Soil Systems Farm

Why your organic fruits and vegetables rot

It’s an issue that keeps reappearing

I went to an organic retailer recently and purchased a punnet of bio-dynamic blueberries. I was excited because they looked beautiful, were plump and obviously were full of beneficial antioxidants. I took them home and immediately put them in the fridge at 3 degrees Celsius. A few days later I noticed fungi on the fruit and quickly sorted the rotten from the edible. You can imagine how disappointed I was to find out of the 57 blueberries, 24 (42%) were rotten. At $9.95/punnet, this result doesn´t help consumer confidence or build a strong business brand.

Key reasons for why rot occurs

For every producer of quality fruit and vegetables, there are a number of reasons why produce can deteriorate once it leaves the farm gate. Some of these reasons are set out below;

  • Distance of transportation
  • Temperature or cool chain
  • Poor soil and plant nutrition
  • Lack of attention to disease control methods

Professional growers are aware of these issues but often we forget about the produce once it leaves our hands. In this article I will try and outline each of the steps that will help you build a better organic brand and closer associations with the consumer.

The rise of farmer and local markets

The distance that organic food travels can be extraordinary. Unless you control all aspects of the distribution or have contracted reliable professional companies, food quality will deteriorate over distance. One solution to this is to try and supply local markets, distributors, processors and retail outlets. This helps build your brand by getting local feedback on quality and in most cases improves your cash flow. In this day and age, organic businesses are all about managing cash flow.

Follow the trail

Many producers don´t know where their fruit and vegetables eventually end up. This is a major issue because the quality of your produce at the final retail outlet is a reflection of your business and brand you are building. Take the time to follow the trail. Visit outlets that sell your product and check the quality. Check the temperature of transportation contractors, wholesalers and retailers and don´t forget to record these figures on your checklist. This is not a junket trip but a data collecting project. Find out what the optimal temperature is for long term storage of your fruit and vegetables is. Your local DPI office has this information.

Finding the consumer

One of the critical issues missing in global organics is connecting consumers with the farming business. Often farming businesses are kept in the dark regarding consumer feedback. This should be one of your priorities as it gives you essential marketing data that shapes the strategies into the future. One solution is to consider putting on your labels a consumer feedback email service. Ask them what they think of your product? You will be surprised at what they have to say. It is a great tool for developing value added products.

Make time

Disease and insect management are critical to ensuring premium quality. Regular inspections of your crop by your elected employees or consultant are essential. Get to know the signs and employ a professional if you don´t. Have a checklist drawn up and stick to it religiously. Don´t wait until the crop is infected, prevention is better than a cure.

Look in the mirror

Sometimes you need to take a good hard look in the mirror. If you are having problems with product deterioration sometimes it can be related to soil management. The more attention you put into good organic soil nutrition, the better the final product. In fact, good produce doesn´t rot but dehydrates in the fridge. Make sure that the organic matter is breaking down to form stable soil humus. Pay attention to the fact that optimal plant production depends not just on NPK but on a number of macro nutrients, trace elements and rare earths. If you don´t understand this talk to a specialist and get them to draw up a programme for you. The future of your brand depends on you paying attention to even the smallest of detail. Take the time to learn about each issue, one at a time.

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