From 2004-09, U.S. sales of ethical products tripled in spite of a weak economy, according to The Wall Street Journal (Jan. 11, 2010). I hasten to add that the American consumer is wary of items called green — they want more explanation.
It’s time that produce companies, and not just organic suppliers, stepped up to the consumer’s plate to explain our sustainability stories.
It’s possible you don’t realize all the environmentally friendly things you’re doing because they’ve become standard operating procedure. Everyone in the business knows that organic and mainstream fruit production practices have become ever-closer as the years go by.
A half-dozen years ago, Michigan apple growers could make the claim that their insecticide use had dropped about 70% by weight over the previous 25 years with only a 10% acreage reduction. Fungicide use was also down significantly.
Is it organic? No. But it’s a tremendous win for integrated pest management and other modern crop management techniques. Consumers need to hear that story.
As examples of green practices: Most tree fruit growers are practicing erosion control with grass strips.
Most growers of any size are monitoring insect populations and using crop inputs as needed, rather than every other Monday, for example.
Some growers have planted wildflower strips to attract native pollinators, encouraged birds for rodent and insect control, and adopted soil-enriching practices.
In the packing shed, you’ve probably adopted more energy-efficient light bulbs, heating and cooling practices, recycling programs — and the list goes on.
To toot the green horn, maybe you need a fresh set of eyes. Invite the guys or gals from the city offices writing your ads, a couple of moms from your daughter’s soccer team, or your son’s girlfriend. All of them think they know about farming — but most are surprised and awed at how it’s really done.
Give them a tour pointing out green practices you’ve adopted in the last five to 10 years, and see what they say. Mark down every time they remark, “I didn’t know you did that!”
Then use those items in your sales communications, ads and social media as a point of distinction: You’re a green business in more ways than one.