From the Ground Up - Specialty Crops

Within production agriculture, there’s an industry called Specialty Crops, something that U.S. consumers have grown to expect to find year-round at the grocery store.

It turns out that specialty crops are nuts, fruits and vegetables. Mickey Paggi is the Director of The Center For Agri-Business at Fresno State University.

“They’re the life blood of the Specialty Crop Industry, the person that comes in and buys the fruits and vegetables in the produce aisle, or buys the frozen vegetables or what have you.”

Paggi works primarily with fresh products that make up 50 billion dollars in annual receipts.

“It’s about 25 per cent of the total value of crop receipts in the United States. Now that doesn’t count livestock. So it’s a very important part of the overall industry, but it’s one that traditionally been made up of smaller farmers, regional markets. It doesn’t command the giant acreages that the soybean and corn people do.”

Given a choice, many people will opt to buy produce locally when it’s available.

“More and more I think we’ve got a real healthy mix developing of commercial production which goes into the supermarket and retail trade which is more and more a part of what dominates the distribution channels for these types of products but also we’re seeing more of a movement towards local foods, increases in farm markets.”

Paggi also sees more of a dependence on imports.

“I think that’s just something that’s going to happen because the labor costs, the resource availability is there, and the quality and the food safety is being greatly enhanced in all of the countries that are providing commodities to us, so those barriers that we had as consumers to buying that product from somewhere else is slowing eroding as we become dependent upon the winter vegetables from Central America, or the grapes from Chile.”