June 2, 2004 | By: Laura Skillman

A marketing and planting intentions survey of produce growers in Kentucky shows vegetable acreage will increase this year to a little more than 6,000 acres and gross produce sales will range between $28 and $35 million.

“It’s a nice, steady inching up of acreage and that, generally speaking, means an increase in farmer profitability,” said Matt Ernst, agricultural economics Extension associate with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture

This is the third year growers have been queried about their intentions.

“We started three years ago as part of a multistate research project,” Ernst said. “We were pleased with the results and decided to continue it through funding from the UK New Crops Opportunity Center.

Ernst said he works with county Extension offices and has compiled a mailing list of about 1,200.  About a third of the survey forms are returned representing about half the total commercial produce acreage which is a good response for a mail survey, he said.

Producers using direct markets such as farmers markets and on-farm markets make up the vast majority of produce growers in Kentucky. The number of farmers markets has tripled in the past 10 years and markets anticipate projected sales of $5 to $7 million this year. More than 50 percent of the 401 producers responding to the survey sell at least part of their produce through a farmers market.

Nearly half of the producers also said they use on-farm marketing including roadside stands and pick-your-own. This market will account for $7 to $10 million in commercial produce sales in 2004. Pick-your-own marketing is gaining interest in the state with 31 percent of the producers reporting they are interested in using this system in the future.

“We’ve always seen direct marketing as extremely important,” Ernst said. “Last year and this year as well, the growth is on farms where direct marketing is done.”

Another area seeing growth is produce auctions with three opening this year in Lincoln, Bath and Mason counties. Previously, the Fairview Produce Auction in west Kentucky was the only one in the state.

After rapid expansion in 2000-2002, cooperatives leveled off last year and acreage will hold steady this year although sales receipts could increase as some co-ops shift to more profitable crops. Increases will be in pepper and cabbage production while cantaloupe production will drop due to a poor marketing season in 2003.

Sweet corn and tomatoes continue to be staples among direct marketers with some growers planning to increase their production.

Specialty pepper production will also increase both at some co-ops and by some independent producers for the wholesale market.

Berry acreage in the state also continues to increase slowly, he said.  And cut flowers are popular in some markets.

Fall ornamental crops such as pumpkins and gourds will increase in 2004, based on survey results.

"People spend their money on fall crops for decorating,"Ernst said.

 The entire report can be seen athttp://www.uky.edu/ag/hortbiz/pubs/04prodplantmkt.pdf.


Source: Matt Ernst, 859-257-7272, ext. 223