This review demonstrates through data published in some of the most recent scientific publications how environmental conditions, namely temperature, humidity and atmosphere can significantly impact the quality of fresh fruits and vegetables. Findings: Although several studies have shown that ambient temperature and atmosphere ... example, broccoli stored at 4°C retained its green colour and fresh appearance during storage for 7 days, whereas 3 broccoli stored at 20°C showed traces of yellowing after 3 days, and after 7 days the heads were completely yellow, showed some mould development and released an unpleasant odour . Figure 1 illustrates how increasing the storage temperature significantly enhances the development of yel- lowing in broccoli stored for 3 days at 0, 5, 10, 15 and 20°C. After 3 days at 20°C, broccoli florets were completely yel- low, whereas even after 20 days of storage at 0°C complete floret yellowing was not attained [18**].
Producer Inventory Management for Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Sales to Retail Outlets
Fruits: berries (other), berries (strawberries), melons
Vegetables: beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, celery, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), onions, peas (culinary), peppers, radishes (culinary), sweet corn, tomatoes
Farm Business Management: cooperatives
Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, new business opportunities
Project Summary Expanding markets for local fruits and vegetables can be challenging. Farmers need an efficient system to market fresh local fruits and vegetables through existing retail markets while maintaining a high percentage of the retail dollar. This project proposes to set up a system based on producer inventory management similar to that which is done with bakery items. Fresh fruits and vegetables will be delivered on a daily basis and placed in the sales area. Non-fresh items will be removed from the display and the business will be given a credit for these items. This method will return a greater portion of the retail dollar to the farmers as the grocery store does not have to deal with waste and reducing the prices for older, inferior produce. The community will benefit from a greater number of retail establishments offering local fresh fruits and vegetables. Consumers will be educated as to what produce in the store is produced locally, and why purchasing these products is important through point of sale advertizing.
Broccoli has been grown in Europe for centuries, but has only been grown in the United States since 1925. Although California is the major producing state, broccoli it is grown in nearly every state. Over the last 35 years, per person consumption of fresh broccoli has increased from 1.4 pounds in 1980 to 7.1 pounds in 2017. According to The Packer 2017 Fresh Trends, broccoli is the 6th most popular vegetable, based on the percentage of primary shoppers buying in the previous 12 months. Consumption of frozen broccoli also increased, but at a slower rate from 1.5 pounds to 2.6 pounds within the same period. (ERS, Yearbook 2018).
The popularity and consumption of broccoli may be due to its health-related benefits and convenience. It ranks among the top 20 foods in regards to ANDI score (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index), which measures vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient content in relation to caloric content. One cup of broccoli provides over 100% of our daily requirement for vitamins C and K and is also a good source of fiber, vitamin A, folate and potassium.
Broccoli is marketed as either a fresh or processed product, although most growers produce it for the fresh market. Processed broccoli is typically frozen for retail sale and marketed as either spears or chopped, while a limited amount is canned for soups. Typically, broccoli grown for processing is produced under contract between grower and processor. It is considered a dual use vegetable because fresh varieties can be used for either the fresh or processing market. The emergence of the value-added fresh sector, which includes pre-cut and bagged broccoli florets and broccoli coleslaw is helping to expand markets for broccoli and the added convenience is help expand total broccoli use.
Broccoli is a cool-season vegetable and is closely related to cauliflower and cabbage, requiring similar production requirements. Fresh-market production accounts for 95 percent of the U.S. crop. It is planted year-round in California with the major harvest from mid-October through December. California produces nearly 92 percent of the broccoli grown in the U.S, followed by Arizona. California exports 15 to 20 percent of its fresh market broccoli production. Approximately 129,400 acres of broccoli was harvested in 2017. The average broccoli yield in 2017 was 157.6 cwt (7.9 tons) per acre, down 10 percent from 2015.
Machine Harvest Broccoli
New broccoli plant suitable for the industrial processing of heads and florets
This present invention deals with a new type of broccoli plant suitable for the industrial manufacture of broccoli heads and florets. This invention relates to broccoli plants producing a head that is flat, comprises multiple individualized florets and protrudes above the leaves making it easy to harvest by machine, allowing the use of heads and florets for the manufacture of processed broccoli and/or packaged food products.
