PIKETON, Ohio - Raspberry production is on the rise in Ohio, according to a series of surveys conducted by Ohio State University and Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service researchers.
The surveys, conducted last summer, show that 360 acres of black, summer red and fall red raspberries were harvested in 2001, yielding 303,000 pounds of berries. The production was an increase over the 1997 Ohio Census of Agriculture report of 245 acres of raspberries, which yielded 291,000 pounds of berries.
"The surveys are a good indicator that interest in growing raspberries in Ohio is steadily increasing," said Sandy Kuhn, berry coordinator of the university's South Centers at Piketon. "But even what farmers are growing in the state may not be enough to meet consumer demand. Raspberries that were provided to a farmer's market in Athens this past summer, for example, sold out in less than 20 minutes."
The series of surveys, which included a pre-season survey in June, weekly in-season surveys in July and August, and an end-of-the-season survey in October, were designed to determine how many acres of raspberries are being grown in Ohio, where producers market their crop, what type of raspberry dominates the market, how producers sell their crop and at what price. Kuhn will present the results of the survey and explain what it all means to farmers at the Ohio Fruit and Vegetable Growers Congress and Ohio Roadside Marketing Conference, Feb. 6-8 in Toledo, Ohio.
Black raspberries accounted for 63 percent of production, followed by 23 percent of summer red raspberries, and nearly 13 percent of fall red raspberries. Other types of raspberries, such as purple and golden, made up less than one percent of production. Approximately 190 growers were surveyed. Most preferred to sell their berries mainly through pick-your-own operations.
"The biggest result of the surveys that surprised us was the discrepancy in price the growers were charging for berries," said Kuhn. "We found that price was dependent on the type of raspberry sold, the type of market in which the berry was sold in and in what region of the state the sale occurred. It's clear that markets closer to large cities fetched higher prices."
Growers were averaging about $2.04 per pound of raspberries. Purple, golden and red summer raspberries fetched the highest prices on average, ranging from $2.47 to nearly $3.00 a pound. Black and fall red raspberries closed out the group, averaging nearly $2.00 a pound. In pick-your-own operations, growers were averaging $1.56 a pound for their berries, followed by fresh-picked berries at $2.75 a pound and berries sold at farmers markets for $3.25 a pound.
"The next step is to potentially work with some grocery chains to see what needs to be done to give growers a little bit more of a competitive edge. Where are these chains buying their berries, how much are they paying for them and what do they look for in quality?" said Kuhn. "Berries sold at produce auctions and wholesale markets were commanding prices comparable to those sold retail on the farm. That in itself is a strong indicator that there is still room for more berries to be sold through both fresh and wholesale markets."
The sale of raspberries in Ohio totaled more than $615,000 last year. Survey participants indicated they plan to increase their acreage by 15 percent this year. If this is realized, planted acreage will increase to approximately 415 acres.
The Ohio Fruit and Vegetable Growers Congress and Ohio Roadside Marketing Conference is designed to provide fruit and vegetable growers the latest in research information, food safety and labor regulations, and economic opportunities. The conference is sponsored by Ohio State University, Ohio Vegetable and Potato Growers Association, Ohio Fruit Growers Society, and the Direct Agricultural Marketing Association of Ohio. For more information on the conference contact the Ohio Fruit and Vegetable Growers office at (614) 249-2424, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or log on to http://www.ohiofruit.org or http://www.ohiovegetables.org.