December 12, 2001 | By: Aimee D. Heald

Over the last several years, marketing activity for fresh produce in Kentucky has expanded, largely due to the establishment of several new marketing cooperatives.

Tim Woods, agribusiness and horticultural marketing specialist for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, said new investment into these co-ops from producers, the Ag Development Fund, the USDA and other sources has set the stage for these ventures to expand considerably over the next several years.

“The area of horticulture has been one that has captured a lot of attention for farmers starting new enterprises,” he said. “Currently, membership in these co-ops is around 350 growers and the projection is more than 640 by 2004.”

Woods said Kentucky is seeing a lot of the new marketing activity of produce going through the new cooperatives in the state.

“We’re seeing a lot of marketing attention being paid to these produce items,” he said. “It’s a very interesting opportunity that has come available to Kentucky farmers through alliances they have developed with producers in some other states. There’s a lot of interest in expanding publicly owned marketing facilities and that will also create opportunities for folks seeking to get into this area.”

Many programs, such as UK’s New Crop Opportunity Center, are focusing on providing technical expertise and education about horticultural marketing issues of interest to farmers.

Woods said people are eating healthier diets and generally including more fresh fruits and vegetables in their meals, which increases the demand for fresh produce.

“The four co-ops in the Commonwealth generated sales of just under $5 million in 2000 and appear to have improved on that in 2001,” he emphasized. “Their intentions are to roughly triple sales within five years.”

Woods believes the growth objectives of the co-ops are quite achievable, given the marketing opportunities. He pointed out that there also are other produce businesses in Kentucky positioning themselves for expansion in the near future.

“Attention to orderly and innovative market development and technical production support is going to be critical to ensure the greatest levels of success for these produce enterprises,” Woods said. “There are some unique challenges and Phase I funding will certainly remain a big part of what is driving expansion in the horticulture industry.”


Tim Woods 859-257-7270