June 21, 2001 | By: Laura Skillman

Vegetable producers in western Kentucky visited farms along the Todd and Christian county line last week to talk production and to look at one form of marketing.

Growers were invited to bring bugs to be identified or plants that weren't thriving for analysis. Still other growers were interested in seeing the produce on the tour and learning more about the state's vegetable production.

The vegetable growers field day on June 14 also offered producers a chance to see how an auction system works.

The Fairview Produce Auction Inc. is in its fifth year and continues to grow by offering everything from apples to tomatoes to hay to bedding plants. This auction, aimed at the wholesale market, is unique to Kentucky with the idea coming from Amish and Mennonite farmers who have moved to the region from Pennsylvania.

Shares were sold to buy land and build the building but producers do not have to be shareholders to sell their wares at the auction.

Last week's field day, sponsored by the auction and the University of Kentucky and Kentucky State University Cooperative Extension Service, included a tour of sweet corn, watermelon and cantaloupe production with UK Extension Entomologist Ric Bessin discussing insect issues and Brent Rowell, UK Extension vegetable specialist, discussing other aspects of production.

Bessin told growers that the No. 1 insect they needed to control in melons is the cucumber beetle which transmits bacterial wilt.

"Cucumber beetles are highly attracted to these plants," he said. "The same day you set plants you'll probably see cucumber beetles. They come to it like a magnet."

There are quite a few controls for the beetles, Bessin said. The key is getting it on early, as early as the day the plants are planted.

Growers must take care when spraying for the beetles to avoid harming bees that are needed to pollinate the crops. Bessin said the best time to spray is in the early evening when the honey bee activity disappears. Any flowers that are open can be sprayed because they will be closed the next morning and new fresh flowers will be open without any spray on them, he said.

Vegetable production in southern Kentucky is going well this year, said Harold Eli, Kentucky State University Extension small farms assistant in Christian County. Vegetables are seeing little insect or disease pressures, he said.

Auction manager Steve Sauder agrees saying produce is coming into the auction at a faster pace than it did last year.

During the field day, Sauder reminded growers that there are some basic keys to being successful in both production and marketing.

Sauder, using information from a Pennsylvania sales guide, said a key thing farmers must remember is that quality produce is essential for repeat sales.

"Off quality produce should be left in the field," he said. "Some buyers are interested in second quality but that should be packed separately and clearly represented as second quality."

Uniformity is a key to a well graded product, Sauder said. The product in a package should be of uniform in size, color, maturity and shape.

If growers follow these guidelines it will help them be successful as well as aid in the success of where they market their product, he said.


Ric Bessin, (859) 257-7456, Harold Eli, (270) 886-6328