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Despite odd numbers, Ohio vegetable production thriving

Ohio’s large, commercial vegetable growers are thriving, according to Chadd Buurma, president of Buurma Farms. His large family operation,  much like that of the Wiers and Holthouse families, all located in Willard, OH, is doing very well, Buurma said. He also credits Zeller Farms and some other large commercial growers in Hartville, OH, for ongoing professionalism and success.2018-4-20-Pepper-Bell

What struck Buurma, and The Produce News, as odd, was a statistical dip in Ohio vegetable acreage 2007-13. According to USDA numbers, Ohio had 34,000 acres of vegetable production in 2006. That nose-dived to 23,000 acres by 2012. For 2017, Ohio fresh market vegetable production was shown to rebound to 38,100 acres.

Buurma can’t be sure of what changed. He guesses that the many Amish and Mennonite growers in Ohio decided in that timeframe that they could not meet oncoming food-safety standards.

Thus, he suggests, maybe there was an exodus from the business to other fields without demanding food-safety rigors. “It may be the smaller guys,” he said. “Maybe some of them went out of business.”

Buurma continued, “I know about us, Wiers, the guys in Hartville. We have good relationships with them all. We are actually related. I don’t see the numbers declining.”

“The local chains including Kroger, Meier, and Giant Eagle all do a tremendous job of supporting Ohio-grown product,” he continued. “Our numbers the last two years have grown. I don’t see anything that scares me” regarding the future of Ohio’s vegetable business.

But, he added, those small growers “with the onset of food-safety standards, maybe can’t afford to go forward. I’m sure there’s a shifting of gears” with those communities.

At the same time, the five or six big growers in Ohio, who also in some cases grow in Michigan, are putting forward “solid numbers.”

“Overall, everything is good,” Buurma said. “Ohio veg is doing great. I’m comfortable with where we’re at.”

Ohio vegetable growers produce dozens of different fresh commodities for sale within, and far beyond the Buckeye State.

For the largest-volume commodities, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service indicates that in 2017, open-field Ohio fresh market tomatoes had a value of $57.5 million. Fresh market sweet corn were worth $30.8 million and bell peppers were valued at $22.5 million.

In 2017, Ohio-grown pumpkins were sold for $14.1 million and fresh market cucumbers were worth $6.6 million.