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Lana Cusick, 202-720-3325

CROP INSURANCE, DIVERSIFICATION, WORKS FOR PA FRUIT AND VEGETABLE PRODUCER

Beechwood Orchards, PA, Dec 14, 2010 - David Garretson and his family farm an intense 100 acres in the gently rolling hills between Gettysburg and Carlisle, PA. For David, risk management is organized around one guiding principle: “How do we get this farm to be economically efficient for the next generation, and the one after that?”

Garretson’s grandfather bought the farm over 100 years ago. Today, part of the risk management strategy at Beechwood Orchards is visible wherever you look: diversification.

“We grow 20 varieties of plums, 40 varieties of peaches, 50 varieties of apples, nectarines, apricots, strawberries, red raspberries, blackberries, golden raspberries, blueberries, asparagus, heirloom tomatoes, herbs, garlic, and other specialty vegetables,” Garretson said.

To get the most value from all those fruits and vegetable,s Garretson sells as much as he can retail, often through a number of local farmers markets.

Marketing
“Our customers are very loyal and I like them. The 'Buy Local' campaign has really helped us. Our retail customers understand that every piece of fruit doesn’t have to look perfect as long as it tastes good. That is an advantage over wholesale, where appearance is all-important."

Human Resources
“Our help makes us look good,” says Garretson, who obviously values the relationship he has with the people who provide the skilled, hands-on labor necessary for this intense operation. But he also believes that labor issues are the greatest threat to his business. He worries that the debate over the immigration issue will end up threatening his labor supply.

Crop Insurance
“I think I will carry crop insurance for the rest of my life,” says Garretson. “Crop insurance allowed us to get the loans we need to constantly upgrade.” The hail and quality coverage are especially important to fruit growers like the Garretson.

“One year of crop insurance payments pays for 10 years of premiums,” he says. “I’m 10 to 15 years ahead thanks to crop insurance.”

Garretson cautions farmers, however. “Read the fine print. Talk to your agent and follow through on all the provisions, in writing.”

Garretson sees himself between the past and the future. “Our son came into the business 5 years ago, and the following year our daughter came on. I hope our granddaughters will be the fifth generation to farm here,” said Garretson.

“When I was younger I really didn’t understand my Dad, but as I get older I understand him a lot better. I used to think about my own lifetime needs; now, like him, I’m thinking more about the future. The land just becomes a part of you and you want to pass that feeling on.”

This story is a Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) publication from Federal Project Fiscal Year 2009-10. PDA conducts a crop insurance and risk management education program in partnership with RMA. For more information, please see http://www.agriculture.state.pa.us.

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