- Report Published -
|Annual Report on the Virginia Farmers Market System 2011 Report and 2012 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 (SWVFM), Hillsville, is operated by the County of Carroll.
• The Eastern Shore of Virginia Farmers Market (ESVFM), Melfa, is operated by the Eastern Shore Marketing Cooperative, Inc.
• The Northern Neck of Virginia Farmers Market (NNVFM), Oak Grove, is operated by the Northern Neck Vegetable Growers Association.
• The Southeast Virginia Farmers Market (SEVFM), Courtland, is operated by Farmers Market, L.L.C.
In 2011, the Virginia Farmers Market System broke the $40 million level in sales, with a gross sales value of $42.8 million. This represents a 7.3 percent increase above 2010 and more than doubles the reported value of sales over the past five years, at 110 percent above the 2006 sales level. The number of farmers using the Market System in 2011 increased by 34.8 percent and produce acreage rose by nearly 20 percent in the past year. Statistically, the breakdown is as follows:
• 209 producers marketed product and/or used market services at the four markets (combined), compared to 155 producers in 2010.
• Gross value of products marketed was $42.8 million, representing 2.9 million product units; compared with $39.9 million in 2010, representing 2.9 million product units.
• The markets served 7,726 acres of production in 2011, compared with 6,448 acres in 2010.
• The system served 17 brokers and 638 major retail stores and institutional buyers, compared with 36 brokers and 317 retail stores and institutional buyers in 2010.
Factors that had a positive effect upon production and marketing volumes for the past year, as cited by the market operators in 2011, were:
• A continued trend in a greater diversity of the types of produce grown and marketed through the Farmers Market System. Virginia farmers are diversifying their produce business in terms of product mix, varieties, and volume according to customer demand.
• Produce prices, while mixed, were generally higher than in 2010, depending on the particular produce item and the time sold during the season.
• The 20 percent increase in production acreage served by the market system offset the yield reductions due to the high temperatures and drought in some regions and the hurricane damage and wet weather conditions that impacted eastern Virginia in late summer and early fall.
• Production meetings and grower educational sessions were held in all regions served by markets during the winter months to recruit growers and educate farmers on market demand and the latest production recommendations and techniques.
• The “Buy Locally Grown” and “Virginia Grown” consumer movements continued to generate greater produce marketing opportunities thereby resulting in increased production of fresh produce items by Virginia farmers.
• The SWVFM continued its transition from a market that was primarily serving wholesalers, to one that increasingly packs and ships directly to grocery chain stores and to companies that supply them. This has resulted in increased volumes of produce being grown and marketed in the region.
• The capital investments in 2009-2010 at the SWVFM in forced air coolers, five-ton capacity ice machines, and hydro-coolers, have proven to be instrumental in opening up sales opportunities and fostering greater production of sweet corn and broccoli, thereby increasing the economic viability and crop diversity of Southwest farm businesses.
• The NNVFM’s utilization of early season produce contracts as a key marketing and risk management strategy secured higher prices for the region’s produce growers.
• The ESVFM continued to expand as a full agricultural industry service center site with the construction of a Seafood Market slated for completion in early 2012. 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 in the region.
• The ESVFM worked 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.
• The SEVFM weekly produce auction saw a marked expansion in participating producers, buyers and in the volume of produce sold. Participating producer level more than doubled to 80 growers and the sales volume increased 71 percent to $110,000. It was estimated that the weekly auction attracted around 450 buyers.
• The SEVFM continued to forge collaborative business opportunities with public and private sector partners to increase volume, market demand and economic opportunities for the market and the market’s farmer base. Such partnerships include expanding produce business opportunities with the Department of Corrections (DOC) and the NNVFM to increase market demand and produce sales.
Factors that negatively affected production and marketing volumes during the past year, as cited by the market operators in 2011, were:
• Produce production and quality were impacted by extreme weather conditions with extended periods of high temperatures and drought through the summer, followed immediately by major storms, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, which resulted in excessive rainfall, flooding and damaging high winds.
• Wholesale buyers continued to decline in number, as a result of consolidations and closures.
• The condition of the economy in some of the market regions was worse than overall conditions in the national economy.
• Due to a lack of local labor, produce growers in most regions were dependent on migrant labor. The availability and high cost of migrant labor, as well as the migrant housing requirements continued to be issues of concern.
• The 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. Southeast Virginia experienced a similar situation with cotton, as some vegetable production shifted to cotton as a result of the high cotton futures in 2011.