Michigan Asparagus Prepares for Upcoming Season
- by Maggie Mead
DEWITT, MI - As asparagus stalks shoot out of the ground like lilliputian trees, it’s clear that the dawn of the season for this popular veg is upon us. With spring quickly transitioning to summer, Michigan Asparagus is at the starting gate, ready for the pistol to go off. Asparagus season is brief—running from early May to the beginning of July—but lucrative, and as consumers clamor for local produce, the popularity of U.S.-grown asparagus only continues to, well, grow.
“Consumers today continue to show high affinity for locally grown products,” John Bakker, Executive Director for the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, explained. “This lucrative local foods market is expected to exceed $20 billion this year, according to market research firm Packaged Facts. According to Consumer Reports, nearly eight in ten American consumers would rather purchase products made in America than imported goods, and more than 60 percent of respondents say they would be willing to pay up to 10 percent more for domestic products.”
Only about two percent of U.S.-consumed asparagus is grown in the U.S., with Michigan and Washington as growing leaders, while California-grown asparagus has decreased as a market leader. In this changing growing landscape, Michigan Asparagus growers continue to fight for their place in the asparagus market, to answer the call for locally-grown produce.
Retailers love Michigan Asparagus because of the state’s central location, which ensures a high-quality product with longer shelf-life and less shrink. Asparagus harvested in Michigan is only two to three days old when it arrives at retail, making it fresher, with less food miles and a smaller environmental impact than imported asparagus. In contrast, imported asparagus delivered by boat or plane could be over 21 days old when it arrives in U.S. stores. Recognizing that water is a precious and limited resource, Michigan-grown asparagus is not irrigated in an effort to achieve sustainable farming practices and manage costs.
“Michigan asparagus is grown and shipped by over 100 farm families that make a difference in their local communities and generate an impact of more than 20,000 full- and part-time workers and over $30 million in farmgate dollars with more than $100 million in economic lift to Main Street USA,” said John. “We want to help retail and foodservice buyers understand the importance of buying local, U.S.-grown products when they are in season. Not only do their consumers want it, it’s better for the environment and local economies. We want to remind buyers that during the months of May and June Michigan asparagus is their best buy.”
With asparagus season on the horizon, retailers are encouraged to book their ads now and plan to run them from May 1 to June 30. Michigan Asparagus supports retailers with the “Straight to the Point” marketing campaign that is focused on delivering the facts about Michigan Asparagus—everything from seasonality and importance of locally-grown food, handling and storage, and, of course, cooking information. Retailers will also receive a weekly e-newsletter that details asparagus shipping and condition updates, along with a retail handling guide and social media toolkit for retail communication departments.
“Consumers and buyers tell us locally- and U.S.-grown is important, and we need to make sure they get the message,” John concluded. “We will have a series of consumer videos, heavy social media content, and even a consumer mat release expected to drive millions of print and online impressions.”
John concluded, “There is a place in the market for imported product, but it should never be when U.S. Grown products are fresh and available and make sense for the consumers we aim to please.”
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