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
GrapesTable Grape Commission Awarded More Funding To Study Postharvest Treatment
April 16, 2015
The research will ensure California grape exports continue uninterrupted. Read More
Tom West Blueberries family
BerriesUrban Sprawl Doesn’t Stop 4th-Generation Florida Farm From Growing
April 16, 2015
Growing in town supports the evolution of Tom West Blueberries. Read More
Golden Rice
CitrusMore Social Commentators Changing Their Views On GMO Crops
April 15, 2015
Could public opinion be swayed by evolving narration on genetic modification? Read More
FruitsNew Protective Coating Available For Bee Hives
April 14, 2015
Sustainable crop management company Biobest has announced the launch of “Bee-Coat,” a new protective coating for bumblebee hives. It is Read More
Gala green tip apple bloom
Apples & PearsApple Scab Spores Begin To Emerge In Pennsylvania
April 14, 2015
Now is a good time to apply copper sprays to protect trees. Read More
FruitsRecord Low Snowpack In Washington State
April 14, 2015
Experts say snowmelt occurring earlier than expected. Read More
Crop ProtectionMore Help Needed To Track Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs, Georgia Researchers Say
April 14, 2015
This pest, a problem in apples, tomatoes, and other fruit in the North, has recently moved into Georgia.    Read More
The Latest
Natalie Parkell and Kevin Osburn of Vertical Horizon Farms
CitrusSmall Family Farms Can Survive [Opinion]
April 17, 2015
It is reassuring amid the corporate climate the agriculture industry has experienced in more recent times that there is still room for the little guy, and — more importantly — a need. Read More
Golden Rice
CitrusMore Social Commentators Changing Their Views On GMO Cr…
April 15, 2015
Could public opinion be swayed by evolving narration on genetic modification? Read More
FruitsNew Protective Coating Available For Bee Hives
April 14, 2015
Sustainable crop management company Biobest has announced the launch of “Bee-Coat,” a new protective coating for bumblebee hives. It is Read More
FruitsRecord Low Snowpack In Washington State
April 14, 2015
Experts say snowmelt occurring earlier than expected. Read More
Crop ProtectionMore Help Needed To Track Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs, …
April 14, 2015
This pest, a problem in apples, tomatoes, and other fruit in the North, has recently moved into Georgia.    Read More
CitrusFlorida Agriculture Rings Up Record $4.2 Billion In Int…
April 13, 2015
Accomplishment represents third year in a row that Sunshine State exports have topped the $4 billion mark. Read More
CitrusForecasters Predict Historically Weak Atlantic Hurrican…
April 9, 2015
Extended range outlook cites El Niño as culprit in what could be one of the least active seasons in recent memory. Read More
One World Challenge Wall
CitrusToday’s Youth Set To Sustain The World [Opinion]
April 9, 2015
A select group of University of Florida students are thinking of innovative ways to meet the challenges of supporting 9+ billion people on Earth by 2050. Read More
Food SafetyChipotle Serves Up Food Safety Grants To Five Florida F…
April 8, 2015
Awards in the amount of $1,000 will go to help the winning operations pay for a third-party audit. Read More
Crop ProtectionIR-4 Announces Pest Management Solutions Workshop
April 8, 2015
The IR-4 Project announced their first Global Minor Use Priority Setting Workshop Sept. 20-22 in Chicago, IL. Read More
non-gmo label leafy greens
CitrusNational Farmers Union Supports Mandatory GMO Labeling
April 3, 2015
Organization calls on Congress for unified standards to bridge several pending labeling proposals. Read More
CitrusRainfall Relief Welcomed Across South Florida
April 3, 2015
Below-average precipitation for the region during March helps lower high water levels from what has been a rather wet Dry Season. Read More
CitrusEPA Says It Is Unlikely To Approve New Neonicotinoid Ou…
April 3, 2015
The agency is waiting until new bee data has been submitted and pollinator risk assessments are complete. Read More
FFVA Emerging Leaders Class 4 visits Tallahassee
CitrusMarch On Tallahassee A Fruitful Exercise For Florida…
April 2, 2015
Road trip to the state capital beneficial for Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association's board of directors and Class 4 of its Emerging Leader Development Program. Read More
CitrusCalifornia Snowpack Is Virtually Gone
April 2, 2015
With the lowest water content since 1950, the governor orders first-ever mandatory water reductions in cities and towns, and growers face tighter regulations. Read More
Farm ManagementUSDA Awards $31 Million In Grants To Help SNAP Particip…
April 1, 2015
Funding supports programs that help participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program afford healthy foods. Read More
Farm ManagementHow To Save Money In Your Garden
April 1, 2015
Utah State University Cooperative Extension explains how you can save a bundle. Read More
Washington Capitol building
Food SafetyBill To Halt Patchwork Of State GMO Labeling Laws
March 31, 2015
Reintroduced bill includes a new provision allowing for labeling products as GMO-free via USDA-certification process. Read More