Monday, September 21, 2009

Dear fellow RICTGA member; September 2009

Greetings from your new slate of 2009 officers! I started writing this in May, and am just now getting around to finishing and sending it out. Much has occurred over the past year so I’ll apologize in advance for the wordiness of this letter, but thought it was important to provide membership with this status report. I am writing you both in my capacity as incoming President of RICTGA, but also in my capacity as Newsletter chairman. (No comments about government control of the presses please!) I’d like to thank Wayne Gunderman for many years of his efforts producing the newsletter. It was always a treat to receive, and forgive me in advance if there’s an immediate drop in quality. I’d like to use the first letter to bring members up to date on what we are doing, a couple things that have happened this year, and what we plan to explore for the near future.

You are aware by now that on March 26th RICTGA held elections for 2009 officers. Those officers elected are as follows:

President Eric Watne
Vice President Karen Menezes
Secretary Catherine Watne
Treasurer Wayne Gunderman

Regional Directors
East Don Gavin
South Bob Fleishbein
North John Emin
At large Jay Bento
Immediate Past President Jane Durning

Budget Eric Watne
Legislative Jay Bento
Membership Cheryl Rossi
Program Karen Menezes
Publicity and Publications Eric Watne
We eliminated one of the Director positions in each region (there used to be 2 per region) as well as the Marketing & Research director and Fundraising director. The NECTA Chairperson and RI AG Council director positions are currently vacant.

On behalf of all members of the RICTGA I would like to thank Jane Durning, Bob Balme, and Karen Menezes for their past years of selfless service to RICTGA as President, Treasurer and Vice President respectively. While Jane, Karen and Bob have stepped down, Karen has agreed to remain in her position which has been a great help to me due to her years of experience. It is only through membership participation that we continue as a viable organization.

At the March dinner/board meeting members also voted to revise/update the Constitution and By-Laws to reflect changes to how RICTGA will operate going forward. Those changes were summarized in the last newsletter mailed 3/29/09. Full copies of both those documents have been uploaded and can now be viewed on our website.

Important Sad Items of Note in 2009;

By now folks are aware that in early July Horatio Chase of Greene Tree Farm & Nursery was involved in a tractor accident while mowing his fields that left him badly burned. While recovering from those injuries at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston he subsequently contracted pneumonia and passed away July 30th. For those who knew Horatio knew him as a dedicated, resourceful and tenacious farmer dedicated to RICTGA as well as a number of other agricultural organizations. Horatio was a long-time president of RICTGA, and most recently served as New England Christmas Tree Alliance (“NECTA”) director with Jay Bento. Together they attended all NECTA meetings in Massachusetts on behalf of RICTGA. In line with the families wishes RICTGA will donate $100 to the Kingston, RI 4-H in his memory.

Another loss to the RICTG family was suffered April 14th of this year with the passing of Janice Clark. Leo and Janice started Clarks Christmas Tree Farm in Tiverton in 1958, and is the farm Catherine and I operate today. Her passing is not just a loss for us, but Janice and Leo’s longstanding involvement in RICTGA and their friendships with growers around New England leaves us all with a great sadness in her passing. I only hope that their many years spent growing Christmas trees is the reason they both have been so healthy for such a long time!

Karen Menezes passed the following information to members via e-mail on September 8th, but I will add a note here for those who did not see this previously;Amanda Amundsen and her husband Al used to be members of the RICTGA back in the day. Amanda and Al were very involved with the New England Alliance. Amanda passed away September 7th after a courageous battle with cancer. Their farm was Wrights Mill Tree Farm, 60 Creasy Road, in Canterbury Ct. 06331.

Other Notes;
Wayne Gunderman has offered to organize a RICTGA deep sea fishing trip late summer/early fall if there is sufficient interest. Not sure if that is still in the works, but if any members are interested and would like additional information please contact Wayne directly.

Jeannie Bento was awarded the “Conservation Farmer of the Year” by the Rhode Island Agricultural Council. This is a great honor for any farm, and we’re especially proud that it was “one of our own.” The award recognizes Jeannie and Jay’s conservation practices at Pachet Brook Farm in Tiverton. Congratulations Jeannie!

