Nurseries Monitor Economy, Buy Local Trend

In an economy where every penny counts, luxuries like high-end wine are taking a backseat to necessities, and justifiably so, even winegrape growers will admit. The real story, though, is how nurseries and growers are adapting to changes like these, and where the opportunities lie.

Ernie Bowman of Kendall-Jackson Nursery in Santa Rosa, CA, says sales volume is down about 50% this year over last, and he anticipates 2010 being an equally challenging year. “We did about half the production that we would normally do,� he says. “We had a lot of dormant vine inventory left at the end of the season, so we ended up replanting a lot of dormant vines from this year for next year.� Regrafting helped the nursery achieve significant cost savings. “But I guess time will tell if that was a smart move or not,� he says.

Bowman believes that if there’s going to be any vineyard expansion in the next couple of years, it likely will be in the central valley from Lodi down to Fresno, where land costs less. Many of the major plantings in California in the past 10 years have been primarily coastal, he says, where the price of land is an issue. “You have land cost and then you’ve got development cost of vineyards, and that dictates that you’ve got to get a certain level of pricing for that fruit to make it all economically pencil out,� Bowman says. In lower cost areas, however, growers can produce fruit for a dollar value per ton that makes it easier to stay profitable.

Quality Sells

Since it’s difficult to predict consumers’ behavior, determining what grapes to plant can be tricky. It’s market driven, and in many ways, reactionary. “Five years ago, Pinot Noir was really somewhat of a minor variety,� Bowman says. “But with the advent of ‘Sideways,’ all of a sudden the focus really became on Pinot Noir, and in the last five years, California has probably planted more Pinot Noir than they had planted previous to that, so there are a lot of non-bearing acres of Pinot Noir. Will that trend continue? I don’t know.�

Bowman says the biggest opportunity growers have to shine is from a quality standpoint. “I think quality always sells,� he says. “I think what growers have to do is figure out what the best variety for their site is and grow the best quality fruit they can. So a lot of it is doing due diligence and making sure that what you’re planting is the right variety and rootstock for that site to give yourself a chance to grow the best fruit you can.�

John Duarte of Duarte Nurseries in Hughson, CA, is quick to point out that low-price imports also are affecting U.S. grape growers. “Where everyone was expecting Chardonnay, for example, to become more demanded by now, there’s so much bulk Chardonnay being hauled in from Australia at low prices that a lot of Chardonnay growers are surprised to see their crops aren’t in demand,� he says. “So there’s not a lot of Chardonnay planting, and I think a lot of us would’ve predicted Chardonnay would be short in California right now.�

Love The Locavores

The economy isn’t the only factor affecting growers and nurseries this year. The burgeoning buy local movement is making many growers rethink what they should grow and who they target. “We have what I would call a growing direct market industry in the East, and that’s roadside markets and farmers markets,� says Phil Baugher of Adams County Nursery in Aspers, PA. This has resulted in growers — particularly smaller ones — diversifying into a more mixed crop portfolio, he adds. “Where they used to be just tree fruit growers, they’re now diversifying into blueberries, strawberries — small fruits, and some vegetables, to respond to the growth in the demand for locally grown produce,� he says. “That has affected us in what we’re doing here at the nursery.�

Baugher adds that for some Eastern growers, maintaining a more local focus is easier than trying to compete with California peaches and Washington cherries in the wholesale market. The nursery has been adapting with the changes, but Baugher says the transition has been over time. “We used to grow primarily peaches in stone fruits, and now we grow a lot of white flesh peaches, nectarines, and donut peaches,� he notes. The nursery has had to broaden its selection, as peach growers who used to grow six or seven varieties for wholesale are now growing upwards of 40 varieties for retail, and a mix of different types of stone fruits, as well.

“We continue to see growth in the direct market, buy local trend,� Baugher adds. “I’ve seen some statistics that there’s about 10% annual growth in the direct farmer to consumer market.�

It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly led to this shift in consumer behavior, but Baugher thinks it might have something to do with shoppers’ disenchantment with big supermarkets and megachains. “This is just the pendulum swinging the other way,� he says. “People want to connect with the person that produces their food. The majority of the produce is still sold by the major retailers, but many growers on the East coast are turning to this direct market opportunity as a way to redefine themselves.�

