- Report Published -
|Annual Report on the Virginia Farmers Market System 2010 Report and 2011 Plan|
|Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services|
|§ 3.2-3501 (B.)|
|The Virginia Farmers Market System includes four shipping point farmers markets, each operating under a contract between the Commonwealth of Virginia and private sector and/or county government organizations:|
• The Southwest Virginia Farmers Market, Hillsville, is operated by the County of Carroll.
• The Eastern Shore of Virginia Farmers Market, Melfa, is operated by the Eastern Shore Marketing Cooperative, Inc.
• The Northern Neck of Virginia Farmers Market, Oak Grove, is operated by the Northern Neck Vegetable Growers Association.
• The Southeast Virginia Farmers Market, Courtland, is operated by Farmers Market, L.L.C.
For the 2010 harvest year, volume (units sold) was up 5.7 percent while the value of produce handled was up 7.5 percent when compared to 2009. Statistically, the breakdown is as follows:
• 155 producers marketed product and/or used market services at the four markets (combined), compared with 116 producers in 2009
• The gross value of products marketed was $39.9 million, representing 2.9 million product units; compared with $37.1 million in 2009, representing 2.8 million product units.
• The markets served 6,448 acres of production in 2010, compared with 5,918 acres in 2009.
• The system served 36 brokers and 317 major retail stores and institutional buyers, compared to 33 brokers and 208 retail stores and institutional buyers in 2009.
Factors which had a positive effect upon production and marketing volumes for the past year as cited by the market operators in 2010 were:
• Virginia producers continue to diversify their vegetable production, both in terms of product mix, varieties and volume, thereby better serving customer demand while also spreading production risk.
• On average, produce prices were higher than in 2009, depending on the particular produce item and the time sold during the season.
• An 8.9 percent increase in acreage served by the markets helped offset the reduced yields resulting from the extremely hot and dry weather conditions experienced during much of the growing season.
• Production meetings and grower education sessions were held in all regions served by markets during the winter months to educate growers on market demand and the latest production recommendations and techniques.
• The “buy locally grown” movement resulted in increased produce production and marketing opportunities.
• The Southwest Virginia Farmers Market continued its transition from a market that was primarily serving wholesalers catering to individual stores, fruit stands and restaurants, to one that is increasingly packing and shipping to chain grocery stores and to companies that supply them. This has resulted in increased volumes of produce being produced and marketed in the region.
• In 2010, two forced air coolers and two 5-ton capacity ice machines were put into operation at the Southwest Virginia Farmers Market. This, coupled with the two hydro-coolers that were installed in 2009, proved to be beneficial in opening up sales avenues for the region’s sweet corn and broccoli crop and will aid further diversification in production and marketing.
• The marketing ability and presence of the Northern Neck Farmers Market continues to increase, which increased the demand for product from the region.
• The Eastern Shore of Virginia Farmers Market continued as an agricultural service center. The operator managed the farmers market as well as the Pacific Tomato Growers housing site and the Southeastern Potato Committee. Participation in the Southeastern Potato Committee allowed potato producers to export product to Canada. The market also provided scale services for the vegetable and grain trucks leaving the Shore and dry storage, whenever possible, for boxes etc. for vegetable producers.
• The Eastern Shore of Virginia Farmers Market attempted to meet the needs of smaller-scale growers, whose numbers and acreage are declining, by leasing space to a year-round broker who buys locally from smaller scale growers.
• The Eastern Shore of Virginia Farmers Market also attempted to meet the needs of larger corporate growers, whose acreage is increasing, by leasing space to a large tomato packing operation.
• The Southeast Virginia Farmers Market established a weekly produce auction, which benefited small produce growers and was welcomed by local buyers. Approximately $64,300 worth of produce was sold at the weekly auction by 39 growers.
• The working relationship between the Southeast Virginia Farmers Market (SVFM) and the Northern Neck of Virginia Farmers Market (NNVFM) whereby sweet corn, yellow squash and zucchini grown in southeast Virginia are packed and cooled at the SVFM and then shipped to the NNVFM to be sold, led to increased production of these crops.
Negative factors affecting production and marketing volumes for the past year as cited by the market operators in 2010 were:
• Record setting heat and drought conditions throughout the state during much of the growing season resulted in lower than expected yields for most crops.
• Wholesale product buyers continued to decline in number, as a result of consolidations and closures.
• The condition of the economy in some of the market regions is worse than the national economy.
• Due to a lack of local labor, vegetable growers in most regions are dependent on migrant labor. The availability and high cost of migrant labor, as well as the migrant housing requirements continue to be issues of concern.
• Eastern Shore has experienced a production shift by many growers from vegetables to an increased acreage of corn, soybeans, wheat and to a lesser extent cotton, resulting in declining vegetable acreage being planted on the Shore.