Horticultural Sciences Department

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Issue No. 612

The Vegetarian Newsletter 

A Horticultural Sciences Department Extension Publication on 
Vegetable and Fruit Crops 

Eat your Veggies and Fruits!!!!!

Publish Date: 
May 2016

Article 21 – The importance of non-verbal communication

One of the more surprising topics that we teach in our Management Communications class is the importance of “non-verbal communication.”Body language and tone can completely affect managers’ ability to effectively communicate with their employees, as well as their ability to understand what employees are trying to say to them.To make it even more complicated, body language and tone interpretations vary by ethnic group and country of origin, and are made even more complicated by varying degrees of language skills.

As a simple example, we start our class with four volunteers who represent four different types of greetings a supervisor might give to his/her employees in the morning.One walks in with energy, smiling, waves and says cheerily, “Good morning!”The second walks in slowly and frowns and says nothing.A third walks in looking down at the floor, hands in pockets and mumbles something that sounds like good morning.And a fourth stomps in angrily with a mean look on his face and says, “Alright, get to work.”Who would you want to work for?How would each of them make you feel?

The point:your body is always talking, even if you aren’t!In fact, your words only make up 7% of what you communicate. Tone of voice is 36%, and body language is a whopping 55% of communication.(Source: Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, UCLA.His findings have become known as the 7%-38%-55% Rule.) So a manager can say, “What’s bothering you?” in several different tones of voice, each of which will have a different meaning.Regardless of what the manager means to say, people tend to believe the tone and body language more than the actual words.

There are many other examples of body language and its meaning.Personal distance is important.Stay at arm’s length from another when you are talking or you risk making them feel threatened and uncomfortable because you felt free to violate their personal space.Don’t touch – ever.Best case it can seem offensive and aggressive, worst case you could be accused of sexual harassment.Don’t point directly at someone, especially at close range.It’s aggressive.Don’t stand with your hands on your hips – that’s aggressive, too.

Try this one.If you want to appear friendly, keep your head tilted slightly to the side when you say, “What’s bothering you?”It comes across as if you actually care about the person you are asking.If your head is tilted forward and down, the same question, “What’s bothering you?” can be interpreted as aggressive.Try saying the same thing in the mirror, first with a forward tilt and then to the side and see how different it sounds.

Ethnic groups behave differently.Haitians, for example, are trained as children not to look adults in the eye.It is the way children indicate respect.And what do we do here?The first thing a teacher will say is, “You look at me when I’m talking to you!”In some cultures, such as Italians, men kiss each other on the cheeks as a sign of friendship. In U.S. culture that could be misinterpreted as a sign of homosexual advances.

Knowledge and understanding of non-verbal communication can be of great help when establishing effective communication in the workplace.When dealing with conflict, for example, standing next to the person rather than directly in front of them can make them feel that you are on their side, literally, and trying to understand.“Mirroring,” or gradually making your body position match the others’ position is another thing that can make someone more comfortable – unless they know you are doing it, in which case it might have just the opposite effect!

Carlene Thissen works for the University of Florida at the Southwest Research and Education Center, Immokalee, FL, 239-658-3400, carlene@ufl.edu.


The Farm Labor Supervisor (FLS) Training Program is a University of Florida/IFAS Extension program. Begun in 2010, the program is coordinated by Fritz Roka and Carlene Thissen at the Southwest Florida Research & Education Center.  In the past, attendees were awarded Certificates of Attendance and Certificates of Completion if they attended the core classes.  

CERTIFICATE OF FARM LABOR MANAGEMENT:  In 2014, a new program was introduced that allows participants to earn a Certificate of Farm Labor Management.   The objective behind this certificate is to enhance the professional stature of those farm labor supervisors who complete the program and successfully manage farm workers in accordance with all associated rules and regulations.   To achieve the Certificate of Farm Labor Management, a total of eight (8) classes are required, and attendees must pass a test administered at the end of each class.  Three (3) of those classes must be Wage & Hour, Human Resource Compliance, and one class related to worker safety.  The remaining five classes will be the choice of the individual.  Times and locations of classes offered in 2016 will be posted at www.swfrec.ifas.ufl.edu , along with registration information. 

