Friday, January 11, 2008

Blackberry Planting Frenzy

I was talking with the county agent in Cleveland county (about 90 miles west of Cabarrus County) about a year ago and he said he suspected there would be 100 acres of blackberries planted in Cleveland County during 2007. This week I asked the actual count. It was 150 acres. He suspects there will be an additional 150 acres planted in 2008.
I don't forsee very much acreage being planted in Cabarrus County. If a person planted 10 acres, that person should be prepared to hire 70 workers during picking season.
At any given time the total number of people in Cabarrus County willing to work that hard and who don't have a job is probably less than 70. I moved to the Charlotte area during the recession in the early 80's. I remember a guy telling me in 1986 that anybody who really wanted to work during that depression never had to leave town. It has pretty much been that way ever since. There have been people working at jobs they didn't enjoy, or a jobs where they wished they were paid more, but anybody who wanted to work hasn't had to leave town. When cuts down on the number of people who would want to pick blackberries.
Twenty years ago there were people willing to pick blacberries and strawberries for the fun of picking them and the ability to save a little money. In 1986 there were 4 pick your own strawberry operations in Cabarrus County. Today there are none and while strawberries could be a profitable crop, you better plan on hiring somebody to pick them.

Friday, January 4, 2008

I was asked to talk to some Concord City planners about the downtown market. Here are the talking points.
We feel a downtown farmers market is an amenity that brings several advantages to the City. It brings people out on the street, it is a social equalizer, and it increases number of visitors to downtown.
Here is our current situation.
30 day lease with Wachovia is problematic. Farmers need to plan on a yearly basis.
Difficulty of Parking
Customer mix seems about 50% drive up/50% downtown workers. Drive up traffic could double with better access. Several customers who worked in the CTC building have been terminated in the change to Windstream and nobody knows if replacement workers will support the market at the same level.
Vehicle traffic crosses pedestrian traffic within farmers market. Not sure if this is suppressing customer counts but we suspect it might be a factor.
Lack of Shade
Difficult on produce
Reduces customer count on hotter days (around 90 degrees)
Difficult on farmers

The future of the Farmers Market is unpredictable.
Most likely scenario is that vendor and customer counts will stay steady given current conditions.
Vendor count could rise with better conditions.
The farmers market has discussed finding a better venue for Wednesday (Mt Pleasant, Odell or Midland) but currently the market doesn’t have volunteers willing to take on this task. If another location was found outside of Concord and all vendors given the option of moving, vendor count would probably be cut in half.
Piedmont Farmers Market is committed to building a local food system. Any help achieving this goal would be appreciated.

Horticulture Newsarticles Available

Between the holidays, I finished putting my 300 best news articles on line. I still need to index them better but you can access them. News articles are written for Cabarrus County which is near Charlotte North Carolina.
Also some of my TV shows are on line at