December 17, 2003 | By: Laura Skillman

Fruit and vegetable sales in Kentucky continue to expand with direct marketing to consumers making up the bulk of sales.

“Horticulture is a pretty small part of the overall agricultural economy in Kentucky, but as our farmers look to diversify into other enterprises, a lot of them have looked at horticulture as an option,” said Tim Woods, horticultural economist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

“We’ve had tremendous investments into horticulture marketing infrastructure and our cooperatives, and even into some of our on-farm marketing,” Woods said during the recent Kentucky Agricultural Economic Outlook held in conjunction with the Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention.

In 2003, fruit and vegetable sales totaled approximately $20 million. The state’s four produce cooperatives expanded their sales totals as well, selling just more than $5 million in wholesale produce.

“We have a variety of marketing channels that our producers use but the direct marketing channel is still a very important marketing channel for them. Direct marketing includes on-farm retail markets, community farmers’ markets and other kinds of direct to consumer marketing channels. About three-quarters of our producers have some kind of involvement in direct marketing. Of course, our cooperatives are important as well as direct to store, restaurant and auction markets.”

The cooperatives tend to represent larger volume producers and, with the exception of cantaloupe, saw generally strong markets and prices in 2003. Some of the opportunities producers are seeing are the result of alliances they have made with marketing entities even outside of Kentucky, Woods said.

The industry, especially cooperatives, has benefited from the support of the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board. The development of this industry is a long-term process.  The modern facilities and on-farm experience necessary to compete are starting to come together, he noted.

Kentucky farmers themselves have indicated labor availability and marketing infrastructure continue to be the most important limiting factors or bottlenecks in expansion of the industry, Woods said.

Early indications are that most producers will continue to expand their production in 2004. Many producers did not get as much acreage planted in 2003 as they wanted to because of poor early spring weather.

Greenhouse production of plants, flowers and vegetables will very likely see expansion in 2004 as well.

“There is tremendous room for expansion and development in the horticulture sector,” Woods said. “Our folks are trying to grow at a reasonable rate in terms of what opportunities are being presented to them.”




Writer: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278
Source: Tim Woods, 859-257-7270