Cranberry Twilight Meeting 2015

This week, some Pine Island team members attended the Cranberry Growers Twilight Meeting, run by Ray Samulis, the Burlington County agent for the Rutgers University Agricultural Extension Service. In contrast to the American Cranberry Grower Association’s Winter Meeting, the focus here is less research-oriented and uses a more hands-on approach to addressing timely topics of importance to cranberry growers.

This was new Bog Renovation Manager Steve Manning’s first twilight meeting, and he found it especially useful for “putting names to faces. It’s good to meet everybody and get to know the other growers face-to-face,” he says.

Supervisor Matt Giberson also attended: “We work with Peter and Cesar and everyone [from Rutgers] all the time, but it’s good to be able to sit down with other growers and find out if they’re having some of the same problems with pests, or fairy ring, or whatever else,” he says. “It helps us troubleshoot our own applications.”

Being able to chat with other growers is a consistent theme among attendees. PIICM Manager Cristina Tassone says, “The best part of any meeting with all the growers is the chance to sit down and talk to everyone about what they’re seeing on their own operations. I’m always able to learn something.”

Last but definitely not least, it was wonderful to get a closer look at Integrity Propagation, the fine operation run by Abbott Lee. Abbott, Barbara, and Maryann were fantastic hosts, making everyone feel welcome and serving a delicious meal on the site of the best nursery in the state. We’re grateful to have such welcoming neighbors, and as always, it was a pleasure to see them!

ACGA Winter Meeting 2015

The American Cranberry Growers Association (ACGA) held their annual winter meeting this week, and as always, it was highly educational, with Dr. Nick Vorsa putting together a fantastic program. COO Bryan vonHahmann, attending his second winter meeting, sums it up well: “We’re very fortunate to have a quality group of researchers so close to us, as well as relationships with others in other cranberry areas. Nothing in this business is a constant, so it’s a valuable chance to interact and understand the research that is going on to help us grow more healthy fruit. The mix of presentations was good, especially for someone like me that is in ‘learning mode’.”

In addition to Bryan, Pine Island Cranberry sent a large group and all were just as pleased with the presentations, especially the ones from the graduate students. “It’s really great to see the details the grad students are working on,” says PIICM Manager Cristina Tassone. “And we get the chance to ask them questions, so they get immediate feedback as well.” Assistant Manager Mike Haines agrees: “The greater detail from the graduate presentations were great; they give us aspects I never would have considered otherwise.” It was also a great chance to listen to researchers from other cranberry regions; this year, we had the opportunity to hear from Hilary Sandler, the IPM coordinator at the UMass Cranberry Station, who brought us additional info on weed identification and control.

Both Pine Island team members and other ACGA growers appreciate the chance to get together with others in the industry. Mike says: “It’s great to get a broader perspective in a small industry, especially when we work in an isolated area.” And as fellow grower Joe Darlington likes to point out, “The real business happens during the breaks.”

The real highlight, however, was celebrating the career of Brad Majek, who gave us one final presentation on weed control developments before his retirement. Brad’s appearances were always a highlight at both the winter and summer meetings, and everyone is going to miss him. “He is very passionate about what he does,” says Cristina. “He’s done so much for the industry over the past twenty-plus years. He was always available to help, either in person or on the phone, and he is definitely going to be missed.” CEO Bill Haines agrees: “Brad always has a lot of energy. He was our go-to guy for weed questions and was able to give us a lot of long-distance advice about Chile. He’s a guy who’s all about getting stuff done.”

But perhaps the best tribute came from ACGA President Shawn Cutts, who presented Brad with a plaque which read:

“In appreciation of your many years of outstanding service to New Jersey’s cranberry growers. Your expertise, advice, and friendship have made invaluable contributions to our industry.

‘What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have yet to be discovered.’
Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1878

Thanks for helping us kill them anyway…”

Thanks, Brad, for everything you’ve done for all of us!

ACGA Summer Field Day 2014

Last week several Pine Island Cranberry team members attended the annual American Cranberry Growers Association (ACGA) summer field day at the Rutgers extension center. While several topics are similar to those discussed at the winter meeting, the field day is a chance to go out and explore the researchers’ valuable work first hand.

The team members in attendance all greatly enjoyed the hands-on discussions and opportunity to speak with other growers, especially the growers visiting from outside the region. “This was the best-attended meeting we’ve had in New Jersey,” says PIICM manager Cristina Tassone. “It was great to see and have an opportunity to speak with growers and researchers from other cranberry-growing regions.”

A lot of the excitement came from the research on new varieties. “It was pretty exciting seeing a lot of the new varieties,” says supervisor Jeremy Fenstermaker, a thought echoed by Cristina, who enjoyed listening to Jennifer Johnson-Cicalese’s talk on the results of her fruit rot resistance trials. Team member Matt Giberson adds: “Getting something crossed with the more resistant varieties could be huge news for us in regard to fungus and rot resistance.”

Our team also got a lot from the indoor talks on both precision irrigation and phenology models for certain pests. “I thought Jean Caron’s talk was on target with what we’ve been focusing on for the past few years, especially in new production,” says Cristina. Jeremy thought so as well: “It was nice to have some focus on water management for other reasons than rot; it’s such a big part of our operation.” Assistant Manager Mike Haines also appreciated the perspective from growers and researchers from outside New Jersey, especially Wisconsin researcher Shawn Steffan: “Shawn was able to take something complicated [the concept of degree days and their use in pest management] and give us a clear explanation of how it works and how we can apply it.”

