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
The team at Lamont Fruit Farms  takes a progressive approach to staffing. “Give people the opportunity to excel,” Jose Iniguez says. “If our employees want it, we give them the chance.”
Apples & Pears
May 30, 2016
Is Your Orchard Ready For Mechanization?
Automation is on the horizon, and it would be beneficial if you’re planting with that in mind. Read More
high denisty apple orchard washington
Apples & Pears
May 29, 2016
Orchard Systems Matter With Mechanization
“It takes years to turn orchards from a big, wild 3-D tree to a narrow canopy — a lot of Read More
upclose of Israeli apple harvester
Fruits
May 28, 2016
Orchard Automation Is On The Horizon
Industry experts say the advent of fully automated orchard tasks are on the cusp of happening — with a few companies leading the automotive harvest charge. Read More
IFTA Washington Day3 6
Apples & Pears
May 27, 2016
Washington Apple Commission Elects New Leaders
The commission board also approved the export budget of $7.7 million for the upcoming 2016-17 crop, based on a crop of 135 million cartons. Read More
As this view of the San Luis Reservoir shows, California's drought is far from over. (Photo credit: David Eddy)
Farm Management
May 27, 2016
California Drought Far From Over
To preserve orchards and vineyards, growers are expected to fallow up to 350,000 acres of corn, wheat, cotton and alfalfa. Read More
These workers use a platform from Automated Ag for hand thinning. (Photo credit: Christina Herrick)
Apples & Pears
May 27, 2016
How Best To Integrate Man And Machine
If you want to implement labor-saving mechanization, you should start the conversation with the end user – your employees. Read More
First-year impact of Prunus replant disease at the Firebaugh replant trial; stunted trees in the foreground row were planted in plot of non-fumigated replant soil. (Photo credit: University of California Agriculture)
Fruits
May 26, 2016
Consider Fumigating For Nematodes Before Replanting Almonds, Stone Fruit
Stone fruit and almond growers looking to replant orchards might want to invest in soil samples to assess nematode populations Read More
The Latest
Crop Protection
May 31, 2016
Honey Bees Collect Urban Pesticides Via …
Purdue study indicates pollen is consistently contaminated with not only agricultural, but urban pesticides. Read More
Citrus
May 31, 2016
Cannabis Cultivation Quest Becoming Real…
Planning, preparations finally giving way to production and dispensing of ‘Charlotte’s Web.’ Read More
Fruits
May 30, 2016
‘Fresh Attitude Week’ Promot…
The largest U.S. urban school districts host weeklong celebration, Fresh Attitude Week, which highlights fresh fruits and vegetables and other nutrition education activities. Read More
Fruits
May 28, 2016
Orchard Automation Is On The Horizon
Industry experts say the advent of fully automated orchard tasks are on the cusp of happening — with a few companies leading the automotive harvest charge. Read More
Farm Management
May 27, 2016
California Drought Far From Over
To preserve orchards and vineyards, growers are expected to fallow up to 350,000 acres of corn, wheat, cotton and alfalfa. Read More
Fruits
May 26, 2016
Consider Fumigating For Nematodes Before…
Stone fruit and almond growers looking to replant orchards might want to invest in soil samples to assess nematode populations Read More
Crop Protection
May 25, 2016
More Apps Help Growers Identify Insects …
Berries, apples, pears, and cherries now rolled into new app series from Clemson University. Read More
Citrus
May 25, 2016
Monsanto Says Bayer Bid ‘Financially Ina…
Proposal cited as undervalued, not able to address financial, regulatory risks. Read More
Farm Management
May 25, 2016
Report Highlights Benefits Of Trans-Paci…
National Potato Council says report from the International Trade Commission offers the benefits the free trade agreement would offer growers. Read More
Fruits
May 25, 2016
Farm Bureau Says EPA, Army Corps Of Engi…
AFBF told Congress that the Army Corps' novel interpretations of environmental law are threatening farmers in California and other areas of the country. Read More
Citrus
May 25, 2016
NRCS Invests $4.3 Million To Combat Clim…
The Natural Resources Conservation Service in California is committing funds to help farmers and ranchers mitigate the effects of climate change and help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Read More
Citrus
May 24, 2016
Panama Canal Expansion To Bring Trade Op…
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says a confluence of events is putting the state's producers in a good spot to open new markets. Read More
Citrus
May 24, 2016
Social Media Posts On GMOs Falling Flat …
Hopefully, the hysteria the West has perpetuated on genetic engineering will not stifle the potential of moving our production forward enough to help feed a growing global population. Read More
Fruits
May 24, 2016
Organic Food Sales Hit Record $43.3 Bill…
Organic Trade Association says organic fruits and vegetables logged sales of $14.4 billion. Read More
Citrus
May 24, 2016
Report Says GMOs Offer No Risk To Human …
The study stresses the need for proper resistance management, the need for a different ways to evaluate all new crop varieties, regardless of process in which they were developed. Read More
Citrus
May 24, 2016
Full-Time Effort Required To Feed Farm-T…
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam gives a shout-out to those providing fuel to kids during the school year as well as the summer months. Read More
Citrus
May 23, 2016
World Health Organization Experts: Glyph…
Risk unlikely when consuming crops treated with herbicide. Read More
Citrus
May 23, 2016
Florida Growers Putting Food Safety On F…
Specialty crop industry stakeholders hungry to understand what’s ahead as FDA begins implementing new food safety rules. Read More
[gravityform id="62" title="false" description="false"]