RICTGA has a Blog! For those not computer savvy, a Blog is a mechanism for groups or individuals to communicate with a large audience in “real time” and share information at little or no cost. The advantage to RICTGA members is that we can disseminate information (educational information/meeting announcements, photographs, etc.) at no cost. Every time we update our RICTGA website we pay Mouseworks an hourly fee. There is a link to our Blog on the RICTGA website under the “News/Events” tab. The goal with the Blog site is to maintain a central repository for information useful to members that we can alter and update without incurring fees. This Newsletter has been posted to the Blog! Anyone who wishes to post anything on our Blog please send it to me. If you add your name as a “follower” of the blog from the site you will automatically receive notices of updates to the Blog.

RICTGA 2009 Summer Field Meeting:
David Henry and his staff were kind enough to allow RICTGA members to use Henry’s Tree Farm as the site for the summer field meeting May 16th. There were about 20 attendees, and Richard Cowles of the Ct Agricultural Experiment Station was our guest speaker. (Many thanks to Karen for securing Rich for this meeting.) As those who have seen Rich’s excellent presentations on Integrated Pest Management (“IPM”) know he is a respected authority in the field of Christmas Tree grower IPM.

Rich demonstrated a pesticide delivery technique he is in the early stages of exploring that would dramatically reduce the time, energy and cost to treat trees for elongate hemlock scale and cryptomeria scale. Rich demonstrated his technique using a 3-gallon Solo hand-pump backpack sprayer with a Safari 20SG mixture and sprayed the trunk of each tree near the ground (8-12” band) as he walked up and down the rows. Application was quick and efficient. He barely slowed to spray each tree, walking down each row so that both sides of the trees were sprayed. Two things occur using this method that ensures the mixture is absorbed into the tree. Either it is absorbed directly by the bark on contact, or (especially in the case of rain) it is washed into the ground where it is absorbed by the tree through the roots. Either method appears to be equally effective at this point in Rich’s trials, although the bark absorption method has shown to be quicker. The pesticide is then delivered to the needles internally through the trees absorption. (Think of it like getting an inoculation injection.)

In early tests Rich has found that this delivery method actually works better than spraying treatment directly onto the needles for a couple reasons; first, because scales live part of their life under a hard shell and can only be killed when they emerge, timing is critical with full tree spraying treatments such as horticultural oils. Not so with this treatment as the Safari has a lengthy residual effect, so timing is not critical. (Rich sprays late May to early June.) Secondly, spraying oils can be “hit or miss” depending on method of application, wind conditions, rain, etc. No so with this method. Since the Safari is absorbed into the trees nutrient delivery system, the pesticide is delivered to the entire tree. Finally, the technique automatically delivers the appropriate dosage, since larger trees have larger trunks, therefore will absorb more, and vice versa for smaller trees. But the best parts from my perspective? No heavy equipment, no overspray, no concerns about impending rain washing the spray off the trees, no concerns about critical timing of the application and no need to wear an uncomfortable respirator. The challenge is if the trees have large whorls on the ground, or if competing vegetation is present (grass and weeds) it can be more difficult to get the sprayer wand close enough to the trunk for suitable application.

A couple technical points of note: Rich has found for ideal application you want the sprayer to be delivering the pesticide mixture at a constant 21PSI. Each tree should get approximately 1 ounce of the Safari 20SG mixture. (This translates to approximately 0.67 lbs of Safari 20SG per acre, or 3.5 oz (100grams) of product per 3 gallon tank, and 9 gallons of finished spray per acre.) In order to insure the 21PSI you can purchase a “CF Valve.” (CF stands for “Constant Flow”) This will insure the sprayer maintains the 21PSI no matter how much you pump up the tank pressure. Rich also suggested a 6502 or 6503 – E nozzle (flat fan) for the sprayer. This flat fan nozzle insures the band of chemical applied to the tree trunk is the appropriate size. The nozzle should be positioned so the spray band is vertical (because hopefully your trees are as well….)
I was able to find the necessary sprayer parts at both Gempler’s and Ben Meadows. The CF valve is about $19 and spray tips are between $4-$6 each, but cheaper if you buy a pack with several tips. Both suppliers have websites and toll free numbers.

DISCLAIMER: As Rich pointed out during the demonstration, while he has had excellent results with this treatment, the trial has only lasted one year thus far. He felt that a minimum of two years performance would need to be analyzed before he could declare the application method a complete success. So we have something to look forward to at the 2010 meeting!