Broccoli is a member of the Brassica family like cauliflower and cabbage, its botanic name being Brassica oleraceae L. var.italica. Broccoli is native of the Mediterranean region and particularly grown in Italy for centuries. Indeed, it was considered as favorite vegetable by the Romans, who initially ate a purple sprouting broccoli that turned green when cooked.
Broccoli has since been developed by selection and crossing to obtain varieties such as Calabrese (originating from the area of Calabria) or other broccoli varieties which have more and more improved qualities.
Broccoli is mostly marketed and consumed fresh; the part of the plant that is eaten is actually an undeveloped flower head hereinafter named head comprising many tiny buds crowded onto it.
Heads are harvested at maturity when they are an adequate size and have florets with a uniform green color.
Due to the architecture of the plant, broccoli harvesting is done manually when the head has reached maturity. The main stem is cut and the head thus obtained is cooled and marketed as fresh product. This manual harvesting is expensive in terms of labor cost and may represent up to 60% of the total labor costs for producing broccoli.
The use of mechanical harvesting solutions have been attempted but, because of the importance of leaf content and the deep burying of the head within those leaves, the jamming of the cutting equipment is an issue in the development of any mechanical equipment for harvesting broccoli.
Broccoli is mainly marketed fresh, as fresh heads. There is however a trend for individualized florets packed in bags in order to address a need for convenience and to provide the consumer with ready to eat or ready to cook vegetables. This kind of packed fresh broccoli florets allows the consumer to cook broccoli conveniently without the need to clean broccoli heads, to cut florets one after the other and eventually to dispose of non-edible broccoli parts. However, the cost of the processing of broccoli heads for producing individualized florets after harvesting is a serious issue.
Broccoli is also increasingly marketed as frozen, mainly in the form of individualized florets, either alone or in combination with other vegetables in ready to cook mixes. In those cases as well, there is a need to handle and process the broccoli heads after harvesting as quickly as possible in order to preserve all the organoleptic qualities of the product.
There is still a need for broccoli plants that produce head and/or florets that can be harvested and processed with the minimum hand-labor input in order to minimize the costs associated with the harvesting and/or processing of those heads and/or florets, particularly for the manufacture of individualized florets. This present invention aims at solving this problem and is addressing the need of providing a broccoli plant that produces a head that can be harvested by machine and florets that can also be harvested and/or processed by machine with minimal hand labor.
Accordingly, this present invention provides a cultivated broccoli plant having, at the harvestable stage, a head comprising a primary stem on which are branched secondary stems with florets at their top, characterized in that the florets are comprised within a plane substantially parallel to the ground.
Another plant provides an assembly of broccoli heads, particularly isolated broccoli heads, comprising at least two broccoli heads, each comprising a primary stem on which are branched secondary stems with florets at their top, characterized in that the florets are comprised within a plane substantially parallel to the ground when the head stands in the upward position.
The present invention allows a reduction in most of the harvesting and processing issues and costs associated with them.
Project objectives from proposal:
The goal for the first year will be:
-10 farmers to market fresh fruits and vegetables to two retail outlets
-Farmers to increase fruit and vegetable sales by 25%
At the end of the season farmers will be asked to complete a survey which will gather information about their sales, satisfaction with the program, and suggestions for improvements. The retail businesses owners/managers will also be surveyed to determine their satisfaction with the producer inventory management process and local product point of sale advertizing. At least three times during the summer at each of the retail location, customers will be asked to complete a survey to determine the benefit of having local produce at established retail businesses. These surveys will be reviewed by the producer group for improvements to the business plan for year two.
During year two of this project, the goal will be to increase the number of farmers involved to 15 and the retail businesses to four. The goal will also be to increase sales by 25% over the previous year.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.
In December of 2010, local fruit and vegetable producers were invited to a meeting to discuss opportunities to expand production and marketing of local fruits and vegetables. Many models were discussed such as CSAs, food buying clubs, produce auctions, etc. The farmers were most interested in selling their produce in a way that would require less of their time and involvement in the marketing process. The group agreed to explore the idea of forming a cooperative to market their produce to existing outlets primarily grocery stores and restaurants. Four outlets were targeted as potential buyers for local products. The outlets included: two traditional small chain grocery stores, one high end pizzeria/coffee shop and a local owned convenience store. These outlets were selected based on past interest in local products and interaction with farmers purchasing local products. While some of these outlets had purchased local products from farmers in the past, it was a very small part of the farmers and outlets fresh produce business. The outlets were surveyed in person by a committee selected by the farmers. The surveys included questions about deliveries, produce packaging, volumes, etc. From the surveys, the farmers together planned their production to meet the demands of the outlets.
