGH QUALITY VEGETABLES AND FRUIT Local food is usually sold to the consumer within hours of being picked. In contrast, the average vegetable in the grocery store is 5 to 7 days old, sometimes as much as 2 weeks old, before the consumer buys it. MORE NUTRITIOUS THAN
WHAT YOU CAN GET AT A GROCER Why? The average fruit or vegetable at a chain grocery store may have traveled more than 1500 miles to arrive there.
BETTER TASTE AND BETTER FOR YOU Most locally grown food is hand harvested when it is ripe for immediate sale to the consumer with good taste as a prime criterion. A recent study showed that fresh produce loses nutrients quickly therefore locally grown food, purchased soon after harvest retains it nutrients.
LOCAL FOOD SUPPORTS LOCAL FARM FAMILIES Farmers are a vanishing breed, The farmer gets less than 10 cents of the retail food dollar. Local farmers who sell direct to customers, cut out the middleman and get full retail price for their produce. This means that farm families can afford to stay on the farm, doing the work they love.

Weathering the Economic Crisis

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Weathering the Economic Crisis by Jenan Jones Benson
What does that mean for you? It’s not news that the country is facing tough times economically. Commercial growers feel the pinch as well, but for the agricultural industry, the news isn’t all bad. Farmers, overall, may fare better than other occupational groups.
Buddy, can you spare a dime?
As of late March, business loans and credit were considered rare commodities by many, but growers reported that securing funds for their spring needs hasn’t been that difficult.
Tanya Miller, owner of Millican Produce in Millican, Texas, with her husband Steve King, says growers such as her who have established solid credit ratings shouldn’t have obstacles with loan approval.
“We are expecting to apply for a loan [for expanding our greenhouse tomato operation] in the near future and have been told that we should not have any trouble because of our past history,” she says.
Nick Augostini, marketing specialist with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, agrees, adding that growers in his area continue to receive funding through both Farm Credit and the local banks. However, those institutions are reviewing applications more carefully and borrowers should anticipate closer monitoring during the loan’s term.
“Lenders are a little more skittish,” says Dr. Anthony Yeboah, professor and chair of North Carolina A&T State University’s department of agribusiness, applied economics and agriscience education. “There is a general sense of uncertainty, a psychological cloud hanging over the future.”
That may mean that existing credit lines or terms may be altered, but it also signals opportunity. Historically low interest rates may benefit growers and enable some operations to expand.

Winter Greens on a Greenhouse Energy Budget

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The consumption of energy is a major component of running a greenhouse, especially in the winter when energy bills are at an all time high. Whether you have a greenhouse or are looking at acquiring one, reducing the need for energy during the winter without turning the greenhouse off, is a major concern. We will explore this topic in this article. As well, we will discuss the kind of crops that can be grown in the greenhouse when energy consumption is reduced.

Eggplants in the Greenhouse

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A greenhouse eggplant crop is relatively easy to grow as a commercial or hobby crop.
Although eggplant is not a regular food item for many people, it does have a place in the greenhouse production plan for those who like it and value its contribution to their cuisine.
The crop is about a six months long. It could be reduced to a shorter time but less fruit would be produced. Leaving the crop in the greenhouse more than six months would create a problem with plant height. Plants of most cultivars grow to six to seven feet tall in the six month time frame when trained in the way suggested below.
Any attempt to produce eggplant fruit through the lowest light time of the year, in all but high light levels, should be avoided. Good light levels are needed for good fruit production. With enough artificial light, fruit can be produced through otherwise low light periods.
Eggplant is usually served in a cooked state rather than fresh. Eggplant Parmesan is what many people think of when they consider eating eggplant at a meal. The eggplant fruit is sliced crosswise and the circular pieces are dipped in a batterand rolled in a crumb preparation before being fried or grilled. Eggplants can also be prepared in a casserole or as young stuffed fruit for individual sized servings.
Young Eggplants in Dutch buckets filled with perlite.

Hobby Greenhouse Product

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Hydroponic cucumbers require quite a bit of space for proper growth but can yield a great harvest. Visit Cropking today for info on your greenhouse cucumbers.

Early Crop Production in Unheated "Poly Tunnels"

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While some growers are going into greenhouse vegetable production in a big way, with computerized, controlled environment greenhouses and soilless growing systems, others are slowly getting involved in "greenhouse farming" using conventional coldframes covered with a single layer of poly, often referred to as poly tunnels. Since no automated heating or cooling is used, this allows a low cost way of entering the specialty produce business that can yield an excellent return on investment.

Growing Tomatoes in Soilless Culture

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For many growers, tomatoes are the ideal crop to produce due to their tremendous demand and high market value. Since tomatoes are a universal item in the American diet, they are very easily marketed, even in outlying rural areas away from major markets. This ease of marketing all that a grower can produce is an important point to consider when choosing a crop. Also, with a ten-day shelf life, tomatoes need no refrigeration or special treatment prior to delivery to market.

Role of Perlite in Hydroponic Culture

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Horticultural perlite has a long and enviable record of performance as a propagating and growing medium throughout the world. It has been successfully used in virtually all horticultural applications including glass house growing, landscaping, lawn and stadium turf and in a variety of container applications. Time and time again it has proven its superiority in meeting the needs of commercial growers and home gardeners. Hydroponic culture is no exception. Extensive testing over a period of years at the West of Scotland Agricultural College has documented the superiority of perlite over other methods of hydroponic culture. For example, tomato crops hydroponically grown in perlite have produced average yields 7% higher than crops grown in rockwool. In addition to significantly increasing yields, perlite culture is particularly easy to manage and offers additional benefits.

Tomatoes in Perlite

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With more and more vegetable growers looking into soilless or hydroponic vegetable production, the need for a simple yet productive growing system has gained attention in recent years. Hydroponic growing systems are based on sterile, inert, and uniform growing media that serve as supports for a water-soluble nutrient solution. Commercial growers have traditionally used one of several hydroponic growing systems: the nutrient film technique, of media-based systems using peat mixes, rock wool, and sometimes even sand or gravel. Horticultural perlite has an excellent record as a propagating and growing medium. It has been used successfully in many applications as a supplement to various growing media for a variety of crops. Now, however, perlite is beginning to be used by itself as an ideal hydroponic growing media. Perlite is produced throughout the U.S., making it cost effective for growers. It can be used for two years, and then spread on farmland or sold to gardeners.

Hydroponic Marketing

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Establishing a market for your produce is surprisingly easy. By following our guidelines and procedures you can build a solid, steady, and dependable market for your crops. Low-cost, customized marketing and packaging materials are available. Many of our growers find that after several months of production, there's more demand for their crops than they can supply! The following is an excerpt from the November 1987 edition of American Vegetable Grower Magazine entitled Hydroponic Produce Supplements Farm Income.

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