Developing a Protocol and a Marketing Niche for EcoApples in NY State


Abstract: In 2007, Cornell University, University of Massachusetts, Red Tomato™ (a nonprofit produce marketing corporation), and the IPM Institute of North America, Inc. received a 2-year grant to develop a protocol for producing and marketing “Eco Apples™” in the Northeast. Red Tomato’s mission is connecting farmers and consumers through marketing, trade and education and a belief in family-farms, and a locally-based, ecological, fair trade food system. The goal is to create a market niche for “Eco Apples™” that will result in premium prices and access to high-quality markets such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Red Tomato’s apple sales grew from $130,000 in 2004 to $1.9 million in 2008. The program grew from 6 New England growers with 475 acres in 2005 to 635 acres and 9 growers in 2008. Participating growers complete a self-assessment, pay an annual certification fee and submit scouting and pesticide application records. The protocol is adjusted annually by Red Tomato employees, participating growers, and university personnel. Pesticides are classified into 3 categories: Green, use with justification; Yellow, use when Green materials are not available or effective; and Red, do not use. In 2007 and 2008, pest control in Eco Apple orchards was generally as effective as that in growers’ standard blocks. Economic costs and returns to participating growers have not yet been calculated.

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