The outlets were asked about the idea of providing a service of placing the fruits and vegetable in displays and removing produce that was no longer of quality to sell. The grocery stores were not interested in such a system as they had a produce manager and needed to keep displays and pricing consistent with other produce items. The convenience store was very interested in the idea that we would place the produce and return not saleable items. The convenience store did not previously sell fresh fruits and vegetables.
In May of 2011, University of Maryland Extension hired a marketing coordinator to work with the local outlets and the group of farmers. The marketing coordinator communicated buyer’s needs with the products farmers had available. For this first year the coordinator contacted farmers about available produce, collected orders from the outlets, delivered produce and worked with outlet owners and employees to display produce with point of sale local advertising. In the second year, the coordinator was hired to coordinate the marketing and a separate person was hired to do deliveries. The coordinator worked 20 hours per week making phone calls to the farmers, contacting the sales outlets, coordinating the deliveries and working with outlets on point of sale advertizing. The delivery person worked 10-12 hours per week making the deliveries two times per week.
In the spring of 2011, the farmers decided to form an agriculture cooperative, however due to a lack of local lawyers’ knowledge of forming a cooperative and the prevailing produce season the cooperative was put on hold until the fall. In the fall, the group engaged the Keystone Development Center for assistance with forming the agriculture cooperative. With their help the group filed articles of incorporation as an agriculture cooperative in December of 2011. The group completed and passed their bylaws, elected a board of directors and established membership in January of 2012. The new business is known as Garrett Growers Cooperative, Inc. Eleven farmers joined the cooperative.
After attaining incorporated status as an agriculture cooperative, Garrett Grower’s members began planning for 2012. The four outlets that purchased produce in 2011 were surveyed to determine their satisfaction and plans for purchases in 2012. From the information that was gathered members created a spreadsheet, displaying the amount of each type of produce needed weekly. From this information the producers determined the amount of each type of produce each producer would sell through the cooperative. Producers were encouraged to plant additional produce to sell to additional outlets. To assist with inventory management and sales, members explored an online web based inventory management and sales software. While the software was impressive it would require major modifications to meet the needs of the cooperative. The cooperative decided to use QuickBooks to manage inventory and sales. One of the major components of the inventory and sales management was creating uniform product codes. Another important aspect that was developed in 2011 was product labeling that included a trace back system that allowed for any given product to be traced back to the individual producer. The cooperative members also agreed to pursue a new Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) program developed by Maryland Department of Agriculture for producers who direct market. The members attended a GAP training and wrote a GAP plan for their farm. The members are planning to complete the final phase of the certification in 2013 which requires an on farm audit.
Research results and discussion:
The project has increase local fruit and vegetable sales and increased the accessibility of fresh local foods for the community. A survey was conducted with 7 of the cooperative members at the end of 2012 season. 86% of the farmers indicated they had increased the percentage of farm income from fruit and vegetables in the past two years. The farmers were asked to report the amount of fruit and vegetables sold to various outlets. Before the beginning of the SARE Grant only one producer sold 10% of their produce to wholesale outlets (restaurants and grocery stores). After participating in the project, the farms averaged 44% of their produce sold to wholesale outlets. 86% of the farms also indicated they had increased their sales of fruits and vegetables with two farms indicating they had greatly (over 50%) increased their sales. All of the participants indicated they were satisfied or very satisfied with marketing their fruits and vegetables through the cooperative. All of the participants indicated that marketing fruits and vegetables through the cooperative was important or very important to the success of sustaining or increasing profitability on their farm. Producers were also asked to rate from less important to very important eight functions of the cooperative. The two highest ranked functions were “Produce picked up and delivered to the customer” and “Having a person to contact and work with potential buyers”. The least important to the participants were “Focusing on producing larger volumes of a few vegetable types rather than producing a wide variety of vegetables” and “Marketing under one brand rather than developing your own brand”. While 43% of the producers in the future planned to increase production and 43% planned to remain the same, 86% indicated that they planned to increase sales to the cooperative in the future.
