I have been asked to re-state my views on this topic, so here goes…
Produce or Horticulture? What comes first? The chicken or the egg? The chicken, of course. No need to debate this; everyone knows that chickens lay eggs. So where does the chicken come from then? From the chicken farm, of course;…where it probably hatched from an egg!
We all know the old argument, don’t we?
So let’s bring the argument into our industry then. Are we the horticulture industry or are we the produce industry? Or are we both? Can we be both? What defines us if we are different? If we are different that is…
I have thought about this long and hard over the years as my career took shape and I moved through various components of the value chain long before it was called that. I have resolved in my mind that produce and horticulture are not the same, are not interchangeable terms and have to be treated as unique and defined elements of the same value chain. Here is where I am at with it.
The focus of horticulture is production.
The focus of produce is the consumer.
I am not on my own with this view. Wikipedia suggests that “horticulture is the industry and science of plant cultivation including the process of preparing soil for the planting of seeds, tubers and cuttings”, whereas “produce is a generalised term for a group of farm-produced goods not limited to fruits and vegetables. More specifically, the term “produce” often implies that the products are fresh and generally in the same state as when they are harvested. In supermarkets the term is also used to refer to the section where fruits and vegetables are kept. Produce is the main product sold by greengrocers, farmers’ markets, and fruit markets.”
Produce or Horticulture?
Our supermarkets have produce departments not horticulture departments and produce is exactly what is sold by the other produce distribution channels such as greengrocers and farmers’ markets.
In the US and Canada, the attribute fresh is added and the individual in charge of fruits & vegetables in the supermarket environment is known as the fresh produce manager.
On that basis then, all growers are part of the horticulture industry whilst fruit traders, merchants, wholesalers and retailers are participants in the produce industry. And as the produce’s industry purpose in life is the movement of horticultural product from the farm gate to the dinner plate, the horticultural industry is actually a part of the wider produce industry as well.
Indeed, there are some industry participants who are permanently wearing two different hats at the same time, the apple grower for example, who is managing his own export programme.