May 8, 2018
Despite a late start, Michigan asparagus growers confident

A cool spring and late snowfall have pushed back the harvest schedules for Michigan Harvest growers, who nevertheless expect to deliver similar volumes to last year.

Growers across the state have “one of the latest asparagus season starts in memory,” according to a news release from the grower-funded Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board. At this time last year, many consumers were already enjoying the Michigan asparagus they picked up at the grocery store.

Asparagus tips are seen poking through the ground. Photos: Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board/FullTilt Marketing

However, the cool spring has given growers plenty of time for seasonal field work including mowing and weed and fertilizer applications to get things going.

Although limited in acreage, growers in the Southern region of Michigan have started to harvest this week, May 6-12. Most of the state’s growers, who are located West Central Michigan, won’t begin harvesting until the week of May 13. About 120 family farmers produce the majority of Michigan’s asparagus.

John Bakker, Executive Director of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, said while growers have a delayed start, most grower-shippers are on schedule to harvest and deliver similar volume to last season.

“The biggest difference will be that the build up of volume will not happen slowly, over a couple weeks, but come on quickly between the week of May 13 until it reaches promotable volumes beginning the week of May 20 and continuing throughout the season,” he said.

Suppliers throughout the industry are reporting that pricing and quality will largely be unaffected by the late season start and industry marketing programs have already gotten underway to begin to prime consumers for the start of the much-anticipated season.

The Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board has undertaken additional marketing efforts this year to help promote Michigan asparagus and keep it top of mind for consumers during peak season. As in previous years, the advisory board has formed partnerships with online food bloggers, major influencers when it comes to consumers’ food preparation ideas and purchasing habits. This year, however, they have increased the number of participating bloggers from 38 to 55 and added an additional blogger event.

The first blogger event, #BrunchWeek, took place during the week of April 30-May 5. Later this month, from May 21st -27th, the food blogger community will launch #BBQWeek as a lead-up to Memorial Day, highlighting interesting preparations of asparagus for backyard barbecues.

An additional blogger event – BBQ Week – will address consumers’ increasing interest in grilling asparagus, which consumer polls have indicated is a favorite way to prepare this much awaited Michigan vegetable.

The Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board is also promoting online engagement by offering giveaways during the season. Consumers can enter to win weekly nationwide flash giveaways for $50, blogger event giveaways for $100, or the board’s season-long giveaway of over $2000 in cash prizes including a $1000 grand prize. The giveaways encourage consumers to connect and engage with the board’s online community through social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

Top photo: Asparagus spears are growing well, but at a delayed schedule due to an unseasonably cool Michigan spring.


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