» Purdue Extension steps in to help Hoosier fruit growers

Purdue Extension steps in to help Hoosier fruit growers

By Abby Leeds

September 2, 2020

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COVID-19 guarantees that the Summer of 2020 will be like none we have experienced. We will be exploring what that means in Indiana by telling the stories of Purdue Agriculture’s and Purdue Extension’s interactions with communities throughout the state. We invite you to follow our series on this Season of Change.

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rom juicy red strawberries to sweet apples and melons, Indiana is home to many fruit growers. While each year presents its challenges in the field, this year Indiana faced an unfortunate late frost event, causing crop damage during a crucial point in the growing period. Outside of the fields, growers faced another challenge, creating a safe and healthy environment for employees and customers.

Seeing the need for guidance and support, Purdue Extension educators and specialists across the state stepped in to help growers overcome these obstacles.

“Strawberry harvest for 2020 was about one third of normal because of frost damage. This forced us to set a purchase limit,” said Judi Ditzler of Ditzler Orchard in Rosedale, Ind.

Strawberries growing in a high tunnel production system.
Strawberries growing in a high tunnel production system.

Late frost events can be devastating to fruit growers and potential yield. Wenjing Guan, clinical engagement assistant professor and Extension horticulture specialist, is currently researching alternative production methods to deal with extreme weather events.

“Supported by a Purdue AgSEED grant and a Rice grant, a group of Extension educators, specialists and myself are working on the use of high tunnel and low tunnel systems for growing strawberries,” said Guan. “Our ongoing research aims to optimize production practices that would further increase yield and profitability of the production system.”

Purdue Extension also found creative ways to help fruit growers stay informed. Through the Facts for Fancy Fruit e-newsletter and the Vegetable Crop Hotline, Extension specialists provided timely information. Early in the pandemic, Extension produced guidelines for agritourism, farmers markets and other agricultural businesses to create safe environments for employees and visitors.

“We held regular Zoom meetings to keep our stakeholders aware of the latest rule changes. We wanted to be available for growers to ask us questions that arose while everyone adjusted to the new rules brought on by the pandemic,” said Bruce Bordelon, horticulture and landscape architecture professor.

Peter Hirst, Purdue Extension fruit specialist, speaks with Calvin Beasley, owner of Beasley’s Orchard, during filming of the virtual fruit and vegetable field day.
Peter Hirst, Purdue Extension fruit specialist, speaks with Calvin Beasley, owner of Beasley’s Orchard, during filming of the virtual fruit and vegetable field day.

Extension specialists also shared research and important grower information at a virtual fruit and vegetable field day held at Beasley’s Orchard in Hendricks County. Peter Hirst and Guan met with Calvin Beasley, owner of Beasley’s Orchard. The videos, found on YouTube, explore many of the challenges and opportunities that Beasley and his team encountered as well as their common farm practices from growing apples, strawberries and raspberries to farm labor and agritourism.

“Although we missed talking to growers in-person and walking in the field, the virtual field day was successful. It was still a great opportunity to learn, and now we can revisit the content to keep learning,” said Guan.

Strawberry plant frost damage.
Strawberry plant frost damage.

Indiana 4-H’ers demonstrate resilience

Each year, youth from Indiana’s 92 counties learn and fulfill the 4-H pledge, vowing their hands to larger service and their health to better living from their club to their community. They participate in club meetings, community service activities, leadership events and more while completing a project of their choice. Each project is a collection of hard work and hands-on learning experiences, resulting in new skills that prepare youth to be leaders in their communities.

Read Full Story >>>

Managing Mental Health in a Summer of Change

Angie Frost had been hearing from youth and adults that they needed more mental health resources. So the Healthy Living Extension Specialist for Indiana 4-H Youth Development trained a group of Teens as Teachers early this year to lead other youth in practicing social and emotional wellness. “We focused on that in February, without at all knowing what we’d be going through a month later.”

Read Full Story >>>

Agritourism offers safe summer fun during COVID-19

By day, Marshall Martin is a professor of agricultural economics, the senior associate director of agricultural research and graduate education and assistant dean in the College of Agriculture. In the evenings, he’s known to many customers as just the “blueberry man.”

While much at Martin Acres LLC, the West Lafayette farm he manages with his wife, Berdine, remains the same this year, they are taking precautions due to COVID-19. Martin is basing these necessary safety adjustments on guidelines for U-pick operations published by Purdue Extension.

Read Full Story >>>

Indiana 4-H’ers demonstrate resilience

Each year, youth from Indiana’s 92 counties learn and fulfill the 4-H pledge, vowing their hands to larger service and their health to better living from their club to their community. They participate in club meetings, community service activities, leadership events and more while completing a project of their choice. Each project is a collection of hard work and hands-on learning experiences, resulting in new skills that prepare youth to be leaders in their communities.

Read Full Story >>>

Managing Mental Health in a Summer of Change

Angie Frost had been hearing from youth and adults that they needed more mental health resources. So the Healthy Living Extension Specialist for Indiana 4-H Youth Development trained a group of Teens as Teachers early this year to lead other youth in practicing social and emotional wellness. “We focused on that in February, without at all knowing what we’d be going through a month later.”

Read Full Story >>>

Agritourism offers safe summer fun during COVID-19

By day, Marshall Martin is a professor of agricultural economics, the senior associate director of agricultural research and graduate education and assistant dean in the College of Agriculture. In the evenings, he’s known to many customers as just the “blueberry man.”

While much at Martin Acres LLC, the West Lafayette farm he manages with his wife, Berdine, remains the same this year, they are taking precautions due to COVID-19. Martin is basing these necessary safety adjustments on guidelines for U-pick operations published by Purdue Extension.

Read Full Story >>>

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