Growers must fly the sustainability flag higher

US grower says farmers must fly the sustainability flag higher

Horticulture
INFO: Sustainability and operations analyst for Lipman Farms, Louis DeMaso, says major retailers are pushing the sustainability credentials of farmers by requiring more information on growing procedures.

INFO: Sustainability and operations analyst for Lipman Farms, Louis DeMaso, says major retailers are pushing the sustainability credentials of farmers by requiring more information on growing procedures.

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A farm's sustainable credentials are increasingly worth worrying about.

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AMERICAN tomato grower, Louis DeMaso, believes making a farm more sustainable must be done with a tailored approach at the property level.

And when it does happen, it's worth telling the world about.

The sustainability and operations analyst for Lipman Family Farms was part of the panel discussion on sustainability at the Bayer Future of Farming dialogue in Germany this month.

Lipman Family Farms is one of America's largest field tomato growers with farms in more than 30 locations throughout North America, providing year-round produce to major supermarkets, fast food restaurants and other retailers.

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The business also has some protected cropping operations in Canada and Nebraska.

Lipman Family Farms is pushing its sustainability credentials by measurable metrics in applied water use efficiency, nutrient application, habitat and biodiversity management, and energy use.

Mr DeMaso said apart from the natural benefits of improving the on-farm environments, the sustainable practices were creating stronger links with customers and consumers.

He said the retailers were hungry for information on farming's best practice protocols, particularly in terms of environmental management.

DISCUSSION: More than 250 participants from more than 30 countries taking part the Future of Farming dialogue in Germany.

DISCUSSION: More than 250 participants from more than 30 countries taking part the Future of Farming dialogue in Germany.

"They are really the ones that are driving sustainability within this industry by requesting more data and by requesting operational information," Mr DeMaso said.

This, in turn, opens up the opportunities for farmers to give an insight into what they do, according to Mr DeMaso.

"Farmers should tell their story. The way consumers connect to farmers is through stories," he said.

"They love to hear their stories, and I think retailers are really trying to tell that story but they need information to do that."

He said there was a clambering for information and plenty of discussion about the best way to collect and relay it.

"If farmers can come together and decide how we want to measure and track environmental protection and how we can then communicate that we are doing well with that, then it will benefit everybody," he said.

This means each individual farm should have its own tale of sustainability to tell.

"A big party of sustainability is making sure we tailor fit solutions to particular growing situations," Mr DeMaso said.

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VOICE: Louis DeMaso taking part in the discussion panel on sustainability.

VOICE: Louis DeMaso taking part in the discussion panel on sustainability.

"A lot of what built our recent success as society was blanket approaches using oil as fuel, doing the same thing everywhere and in some areas it kind of works but in other areas it has damaging effects.

"I think part of the shift we have to embrace to sustainability is looking at each region for what it is and tailor fitting solutions whether it be our energy supply, how we farm or how we consume, tailoring specific requirements to that area."

This may also mean more sharing of information between growers which would be a major shift in thinking for some.

"In traditional industry, it's often times so guarded. So if we find a solution, we want to benefit from it," Mr DeMaso said.

"When they (consumers) think of a tomato, people don't think of our tomato or if it's our competitor's tomato.

"If a competitor has bad practices, then they view all tomatoes as bad. Likewise, as tomato growers we improve then they'll tomatoes as more environmentally friendly. It benefits us all."

Just having people out there, not just applying pesticides because that's on the schedule but finding diseases, finding pests before they become rampant and only applying what you need to control this. - Louis DeMaso, Lipman Family Farms

Although an analyst, Mr DeMaso said he still enjoys getting dirt on his boots and being out in the field.

In fact, he said it was an important part of his job, as it should be for every farmer.

"That's where you really see what's going on," he said.

"When it comes to pests, that's just another sustainable strategy that farmers can implement- scouting.

"Just having people out there, not just applying pesticides because that's on the schedule but finding diseases, finding pests before they become rampant and only applying what you need to control this."

Lipman Family Farms has adopted an attitude of reduced pesticide application.

"We want to try to spray as little as possible, change as little as possible and what that comes down to is just staying ahead of any problems," Mr DeMaso said.

The story Growers must fly the sustainability flag higher first appeared on Good Fruit & Vegetables.

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