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Thursday, April 17, 2014 Vol. 77 No. 12


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Social Innovation
| Kerry Herndon
  
>> Published Date: 1/31/2014
 
Innovation is taking place in all aspects of life. Last week, I was at the grocery store looking at the taco kits and noticed a completely different product. It was a taco shell, only square at the bottom so you could stand it up to fill. This is a real product innovation. Unfortunately, although the date of expiration was still six months away, the shells were stale when I got them home. Loved the shape; hated the taste. Next to this package was a taco kit for soft tacos that had the flour tortillas shaped like a little basket. I bought those, too, but haven’t tried them yet and will approach them with a degree of concern. The square-bottom taco shell was not a bad idea, it was just poor execution.

We’re trying some new things ourselves. After years of resisting the tidal wave of production from Taiwan, I’ve realized it’s better to join the winning team then fight against them. Since late summer, we’ve imported full-sized orchids that have bloomed in our greenhouse and have been quite beautiful. This also reduces my greenhouse growing time by about 50 weeks. This frees up a lot of glass to do something else. So I’ve been growing some organic herbs for the market. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of USDA-certified organic herbs around, so it looks like an opportunity worth pursuing. I’ll try some other food products as well. Since I love to cook, any excuse to be able to grow things that I could eat or sell to others is a real joy. There’s just something special about growing food for yourself and others. Maybe it’s a satisfaction with a direct connection to the food chain.

This fall, I planted my kitchen garden too early. Normally, you can get away with planting a garden in Miami in October. You can expect some reasonable cool nights but a lot of rain. This year, the rain didn’t stop for two months straight and stalled the plants terribly. The winter has been so warm that I’ll replant the garden in mid-January with my only fear being it will burn out by early April if these high temperatures continue. I know this sounds strange to everybody living everywhere else in the U.S., but the south Florida temperatures have been very high. Growing a kitchen garden is the fastest-growing activity in horticulture. Urban and suburban gardens are popping up everywhere. The pure economics of growing your own food cannot truly be justified on a rational basis.

People are building hydroponic window gardens from old 2-liter soda bottles to grow something in their urban apartments. This is a movement of conscience and desire to connect with the food we eat. While technically not very efficient, that’s not the point. The connection to the food and growing of things is the point. With all of this common energy devoted in this open space of shared knowledge, innovation that will make this type of growing work much better is inevitable.

The demand for organic produce grows substantially each year. I’ve spoken with many growers who tell me that organic is just a scam. Consumers are voting with their wallet and that’s not a scam. Going certified organic is quite demanding and there are real problems associated with certain organic production. Still, if that’s what consumers want then we must find a way to do it. I’m personally quite happy to see this interest, especially among the young, for growing food in balconies windows and small courtyards. This is a great opportunity for our industry to help people to be successful in their gardening efforts, indoors or out. Farmer’s markets are proliferating as people want locally produced stuff. It may be more efficient to grow everything in Salinas, but people are demanding something local. Is this innovation?

I think this is the kind of social innovation to which we should pay attention. GP


Kerry Herndon owns and operates Kerry’s Bromeliad Nursery in Homestead, Florida.He can be reached at kherndon@kerrys.com.



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