Leave a Reply

Fruits Stories
Crowd protesting GMOs stock image FEATURE
Farm Management
August 24, 2016
Swaying Views On GMO Foods No Easy Task
Featured speaker for the upcoming FFVA Annual Convention says tides are slowly turning in how people digest the concept of genetic modification. Read More
A subsurface microirrigation system.
(Photo credit: Peter Jacoby)
Grapes
August 23, 2016
Deeper Irrigation Method Showing Promise For Vineyards
A new subsurface irrigation system is showing promise for slashing water usage in vineyards. Many vineyards use drip lines that Read More
sprayer nozzles
Fruits
August 23, 2016
New Insecticides Geared To Give Growers Edge Over Pests
Check out three unique chemistries from several of the industry's leading crop protection suppliers. Read More
Prepping apples for cleaning, waxing, and sorting.
Apple Grower of the Year
August 22, 2016
Apple Crop Forecasts Live On Twitter
You'll be able to get up-to-the-minute reports of not only the various regions of the U.S., but key production regions around the world. Read More
Growers should remove unharvested cherries and destroy them to cut spotted wing drosophila populations, as Nikki Rothwell demonstrates with this golf cart.
Pest Control
August 21, 2016
Spotted Wing Drosophila: For Michigan, It’s A ‘Game-Changer’
Why the pest can be so much more destructive for Eastern cherry growers might be due to what they’re not farming. Read More
EGVM
Grapes
August 19, 2016
European Grapevine Moth Eradicated From California
Agricultural officials confirm eradication of invasive pest, lift quarantine restrictions. Read More
cracked earth
Fruits
August 19, 2016
Parts Of New York Now In Extreme Drought
Water deficits starting to cause concern for fire, water shortages in the Empire State. Read More
The Latest
Citrus
August 24, 2016
Meet Florida’s 2016 Woman Of The Year In…
Dedication to fostering the state’s farming future defines the latest winner of longtime honor. Read More
Berries
August 24, 2016
Researchers Unravel Genetic Ancestry Of …
A genetic analysis conducted by New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station researchers aims to improve modern cultivation efforts of strawberry growers. Read More
Fruits
August 24, 2016
Don’t Underestimate The Value Of P…
Sure, you can see and talk with virtually anyone in the world through your smart phone, but you can’t shake their hand. Read More
Farm Management
August 24, 2016
Swaying Views On GMO Foods No Easy Task
Featured speaker for the upcoming FFVA Annual Convention says tides are slowly turning in how people digest the concept of genetic modification. Read More
Fruits
August 23, 2016
New Insecticides Geared To Give Growers …
Check out three unique chemistries from several of the industry's leading crop protection suppliers. Read More
Fruits
August 19, 2016
Parts Of New York Now In Extreme Drought
Water deficits starting to cause concern for fire, water shortages in the Empire State. Read More
Citrus
August 19, 2016
Rough Winter In Store For Much Of The U.…
The Old Farmer’s Almanac and its competitor The Farmers’ Almanac predict the 2016-2017 winter will be cold for much of the country. Read More
Citrus
August 18, 2016
Trump Campaign Announces Agricultural Ad…
Just three of the 64 are directly involved with fruits and vegetables, all three are Californians. Read More
Fruits
August 16, 2016
Growers Optimistic Despite Drought
Growers say continued heat could cause early ripening, still expect season to progress as planned. Read More
Crop Protection
August 15, 2016
New Study Shows Neonicotinoids Pose Litt…
Washington State University researchers reveal the controversial pesticides aren’t dangerous for bees in the real world. Read More
Crop Protection
August 14, 2016
Improving Drought Resilience And Reducin…
Soil health experts gain ground on standardized measurements and identify future research needs. Read More
Citrus
August 12, 2016
Second Half Of Atlantic Hurricane Season…
After a relatively sluggish start to the campaign, revised forecast foresees increased tropical activity ahead. Read More
Equipment
August 11, 2016
New UTV To Hit The Market In January 201…
Yanmar enters the UTV market with two designs of its Bull Series. Read More
Citrus
August 10, 2016
Therapeutic Cannabis Culture Taking Off …
Another licensed nursery gets the go-ahead; makes deliveries to patients in need. Read More
Citrus
August 10, 2016
Protect Yourself From The Zika Virus [Op…
The University of Florida is on the front lines of the battle against mosquito-borne diseases. Read More
Citrus
August 9, 2016
Florida Farmers Need Not Sink Amid Algal…
In the wake of an algal bloom disaster, growers need to be prepared, proactive, and farm smart. There is much at stake. Read More
Citrus
August 9, 2016
Water Quality Win Streak Continues For S…
Despite record rainfall, producers in the Everglades Agricultural Area again exceed phosphorus reduction standards. Read More
Food Safety
August 8, 2016
Longtime Member Of UC-Davis Postharvest …
Dr. Trevor Suslow, who has been a member at the center for 20 years, is taking over for Elizabeth Mitcham. Read More
[gravityform id="62" title="false" description="false"]