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Keen on Peaches

Another juicy fruit has begun to grow in Florida groves. Long known as a product of California and Georgia farms, the peach may have a future in the Sunshine State.

Lake Wales farmer Greg Waters certainly thinks so. In the spring of 2010 he planted 25 of his 40 acres with two varieties of peaches that were specifically developed by the University of Florida for sub-tropical climates. The varieties are referred to as low-chill, since the trees need less time under 45˚ F than do peaches grown in states to the north.

“The peach thing has become very big down here,” says Waters, who then corrects himself, saying, “or it will be big.

While Waters is new to peaches and his trees are still a few years away from maturity—surprising even to him, they produced fruit the first year—he grew up working in his family’s citrus orchard near Frostproof, just 15 minutes away from his current farm. Since graduating college with a business degree, he’s worked as a controller for a sizable landscaping and irrigation company, and has pursued his passion for flying helicopters.

To help pay for what he refers to as an “expensive hobby,” he’s provided rides to paying passengers from a dude ranch and flown frost patrol, which entails buzzing low and slow over citrus orchards in the winter to keep the fruit from freezing. He still does the latter, but says, “It’s hard. It’s dangerous. It’s dark. It’s not fun.”

Until mid-2010 he also flew for Progress Energy-Florida, a large utility company, piloting his helicopter as company personnel inspected power lines and the rights-of-way that surround them. “I did that for 6 1/2 years and was flying a lot. But I got to talking to my wife one night, and I said, ‘You know, there’s no security in these contracts, because we’re dealing with huge companies. We better do something to subsidize our income in case something happens.’”

The fallback was planting peaches on property the Waters family had previously purchased. It was fortuitous. The contract did eventually get canceled, and even though Waters’ helicopter company is still his main source of income, the orchard has now taken on a greater role.

Waters explains he felt safe going with the relatively unproven peaches, in part due to his experience with citrus. Yet, he quickly discovered that peach trees need a lot of TLC. For instance, because they grow so fast, he has to prune them back twice a year. “What was to be a side thing, has become an animal,” he says. “I mean, it’s a lot of work. Fortunately, I’m able to do 90% of it myself, because I have the background.”

He also has the right equipment. Waters grew up with Massey Ferguson tractors on his family’s orange grove. “We’ve never had anything but Massey Ferguson,” says Waters, who still runs one of his dad’s nearly 50-year-old MF165 tractors.

That loyalty, however, hasn’t kept him from looking around. “I’m still a businessman; I shop around,” he says. Yet, when it was time to buy a new tractor a couple of years ago, Waters decided on the MF1660. “It turns on a dime. That allows me to maneuver around the ends of these peaches without tearing up the trees … and it’s got the horsepower you need when you need it.”

Read the full story at at http://www.myfarmlife.com/features/keen-on-peaches/.

A Crop With Punch

Horseradish thrives in deep, sandy soil, the kind you find in America’s bottomlands, including third-generation farmer Barry McMillin’s 1,200 acres near Caseyville, Ill.

Barry and son, Matt, after a muddy day of harvest.

Barry and son, Matt, after a muddy day of harvest.

“German immigrants lived in this area,” McMillin says, “so it’s a tradition to grow horseradish here.” Today, he’s one of about a dozen larger-scale growers left in North America, because raising and harvesting the pungent roots, which belong to the cabbage family, is so labor-intensive.

“It’s backbreaking work,” he says of growing the plants on his land, Bluff View Farm. “You almost have to be born into it, because not everybody has the tools or the wherewithal to attack a crop like this. It’s not like corn or soybeans, and there’s not a lot of technical data or research on ‘how-to.’”

For McMillin, planting typically starts in March and April, but wet weather hampered efforts last year and planting wasn’t concluded until the first of June. “We like to have them in the ground by May 1, ideally, to have your best yield. Horseradish is similar to corn in that respect. You don’t want to plant too late because it starts taking off yield right away,” he says.

Planting is done with broken lateral roots and branch roots from selected stock. McMillin plants the roots in 36-inch rows, 18 to 24 inches apart, and hills them up like potatoes.

When he fertilizes, McMillin uses potash, phosphate and some nitrogen. “We’re heavier on potash than any other soil amendment. It’s a fertilizing program similar to what’s used for soybeans.”

During the growing season, horseradish foliage can reach 3 feet tall, and it’s hard to get off until there’s a heavy frost. McMillin hasn’t had much luck using the tops as cattle feed. “The tops have a pungent smell, like the roots, so it’s probably just not tasty to the cattle.”

