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Several successful organic vegetable growers in southeastern states are combining the benefits of cover crops, reduced tillage and smart marketing. Here’s a brief look at two family operations that have been guided by the work of pioneering researchers such as Virginia Tech’s Ron Morse (see accompanying story). Both families are active participants in the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Work Group (SSAWG), a 12-state, non-profit organization.
Alex and Betsy Hitt of Graham, N.C., divide their efforts between 160 varieties of cut flowers and a couple of dozen kinds of vegetables on about 5 acres of their 25-acre Peregrine Farm. The flowers serve as a farmscape to attract beneficial insects, but they also bring in about half of the Hitts’ farm income.
“Many people think of farmscaping as a temporary planting. For us it’s an integral part of our rotation as well as a commercial enterprise,” Alex explains.
The Hitts’ marketing is divided between two farmers markets a week with some additional sales at a local store. Their farm is located near Chapel Hill, a university town with a good demographic base for farm-produced organic products. “We have a very large and successful market with about 100 producer members,” he says.
When they sold wholesale to supermarkets, they acquired organic certification but, as retailers, they now rely on their reputation to sustain customer loyalty. “Our goal is to get everything from the field to the consumer in 36 hours or less. We have walk-in coolers to maintain freshness and are…
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