While official surveys were not conducted with consumers who purchased fruit and vegetables at the grocery stores, several consumers has mention seeing the point of sale advertising and appreciated the convenience of purchasing at the grocery stores.
Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary
To promote the marketing of produce through the cooperative, presentations have been made at the West Virginia Small Farms Conference and at the Mt. Top Fruit and Vegetable Conference. Approximately 50 farmer attended the presentations. The cooperative has also had a display at the 2013 Western Maryland Buyer-Grower meeting held in Hagerstown sponsored by the Maryland Department of Agriculture. The cooperative has also participated in the Taste of Garrett County and the first annual Serve it Up Local event which featured a cook off with local foods and a fifty-mile dinner. The Serve it Up Local event attracted over 250 people.
Point of sale advertising materials have been used by all of the outlets that have purchased local products. Grocery stores have been provided with plastic signs with the Garrett Growers logo and additional space for adding product and pricing information. Grocery stores have also utilized standard plastic crates used by the cooperative for display purposes. Individual fruit and vegetable stickers have been added to tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash and peppers to aid in identifying local products. Restaurants have utilized table tents and menu labels to help identify the use of local products.
Garrett Growers Cooperative has also developed a brochure for promoting locally grown produce and maintains a web site at www.garrettgrowers.com.
Point of Sale Advertizing
Grocery Store Tomato Display
Serve It Up Local Display
Garrett Growers Promotional Flyer
The project established a method for marketing fresh fruit and vegetables through local established outlets. The formation of the agriculture cooperative provided the mechanism for a group of farmers to work together to be able to market local products to grocery stores and restaurants. The cooperative allows local products to be aggregated, labeled and delivered much like other food distributors. Even though the farmers are actively engaged in the process, the farmer spends minimal time on marketing activities. Grocery stores and restaurants can purchase local products from small farms without needing to deal with a large number of individuals on a weekly basis. Consumers in Garrett County now have convenience of being able to purchase local fruits and vegetables while shopping for other grocery items.
In 2012, the total number of outlets that sold local fruits and vegetables through Garrett Growers increased to twelve (12). With the new outlets, the cooperative provided fresh fruits and vegetables to three grocery stores, one fast food restaurant, one convenience store, six restaurants and a caterer. The cooperative also provided local foods for a Garrett County Health Department project to provide local foods for six weeks to three head start programs. The cooperative increased local sales of fresh fruits and vegetables over 100% with gross sales of over $28,000 in 2012. The total cost of operation of the cooperative was around $10,000 for 2012. Approximately half of that cost was coordinator salary which was paid through the grant. The cost represents approximately 35% of the value of the produce sold.
Garrett Growers is continuing to operate in 2013 without any type of government assistance. The producers have set a goal of $50,000 in sales and have increased the commission on sales to 20% (up from 15%). The group has hired a new coordinator who will work 20 hours a week on a salary basis and will be additionally paid hourly to do the deliveries. The cooperative has secured a van for deliveries. Increasing sales and the higher commission should cover the cost of operating the cooperative in 2013.
Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:
The idea of farmer banning together to form marketing cooperative is not a new concept in the United States. Many food projects have also focused aggregating products at a centralized facility before being distributed to restaurants and grocery stores. The two components of the Garrett County project that are unique are distributing directly from the farms and developing a need based production system. Distributing directly from the farm presents the challenge of ensuring that all farmers are uniformly packaging products. The advantage of this system is that it greatly reduces the costs associated with distribution which often cannot be sustained by the organization. The added benefit is that farmers get product picked up at their farm which was especially important to the group in Garrett County since half of the producers are Amish. Being able to estimate the amount specific fruits and vegetables that restaurants and grocery stores would be willing to purchase from local producers on a weekly basis, allows the farmers to divide up production and plan plantings accordingly. While early season production remains a challenge, more farmers are constructing high tunnels and looking at other means of extending the season to spread out their production to better meet the demands of the restaurants and grocery stores. Garrett Growers Cooperative hopes to continue to expand the number of farmers and produce available to restaurants and grocery stores. Garrett Growers plans to remain a local supplier of fresh fruits and vegetables and would be willing to share their experiences and materials with other grower groups.
Information is needed that can assist similar projects with uniform packaging and labeling. The investigators and farmers spent many hours researching vegetable standards. Labeling information is also not readily available for small farm applications.