With so few growers, there’s not a lot of buyers for horseradish harvesting equipment, so McMillin and other producers often assemble their own, modifying tools and equipment used for other crops. “We use a converted potato harvester,” he says. “But we have to beef up the frame because we dig 16 inches down—much deeper than potato farmers—and have heavier soils.”

McMillin says horseradish growers like his father used a bottom plow and harvested the roots with a potato fork to load onto wagons. Today, McMillin uses forklifts and two Massey Ferguson® 4243 tractors.

“We need a 150-HP tractor to pull the two-row potato harvester we modified. Alongside the digger, we have a dump cart that takes 80 to 100 HP. It catches the horseradish from the harvester. We elevate the cart to dump our loads over the side of the truck, so we don’t have to drive the truck through the field.”

The Massey Ferguson tractors provide the power McMillin needs. “I’ve had very good luck with Massey Ferguson equipment. I’ve owned at least four tractors and have leased some. They’ve been reliable, good tractors.”

Adds McMillin about his Massey Ferguson equipment: “I realize how much innovation they put into tractors. A lot of other companies use improvements that Massey came up with. They’ve always been a leader. It’s a good brand.”

Read the fully story at http://www.myfarmlife.com/features/horseradish-is-a-crop-with-punch/.

Winners Honoured in Food and Farming Industry Awards

In a glittering ceremony for the prestigious Food and Farming Industry Awards, Lorna Robinson of Cloughbane Farm Foods and Peter Mitchell of OSI Food Solutions were announced as winners in the Massey Ferguson-sponsored Retailer of the Year and Food Buyer of the Year.

Cloughbane - Retailer“As long-term supporters of these awards, Massey Ferguson is delighted to be part of the event for the 10th year,” said David Sleath, AGCO and Massey Ferguson sales director, UK and Ireland, who attended the ceremony.

The judges commended Lorna Robinson for a highly successful diversification project with the opening of a farm shop. The passion, innovation and commitment from family members and staff, their highly proficient grasp of marketing, advertising and brand-building made the Cloughbane Farm Foods shop an outstanding winner of the Retailer of the Year for 2014.

Food Buyer of the Year, Peter Mitchell emphasises that shortening the supply chain and building relationships with suppliers is the key to success for his profession. He has played an important part in helping businesses like McDonalds to manage a more efficient beef supply chain in order to demonstrate traceability and build confidence.

Helen Hyman of Farndon Fields Farm was named regional winner of the Food Buyer category.

“With their emphasis on entrepreneurial spirit and innovation, the awards encourage the development of new thinking and ideas into British food and agriculture – vital for the future of our industry,” David Sleath added.

Happy Birthday to the AGCO Blog

It’s the 2 year anniversary of the AGCO blog, and we feel it’s important to take a moment to look back at where we were in the beginning and where we are today. The goals of the AGCO blog are to provide fresh, relevant information to our customers, dealers, partners and fellow agvocates about our brands and AGCO as a company. Being a global organization it can be a challenge to produce content that is useful to our broad base of readers, but today we are proud to share that since inception, we’ve had visitors from 182 countries around the world.

In April 2010 the AGCO blog was 2-bloggers-strong. Today, we have 28 contributors from all walks of the company, including every major brand and region. Our topics range from farm safety, agriculture industry news and employee spotlights to information about new product launches, our valued dealers and customer stories. Our original single blog stream has grown to 8, all of which can be subscribed to via various RSS/readers and email.

More interesting stats about the AGCO blog on its 2 year anniversary:

  • Over 500 blog posts
  • Translated over 2,000 times into 148 languages
  • Nearly a half million views since January 2011

We hope our readers find content on the AGCO blog to be informative and our plans for the next year include continuing to grow our global contributors and bringing in more guest bloggers from other organizations to share their perspectives. We’d also like to see more comments: please share your thoughts, questions and perspectives on any of our posts and let’s keep the conversation going. Read on!

 

Red Tractor, supported by Massey Ferguson, is launching an exciting new campaign

Red Tractor, supported by Massey Ferguson in the United Kingdom, is launching an exciting new campaign called Sunday Lunch Heroes, backed by ITV celebrity chef Dean Edwards.

Promoting quality food and sustainable farming, consumers in the UK are being asked to nominate their ‘Sunday Lunch Hero’ for a chance to win Sunday lunch cooked in their own home by Dean Edwards.

For more information on Red Tractor Scheme: www.redtractor.org.uk/sundaylunch
Why not follow the campaign on Twitter: @RedTractorFood

 

 

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