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    Document Summary
    - Report Published -

    Report Document No. 41
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    Document Title
    Annual Report on the Virginia Farmers Market System 2009 Report and 2010 Plan

    Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

    Enabling Authority

    Executive Summary
    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 2009 harvest year, volume (units sold) was up 2.6 percent while the value of produce handled was up 24.8 percent when compared to 2008. Statistically the breakdown is as follows:

    • 116 producers marketed product and/or used market services at the four markets (combined), compared to 95 producers in 2008

    • Gross value of products marketed was $37.1 million, representing 2.8 million product units; compared to $29.7 million in 2008, representing 2.7 million product units.

    • The markets served 5,918 acres of production in 2009, compared to 5,443 acres in 2008.

    • The system served 33 brokers and 208 major retail stores and institutional buyers, compared to 42 brokers and 226 retail stores and institutional buyers in 2008.

    Factors which had a positive effect upon production and marketing volumes for the past year as cited by the market operators in 2009 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.

    • Vegetable prices, on average, were higher. The higher prices resulted in part from adverse weather conditions and smaller crops in competing production areas.

    • An 8.7 percent increase in acreage served by the markets more than offset any reduced yields resulting from adverse weather conditions in certain parts of Virginia.

    • Production meetings and grower educational sessions were held in regions served by all markets during winter months to educate growers on market demand, production recommendations and techniques.

    • The Southwest Virginia Farmers Market continues its transition from a market that was primarily serving wholesalers catering to individual stores/fruit stands, restaurants, and other wholesalers to one that is increasingly packing and shipping to chain grocery stores and to companies that supply them.

    • Two hydro-cooling units were installed and operational at the Southwest Virginia Farmers Market in 2009. The hydro-cooling capability proved to be instrumental in opening sales avenues for the region’s sweet corn crop, with sales volume three times greater than in 2008. Corn was the markets second largest crop in terms of sales value in 2009.

    • The addition of two major retail chains as customers and the increasing popularity of “buy regional” programs in nearby metropolitan areas aided the Northern Neck of Virginia Farmers Market in moving increased product at good prices.

    • The Eastern Shore of Virginia Farmers Market continued as an agricultural service center. The cooperative operator manages the farmers market as well as the Pacific Tomato Growers housing site and the Southeastern Potato Committee, which manages the USDA Marketing Order that allows potato producers to export product to Canada. The market also provides 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 is attempting to meet the needs of both the small grower, whose numbers and acreage are declining, and the larger corporate grower, whose acreage is increasing, by leasing space to a large tomato operation and also to a year round broker who buys locally from smaller scale growers.

    • Lower commodity crop prices allowed for more opportunity to promote the production of vegetable crops in Southeast Virginia, as growers were looking for other sources of income in the poor economy.

    • The development of a working relationship between the Southeastern Virginia Farmers Market (SVFM) and Northern Neck of Virginia Farmers Market (NNVFM), whereby sweet corn, yellow squash, and zucchini grown in southeast Virginia would be handled and cooled at the SVFM and then shipped to 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 2009 were:

    • Adverse weather conditions, especially the excessive moisture experienced at times during the growing season, resulted in lower that average yields for many 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.

    • The relatively high value of land on the Eastern Shore for residential construction continued to make it difficult to acquire farmland for purely agricultural use. The higher prices for land have also driven up the rental rates of acreage for farming to record levels.

    • Eastern Shore has experienced a production shift by many growers from traditional 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.