Topics are taught at several locations across Florida and in partnership with county extension faculty.  These topics cover laws that keep farm workers safe, fairly paid, and in a working environment free from discrimination and harassment.  The program is offered in both English and Spanish. If there is sufficient interest, individual classes or combinations of classes can be arranged at times and locations convenient for the participants. We also provide training at grower locations that incorporates grower-specific policies and procedures.  For more information, contact Carlene Thissen, 239-658-3449, carlene@ufl.edu, or Fritz Roka, 239-658-3428, fmroka@ufl.edu.

Grower Optimism in the Aftermath of Unprecedented South Florida Weather Extremes

Christian F. Miller

UF/IFAS Palm Beach County Extension

Commercial Vegetables and Tropical Fruit Agent II


The 2015-16 south Florida vegetable growing season is nearly complete but it is sure to be remembered for years to come.The first time it was spoken by area growers might have been at the morning coffee shop watching the radar.The phrase was said yet again while sitting on a dusty tailgate waiting for the 4G mobile service to download a weather update.It was repeated at the gas station while pumping fuel and reiterated when walking through dew covered foliage on the way to check a rain gauge.It has been echoed during site visits estimating crop damage as well as from the comfort of the office phone while gathering critical details about field conditions.Whether speaking with someone with a decade of experience, 30 years, or better than 50 years, everyone down here has said the same thing at some point this season, “never before.”No one south of Lake Okeechobee has ever experienced weather quite like this season brought us.From record setting temperature highs and the accompanying uncharacteristic drought brought on by early El Niño conditions which ultimately gave way to a historical deluge of rain during the traditional dry period, the 2015-16 south Florida growing season has been one for the ages.

Fall vegetable farming in subtropical south Florida traditionally starts as the wet season is winding down.The advantages of doing so are two-fold.Firstly, the late wet season rainfall moistens the soil making it easier to work into raised-beds and giving emerging seedlings ideal conditions for a quick start in the still warm temperatures.In the weeks that follow and into the dry months ahead, growers transition to using diesel-pumps and the reservoir of rainwater held in surrounding lateral canals to irrigate as needed for new bed formation, planting, germination, and crop maintenance.Hindrance of disease development is a second advantage as humidity and rain splash events are reduced as a consequence of transitioning from the wet season to the dry.

Whether you farm the muck and sandlands of Palm Beach County or the marl and Redlands of Homestead, the 2015-16 growing season was anything but traditional.

The National Weather Service determined that the 2015 south Florida rainy season started on May 10th and concluded on October 17th.Keeping the east coast dry was a persistent east to southeast wind resulting in drought conditions to start the vegetable growing season.Palm Beach International Airport (PBIA) recorded a total of 27.90 inches of rain between May 1st and October 17th, which is 9.79 inches below the norm for that time period. Several episodes of heavy and extended rain, high winds, and record breaking warm temperatures followed.

Rainfall more typical of the rainy season finally made an appearance in south Florida on October 5th as most weather stations recorded near to above normal rainfall for the first time during the 2015 wet season. Following this were temperatures and humidity more typical of the middle of May than in the dry season. These unseasonably warm and humid conditions continued throughout November in south Florida.

Average November temperatures ranged anywhere between 3 and 6 degrees above normal. PBIA had an average high of 84oF which is 5.9 degrees above the 30-year norm. Regionally, a total of at least four daily warm temperature records were either tied or broken during November. In fact, with an average regional temperature of 79.8oF falling just short of the record of 80.1oF set in 1986, it was the second warmest fall season (September – November) on record.

Initially the record heat was not viewed as entirely bad depending on the type of crop being grown.Higher temperatures equated to early maturity and in turn, they would have the advantage of fetching higher early market prices.It was however a much different story for contract growers relying on targeted harvest dates and harvest quotas based on historic weather patterns.

As seen in Figure-1 (FAWN data), the excessive record heat coupled with little rainfall across south Florida during the first part of November was quickly replaced with a series of stalled fronts starting November 12th which led to wetter conditions and most areas recording above normal precipitation. According to data from the South Florida Water Management District, it was the wettest November since 1998.A stalled front on November 14th and 15th led to periods of heavy rain with as much as 3 to 4 inches falling in less than 12 hours across parts of southeast Florida.

