Future of Colorado Agriculture

What are the critical trends in Colorado's food, fiber and green production? Will labor, water or cash be the factor that limits agriculture’s success in the next few years? What role do rural communities play in agriculture's future?

Colorado State University is spearheading an effort to discuss, define and consider the potential paths that Agriculture may take in the next generation. We need your help to highlight the important issues and offer your vision of what lies ahead. Extension specialists with the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics will facilitate the discussion both out in the state and on the internet.

Agricultural sectors are listed on the right-hand side of this web page. Take a look at the agricultural sectors and their respective issues, read the opinion of others, and post your own comments. You can also email comments and suggestions for discussions to futureofcoloradoag@gmail.com .

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fruits, Vegetables and Specialty Crops: Increasing Demand and Local Markets

In the last decade greater public concern regarding obesity, diet, and nutrition issues has led the USDA to adapt dietary recommendations to include more fresh produce. Consumers have responded: U.S. per capita consumption of fresh vegetables and melons grew steadily between 1979 and 2007 for a total gain of 54.6%. This increase in consumption occurred during a time that the same USDA study reported prices for a representative fresh vegetable selection increased 292% (or 190% in real dollars).

For Colorado, this translates to total demand of over $2.6 billion for fresh fruits and vegetables, and although many of these products cannot be grown (or available year round), even a share of these sales would represent a significant part of the state's agriculture and growth in the $310 million currently sold in Colorado. At the same time, the way some consumers shop for fresh produce is changing.

In recent years, a small segment of consumers have shown increased interest in foods produced in their local community. This has been motivated by a variety of issues including support for local farmers and economies, concern about food miles and perceptions of improved quality These individuals and households interested in supporting local farmers are also fueling changes in the food system as they seek to purchase their produce via direct marketing channels rather than traditional supermarket sales. As one example, the number of farmers markets has grown significantly across the US (from 1,755 in 1994 to 4,685 in 2008) the growth is even greater in Colorado.

In Colorado, producers currently sell about 5% of their fruits and vegetables directly to consumers (far greater than the 0.4% nationwide), and this number is as great as 50% in Boulder county. But, CSU studies suggest that the demand for local fruits and vegetables could be as much as 10 times greater, if supplies were available. So, some of the new Farm Bill programs targeting the development of specialty crop enterprises could be at an opportune time.

Some issues to consider include:

Are there opportunities for existing farms, with existing family and employees, or in partnership with beginning and young farmers to transition more production to fruits and vegetables? Marketing them direct?

What are the tradeoffs between land, water and labor resources for fresh produce enterprises relative to field crops?

Is Colorado's climate and agronomic base a good fit for more fruit and vegetable production? What technical resources would be needed if these markets offer sufficient opportunities for current farms to consider?


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Anyway, if you'd like to be taken off, for any reason, just let me know.


Bailey said...

I Think that here in Colorado growing our crops and vegitables and fruits is very important, not only for comsumers, but the farmers as well. Selling fruits and vegitables directly from family ran farms is great, it gives the families more opportunities as farmers. And as for our climate, we dont have a suitable climate for growing many fruits, but we do what we can. Technology can do alot, but also we like to do what we can with what we have.

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Laura LooHoo said...

this is a great article, Dawn! I'd love to see more about this -- what's going on with this now? Is the stat you mention about Boulder from the 2007 Census of Agriculture?

Anonymous said...

I think this is a great article Dawn! I also can think of several underlying points beyond just the crop aspect. I have lived near Boulder County my entire life, in which I have seen farmers who have grown fruits & vegetables, and also have experienced the conventional deversified farming on our family farm. I think that it is very important to have local fruits & vegetables available in our stores or at farmers markets as it is great for the local economy, high in demand, and great niche marketing for small farmers. However, it is also very important that the people work together no matter which end you are on. Farmer's markets are a great way of marketing and need to be an option, but conventional farming and distribution must continue in order to be able to feed the world and the demanding growth of the population. While there may be an increasing demand for local markets, we have to keep in mind that imports and exports help the economy of our country. There has to be a way that these operations and types of marketing can co-exsist next to one another and work together in order to keep agriculture strong.

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Morgan Bong said...

Demand of fruits, vegetables are high in Colorado... So this must be taken into account and the supply must be high in order to fulfill the demands... A great blog with great info...

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