Wal-Mart’s strawberry program amuses - The Packer

Wal-Mart’s strawberry program amuses

06/07/2013 09:43:00 AM
Andy Nelson

Andy Nelson, Markets EditorAndy Nelson, Markets EditorStrawberries are one of my “afternoon crops.”

I’m not talking about the time of day I prefer to eat them. By “afternoon crops” I mean those crops I cover for The Packer that I typically can’t get much work done on until the afternoon.

Yes, Florida and Mexico have their claims on the strawberry deal at certain times of the year, but for the most part, strawberries are one of the more California-centric commodities we write about.

I learned long ago that mornings aren’t the best time to call big grower-shippers on thWest Coast.

They’re Californians, so chances are they’re not going to curse or even bark at you, but mornings are for selling, and if you want an interview, it’s best to wait.

Mornings of course yield to lunch hours, and with the two-hour time difference between Kansas and California, I’m often looking at 3:15 my time before I start pounding the phones in the 831 and the 805 area codes.

It’s not the best produce beat for a Midwesterner, particularly if the story’s due at 5 that same day.

It was with great joy, then, that I read about the coming strawberry renaissance in more time zone-friendly places like North Carolina, Texas, my own Kansas and my native Nebraska.

Thanks goes to Wal-Mart’s big push on locally/sustainably grown.

The University of Arkansas announced recently that the Walmart Foundation will fund $2.64 million worth of research into boosting local and regional strawberry production.

The grants will be administered through the university’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Sustainability.

So where is the money going? Some goes to North Carolina State University, to study soil management practices; to the University of Arizona, to help with off-season production of hydroponic strawberries in the Southwest; to Tennessee State University, for developing logistics for pathogen-free organic strawberries in Tennessee.

My own favorites, of course, concern funding for the cultivation of strawberries in Kansas and Nebraska.

The stated goal for a study to be done at Kansas State University, “Development and Adoption of Annual, Plasticulture Strawberry Production in the Great Plains,” is to “design a production system that is less prone to crop failures, provides a more stable income stream, and encourages new growers to enter the industry.”

To me, the way this is worded makes it sound like it’s a noble attempt to aid a once-flourishing industry and to provide hope for its stricken producers.

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