The wind-driven rains eroded beds, washed away newly planted seed, emerging seedlings, and resulted in flooded fields killing root crops like radishes and missed planting opportunities and delayed harvest of the already rapidly maturing crops.Once the floodwaters receded, previously thirsty crops experiencing the sudden change in soil moisture grew at an even more rapid pace than before. Consequently, seed planted at the beginning of the month matured and was ready for harvest the same time as seed planted at the end of the month. Labor, already in short supply, was unable to keep pace with the rapidly increasing harvest demands for all regional crops and thousands of acres were passed over in an effort to meet the highest quality demands of a market with surplus goods.

The rapid growth increase exhibited by cool season crops like lettuce and cabbage caused cracked heads, twisting, stretching, and bolting.Overly mature sweet corn resulted in tip dieback and dented kernels, while an increase in disease incidence was experienced on moisture sensitive crops like beans. Tomato, pepper, and eggplant fruit suffered from the strong winds accompanying the rain events culminating in severe physical damage.As wind and rain storms persisted, tattered foliage was lost to disease and the lack of an adequate canopy contributed significantly to sunscald blemishes developing on many fruit.Regional rain and flooding were so severe that the USDA declared Miami-Dade County a primary natural disaster area.

Despite being in the middle of the traditional dry season, the South Florida Water Management District recorded its wettest January since record-keeping began in 1932. January alone saw rainfall in the 6 to 9 inch range with areas of western Palm Beach County, where lettuce and most other vegetables are grown, receiving over 10 inches. Two unofficial sites in the western metro Palm Beach County area measured 15 to 16 inches of rain for the month.

All told, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) ultimately designated 11 Florida counties as primary natural disaster areas due to crop damages and losses caused by the extended rains and flooding that occurred from January 3, 2016, through January 29, 2016.Those counties were: Brevard, Hardee, Osceola, Broward, Miami-Dade, Polk, DeSoto, Monroe and Sarasota.

By late February, Palm Beach County had rainfall exceeding the norm by 10 inches, putting the region 200 – 300% above normal for the season.Florida Governor Rick Scott signed Executive Order 16-59 declaring a state of emergency in Lee, Martin and St. Lucie counties following the heavy rainfall leading to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers discharging water from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.

Considering the weather extremes of south Florida’s 2015-16 growing season, essentially all regional vegetable farmers experienced vastly reduced acreage to harvest than anticipated prior to starting the season.All farming operations experienced planting delays and consequent harvest delays due to flooded fields and washouts of newly planted seed. The rainfall fields endured was enough to reduce harvestable acreage in Palm Beach County by 40-70% of the norm depending on crop and location.It was common practice for area operators to limit harvesting to every other day for a few hours or even less instead of harvesting daily for upwards of 8 hours, as area farm crews normally would on account of the acreage losses.

As supply and demand would have it, the crops that survived on the remaining limited acreage proved to be extremely valuable. With the lack of a freeze to knock back insect pests and the persisting warm and raining weather, farmers doubled-downed on their plant protection efforts to ensure high quality on what remains in the ground.

At this point in the 2015-2016 growing season, tomato production has ended but not before extending the harvest and picking certain varieties up to 8 additional times because high prices were still being commanded on the market.Lettuce, bean, and celery harvesting is wrapping up this week while sweet corn has a few weeks remaining. As north Florida and Georgia comes into production, it becomes increasingly cost prohibitive to justify northern bound shipping costs and much of the remaining sweet corn crop may ultimately go unharvested, gleaned, or limited to local markets.

Despite the unprecedented circumstances of the 2015-16 growing Season, most area growers are optimistic they will be “in the black” when the season is all said and done. The high early-market prices fetched for the surviving crops on the reduced acreage are expected to result in about the same or better financially as a traditional season focused on volume whereby planted acreage is maximized and harvest is matched with lower prices due to over-supply.Figure-2 illustrates the dramatic monthly average price fluctuation of sweet corn, according to USDA/ARS/NASS.Market prices were at a premium when supply was low but demand was high this January and the consequence of many farmers in the same region planting the same crop across thousands of acres at essentially the same.Palm Beach County growers do have a good reason to be optimistic though considering demand for Florida sweet corn has been relatively low in recent years because of the long extended winters experienced across the Northern and Midwestern states.After being cooped-up, residents of those regions are taking advantage of the much milder 2015-16 winter and celebrating the arrival of spring with earlier and more frequent backyard BBQs which certainly must include plenty of inexpensive, high quality, and delicious Fresh from Florida sweet corn.