Sunday, February 27, 2011

February 23 Board Minutes

Rhode Island Christmas Tree Growers Association

Dinner meeting – February 23, 2011

6pm - Leo’s Ristorante, 365 Hope Street, Bristol, RI

- Minutes -


Stu Nunnery; NE Farmways

Wayne Gunderman

Don and Elenor Gavin

David Henry

George, Siobhan & Laura Thurston

Karen Menezes

Eric Watne

Jeanie Bento

Patty and Steve Trombley

Bob Fleischbein & Judy Lord

Cheryl & Ron Rossi

Membership report – Cheryl Rossi

o As of today (February 23rd)there are 28 paid members. A number of folks who have been long-standing members have not yet paid their dues, so it is anticipated we will receive more dues in the next week. Dues mailed after March 1 will be assessed a $10 late fee. Cheryl will call delinquent members, and Catherine Watne will call Commercial prospects (Kelco, Fieldworks, Farm Family, etc.)

Finance report – Wayne Gunderman

o Wayne distributed a detailed financial summary of our 2010 Financial activities which I will not reproduce here, however in summary: RICTGA finished 2010 with a net operating loss of ($181.) It should be noted that we did incur a one-time cost to the IRS of $400 application fee for federal non-profit status, an expense we will not incur going forward. We do have a positive balance in the account as of January 1, 2011 of $1893 due to the fact we started 2010 with a balance of $2074. and during 2010 had revenues of $2325 and expenses of $2506.

Vice President’s report – Karen Menezes

o Entomologists Rich Cowles from the Connecticut Experiment Station and Steve Alm from the University of Rhode Island have collaborated on a grant to include Rhode Island Christmas Tree Growers. The grant will target pests that are attacking the Christmas Trees in Connecticut and Rhode Island. I will be involved in this grant

o The Ag Partnership has established a draft Strategic Plan for Agriculture in Rhode Island. The Ag Partnership is an organization funded by the Barbara Van Buren Trust and I am representing the Rhode Island Christmas Tree Growers. The Strategic Plan targets problems and needs for the Agricultural community in Rhode Island.

o The USDA Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service and The University of Rhode Island are sponsoring a Women in Ag Conference on March 31, 2011 at the University of Rhode Island Narragansett Bay Campus, Coastal Institute Building, South Ferry Road, N. Kingstown Rhode Island. Register with Shelly Pezza, Pezza Farm. 2279 Plainfield Pike, Johnston, RI 02919 $20.00 PP $25.00 PP after March 21st.

 Being a woman Farmer

 Opportunities & Challenges of being a Woman in Agriculture

 Beginning Farmer - Things to Know

 Financial Opportunities for Women

 Marketing Ideas

 Balancing Farm and Family

 How we Started

 Transitioning the Farm to the next generation

 Networking - Facebook, Twitter, Chamber of Commerce

 Where do we go from here and looking forward

o The University of New Hampshire, Cooperative Extension is holding their Christmas Tree Pest Management Course on March 16-17 at Keene State College, Keene NH. The link is:

President’s report – Eric Watne

o Elections – on a motion by Karen Menezes, seconded by Jeanie Bento and approved by membership it was voted that all officers and directors from 2010 will remain in their current positions through 2011.

o Spring Field meeting - Membership indicated there is interest in a spring field meeting in late April or early May. Rich Cowles is a popular presenter/guest however we’re not sure he’ll be available or willing to attend. We also need a farm, hopefully on the west side of the state. David Henry offered his farm if no others were available. Bob Fleischbein is going to inquire with the Schartners. Eric and Karen will work to try and firm this up in the next month or so.

o Federal non-profit status - RICTGA applied for and was finally granted official non profit status from US Treasury – RICTGA is now a 501(c)6 federally tax-exempt organization. This will streamline annual tax filing and save money in the long term. It also gives us more credibility as a viable trade organization when competing for grant and other funds.

Section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code provides for the exemption of business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, boards of trade, and professional football leagues, which are not organized for profit and no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.” So like I said, RICTGA is just like the NFL!

o USDA/RI DEM Grant proceeds – Eric gave a summary presentation on the grant proceeds from our USDA/RI DEM grant that was awarded last year, and for which funds are available this year. The break-out is as follows: (note that funds are to be used over a two-year period, so in some cases may represent expenditures for 2011 and 2012.)

o Education $ 800 (NH Pesticide seminar/ Field meeting speaker)

o Website / Logo $ 400 (Improve logo/blog for better marketing)

o Farm signage $4,500 (member farm signs to reinforce “brand”)

o Newsletter $ 300 (third party design work to help w/Newsletter)

$6,000 (total grant award)

o New USDA/RI DEM grant funding round – expiration 3/31/11

 RI DEM is holding another grant round with a deadline of 3/31/11. Upon a vote by membership (proposed by Karen M and seconded by Jeanie Bento) it was agreed that Eric would submit another application on behalf of RICTGA in order to continue the marketing and educational initiatives pursued under the current grant.

 Wayne Gunderman also circulated news articles from the Providence Journal and Christmas Tree Growers newsletter that highlighted activities of RICTGA. Also brochures from other states he obtained at the Big E fair. It was agreed that RICTGA needs to create a brochure to replace the current obsolete one we have.

o Keene NH pesticide course March 16 & 17th

 Eric reiterated Karen’s remarks to members regarding the NE Pesticide conference in Keene, NH occurring March 16th and 17th David Henry also offered that from his perspective this course is the best educational opportunity for all aspects of Christmas Tree growers that he has attended. Included in the 2010 grant funds are monies to send RICTGA rep(s) to this conference in order to report back to membership. Eric is attending in this capacity. There are funds for another RICTGA member, however the proviso is that attendees are prepared to be a resources to membership and report out findings both in writing for the Newsletter/website as well as verbally at the next meeting of membership, which is likely to be the spring field meeting.

o Agricultural Surveys coming - Eric noted that he received the following request from Jan Eckhart who was unable to attend today’s meeting: “I would appreciate it if you could give the group a heads up that there will be two important surveys coming out soon. One from RINLA (nursery etc.) and the other from the RI Ag Partnership. We have been working with the EDC and URI. The first is an economic impact study and the second relates to the state of agriculture and its needs. If you could just urge the group to please respond to these surveys as they will be helpful to all of agriculture.”

Stu Nunnery then made a brief presentation on the purpose and current goals of New England Farmways. For those who are not aware of Stu’s organization, check out their website: NE Farmways acts as an informational conduit to bring public awareness to farms in ways that promote agriculture for a broad spectrum of potential revenue generators; from crops to the farms utility as a destination vacation, wedding and event sites or tour destinations. Since RICTGA is exploring creative marketing opportunities it seemed to be a good fit to connect with Stu and see what opportunities might exist to collaborate. We intend to continue these discussions, and anyone who wants to participate is invited to join.

Wrap –up.

o It was generally agreed by all attendees that folks enjoyed the dinner meeting and agreed that the social aspect of RICTGA is a tradition that should continue to be stressed. Next time we will meet as a group will be the Spring Field meeting. Date TBD but likely last Saturday of April or first Saturday of May. Meeting was adjourned by 8pm.

- End -