George Lamont identified the East Coast marketing cooperative known as Premier Apple Cooperative, Inc., as a key to helping the industry survive in an era when profit margins are slim to none.
The cooperative, formed in 2000, represents all the major shippers in the East-or about 75 percent of the apple volume, according to Lamont who serves as executive director of the New York State Horticultural Society. Premier was founded near the same time that growers in the Pacific Northwest were creating the Washington Apple Growers Marketing Association.
The marketing cooperative, which has membership in ten states, holds biweekly conference calls during the shipping season to discuss marketing strategy, product inventory, and market conditions. The group was developed after a series of industry meetings held to develop a strategic plan for New York State apples.
"During those meetings, we saw that we couldn’t solve the problems all by ourselves in New York," Lamont said. "The cooperative has helped pull us together and keep us from chopping down each other’s knees."
Rod Farrow, production manager for Lamont Farms in Albion, New York, agreed that the cooperative is beneficial for both growers and marketers. "It helped focus marketers and helped growers from an informational standpoint. It helps them know what their apples are worth."
Farrow noted that during the last season, it was a varied market and New York did not go head to head against Washington producers. "We had nice returns on several different varieties. It was very positive for us."