After the meeting we enjoyed a wonderful lunch of meatball sandwiches and baked beans in David’s onsite retail space. Thanks again to Rich for his excellent presentation as well as to David and his great staff for accommodating us! And thanks to Karen Menezes and Catherine Watne for providing the food! (See our Blog for photos from the meeting!)

And finally;

RICTGA Business:
As noted in the 3-2009 newsletter, RICTGA plans to continue to operate in much the same way as previously, however there are some activities that consume time and money that membership has decided are not worthwhile. Our #1 goal is to make RICTGA as useful and unburdensome to members as possible. To recap our focus;

Ø Budget - We have prioritized those activities/services that members have indicated are of interest. 2009 dues remained $40, however this amount will be revisited by year-end to determine if it is sufficient to cover costs of maintaining all of the benefits of interest to membership. Those include the following:
o Website - RICTGA will continue maintain a website hosted by Mouseworks. Since we pay Mouseworks a fee to make updates to the site we plan to keep those to a minimum. Anyone wishing to update their farm page please send those to me by the end of October so I can forward them as a package to Mouseworks. In order to have more flexibility in what we post online and how we use it, Mouseworks suggested we start a RICTGA “Blog” as detailed above. Don’t forget to log on and become a “follower!”
o Magazine – RICTGA members currently receive “Christmas Tree Grower” magazine quarterly as a benefit of membership. There are mixed feelings about the importance of this benefit vs. its cost. We will need to closely analyze this in light of our budget for 2010. Members with strong feelings one way or the other are urged to contact me. If we do eliminate it as a benefit, members can subscribe directly. Subscriptions are currently $25/yr. for the quarterly magazine.
o Newsletter – Members will continue to receive a Newsletter not less than 2x yearly. Historically the cost for printing and postage (including meeting & membership notices) has been approximately $300 yearly. Electronic communication would save dollars. If you have an e-mail address please send it to me at We will continue to send notices/newsletters both electronically and via snail mail, but if we need to cut our budget further in the future and sufficient members have Internet access this is one area we may explore.

Ø Membership – As of this printing we have 48 paid “Full” members and 10 “Affiliate” members. There is some thought that it makes sense to eliminate the “Affiliate” membership category and have a standard “farm” membership for 2010. We will take this up at our next Board meeting.
Previously membership dues were mailed in December of each year and were payable by March 1. For 2010 we are going to wait to mail membership notices in January after the selling season has settled down.

Ø Meetings - RICTGA will plan to hold an annual meeting in the fall of each year, a dinner in February/March, and a summer field meeting. We will continue to endeavor to have guest speakers at the field meetings to facilitate Pesticide License continuing education credits. We did not have a January meeting this year however we did have a dinner in March where we took care of January business (elections.) We also had a summer field meeting at David Henry’s farm in June. We will try to hold a meeting before year-end to discuss goals for 2010.

Ø Other
o As a result of member disinterest, RICTGA will not attend New England Christmas Tree Alliance meetings, unless a member steps forward and expresses an interest in attending. We will determine the utility of continuing to pay dues as a member.
o As a result of member disinterest, RICTGA will not participate in any activities as an organization such as Trees for Troops, RI Statehouse Trees, Christmas Tree Festival, Big E Fair, etc. Information regarding these and other activities will be disseminated to Membership by the Board either through Newsletter or electronically, and individual members can decide to participate or not on their own, but RICTGA will not participate as an organization.
o RICTGA will consider participation in the above as well as other activities submitted by Members on a case-by-case basis. Our goal is not to minimize RICTGA’s public presence as an organization, just to avoid taking on activities that do not interest or benefit the members as evidenced by lack of volunteer participation.
o Finally, please feel free to contact me with any suggestions, questions, advice, rumors, gossip, criticism or whatever else you wish to share. You can reach me by phone at 624-2522 or by e-mail at You can also use the address as well, however that is only checked weekly.

What’s next:
I would like to have a Board meeting late October or November to plan 2010. It seems to make more sense than a Jan/Feb meeting, especially from a budgeting standpoint. You will be notified at least 3 weeks prior as to date, time and location.
We will also plan a spring dinner/election at that time.

Thanks again to everyone for your continued support of RICTGA, and best wishes to everyone for safe and prosperous Christmas season!


Eric Watne

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