Asparagus, Drought, & Imports
By the PCFMA
The green spears of spring are here. Over 65% of the asparagus grown commercially in the U.S. is grown in the Sacramento River Delta. Some is grown in the Central Valley. But acreage is dwindling steadily because of cheaper imports from Mexico, according to Barbara Cecchini of Cecchini & Cecchini Farm.
Asparagus growers are somewhat concerned about the drought - last year’s crop was not as good as in previous years. But they’re not as concerned with the drought as they are with the increase in cheaper imported asparagus from Mexico. Barbara’s family has gone from 1000 acres of asparagus down to 50 in the last few years.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has laid the foundation for more imports from Mexico, thus leading to less expensive asparagus becoming available. Her family has grown asparagus for five generations but will eventually sell the land to developers because it is now too costly to grow asparagus. Labor costs, cheaper imported products, and inability to find workers have “cost them the farm.”
Barbara said, “Asparagus will eventually become a niche crop in California. It will still be grown, but on a much smaller scale.” So she and her daughter are in the process of creating an Agricultural Park called First Generation Farmers in place of their farm to teach others about farming.
As of the time this went to press, Barbara said, “This looks to be a decent year as far as the asparagus crop goes. It’s hard to predict right now because we’ve just begun to harvest.” She said that it looks like the tables at the farmer’s market will be full, but the season may be shorter. The quality seems to be on par with previous years.
Visit your farmers’ market and select California-grown asparagus from Cecchini & Cecchini and other local farms because you know how it’s grown and under what conditions. As we always say, Buy Fresh, Buy Local!