May 21, 2012
New president wants to strengthen grower, buyer connections

Drawing on his own experience, the new president of the Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association plans to use his new position to help the state’s vegetable growers make more connections with buyers.

Brian Campbell was elected president of the Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association (PVGA) earlier this year. Arthur King is the past president.

As president, Campbell will preside during PVGA’s board meetings, held three times a year. Presidents typically serve two one-year terms, said William Troxell, PVGA’s executive secretary. Troxell runs the association’s day-to-day activities.

Campbell is an innovative grower, selling large quantities of broccoli, lettuce, cauliflower, sweet corn, pumpkins and other crops to large grocery chains like Walmart. That’s not a normal pattern for Pennsylvania growers, most of whom tend to stay on the small side, Troxell said.

“I do the marketing myself,” Campbell said. “A lot of smaller growers don’t have that opportunity.”

Campbell, 45, farms 2,000 acres in northeast Pennsylvania. Half are field crops and the other half vegetables. Growing vegetables on that scale is unusual in Pennsylvania, but he still considers his operation a family farm. He and his wife have three children, all of them still in school, he said.

Campbell grew up farming. His father was a doctor who raised cattle and grew grain as a hobby. Campbell had his own roadside produce stand by the time he was 14. He started with a couple acres of sweet corn, and his farm endeavors grew from there. Today, his primary vegetable crops are sweet corn, pumpkins and broccoli, which is an unusual crop for Pennsylvania.

Most broccoli consumed in the region is supplied by California, or in the summer, Maine. Campbell recommends that other Pennsylvania growers try broccoli, but treat it carefully. It doesn’t like heat, which is why it does better in the northern part of the state, Campbell said.

Thanks to the buy-local movement, if Pennsylvania growers can prove they can provide a quality product in the quantities buyers need, broccoli could be a “tremendous opportunity” for them, he said.

As for other challenges, food safety is one that grower can’t ignore, Campbell said.

By Matt Milkovich, Managing Editor

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