The show and tell segment was a big hit again, just as it was last year. Mike: “Shawn Cutts’ presentation on dodder was interesting. Dodder’s such a persistent problem; it comes back every year no matter what you do. It’s really good to hear from other people about possibilities for a new approach.” COO Bryan vonHahmann, attending for the first time, was very impressed with the show-and-tell section as well. “Sometimes the simplest things are the best things. The thermal weed control technique seems to be faster. We’re also trying the 2-inch underdrain that Bill Cutts is using; it’s much easier on the plant beds.”

Just as he does every year, Cesar Rodriguez-Saona put together yet another fantastic program. Overall, our team came away impressed with the varied presentations and pleased to have new ways to improve our operation!

ACGA Winter Meeting 2014

This week the American Cranberry Growers Association once again held its annual winter meeting. The ACGA winter meeting is always a good opportunity for growers to listen to research findings from experiments during the previous growing season and the researchers’ recommendations for the 2014 growing season. In addition, it’s a great chance for the local cranberry community to catch up to each other after the busy harvest season.

For their part, the Marucci Center researchers like the chance to get together, as well. Dr. Cesar Rodriguez-Saona always puts together an informative program, with a wealth of information covering a range of topics from disease management, breeding, frost protection, heat stress, weed control, insect pest management, among others. “The ACGA meetings are important because they provide cranberry growers an update on current research being conducted at Rutgers University and other universities,” Cesar says. “And it’s always helpful for us to get feedback from growers.”

CEO Bill Haines has always maintained that it’s a wonderful chance to have all the growers and key researchers together in one place to have a discussion. Local growers Shawn Cutts and Joe Darlington are on the same page. “I’ve been to grower meetings in other regions and it’s a lot more about regulations and the political end,” Joe says. “Here, we get much more grower info, which is what it’s about, as far as I’m concerned. It’s a chance to get together with the rest of the industry, because we really don’t get to do that very often.” Shawn agrees: “It’s valuable to hear the latest research from the people who are working to help us grow more berries and do it even better. There’s a lot of good practical info that’s helpful in many ways.”

New Pine Island COO Bryan vonHahmann was pleased to attend. “All of this is new to me, so I really got a lot from it. You really do get a lot of great information, and it was a fantastic opportunity to meet with other growers and industry people. It gives everyone a chance to share knowledge and experience in a non-competitive environment.” It’s even given him some ideas for community interaction based on his past experiences with the equipment industry, and he’s looking forward to working more with our neighboring growers.

GM Fred Torres and PIICM manager Cristina Tassone especially like the collaboration with the scientific community. “It’s great seeing all of these individual projects working together,” Cristina says. “It’s really everything we’re dealing with in the field. Nobody is working in a vacuum; everyone has real hands-on experience and can see how the research directly affects the growers. It’s especially good to see the grad students getting involved; the presentation on the window for fruit rot control was particularly interesting and is going to end up being really useful for the cranberry industry as a whole.” Cristina also enjoys the opportunity to hear from researchers in other regions. “They’re not just bringing in people from New Jersey,” she says. “We get to hear from the people working in Massachusetts and Wisconsin, too.”

ACGA Summer Field Day – 2013

This past January, several team members attended the American Cranberry Growers Association’s annual winter meeting. This week, the ACGA held their yearly Summer Field Day at the Rutgers Marucci Cranberry/Blueberry Research Center, where various members of the cranberry community have an opportunity to visit the research center and check out ongoing experiments of the Center’s scientists like Peter Oudemans, Cesar Rodriguez-Saona, and Nick Vorsa.

Among the topics of particular interest to the Pine Island team were the ongoing efforts to breed rot-resistant varieties, disease control in bed establishment, and a new talk on the benefits of controlled burning. The biggest impression, however, was left by ACGA board president Shawn Cutts, who introduced a new informal “grower demo” session, where growers are invited to “show and tell” something they’ve discovered or developed. The first thing Shawn discussed was the travelling weather station with the water level sensor that Pine Island borrowed from him this past winter. GM Fred Torres is a big fan of the system. “When we tried it over the winter, we got great results. And if something went wrong, if a board popped off the gate or something, we found out right away and could fix it sooner rather than later. And the guys could get more sleep!”

The second item Shawn demonstrated was also a big hit with the Pine Island team members in attendance. Red maple is lovely in a forest, but invades cranberry beds as windblown seed. Removal of red maple is a big part of every grower’s weed control program. Hand removal has been effective but time-consuming.

The Cutts family found the Extractigator, and haven’t looked back since. Pine Island team members who have tried it are all enthusiastic. “It’s so much faster,” supervisor Jeremy Fenstermaker says. “One or two people can clear a bed with these a lot more efficiently.” The design “allows for an effortless uproot”. There was some discussion about just having our equipment team build one, but ultimately “we decided that there was no reason not to buy one for ourselves,” says PIICM manager Cristina Tassone. “It’s already well-designed and well-built; we don’t really need to improve upon what’s already there!”

Pine Island CEO Bill Haines got a lot of the demo and other sessions. “I always enjoy the summer meeting,” he says. “You get a lot of give and take from other growers. During the busy growing season, you seldom have the chance to talk to them about what they’re doing: how they see the crop, what new things they’re trying. It’s a great chance for growers to exchange ideas. I thought Shawn’s idea for the ‘show and tell’ was excellent. It gives us some ideas how to apply them to our own operation. We’re always looking for ways to get better.”