Asparagus sector struggles with long-term viability

Change is nearing a tipping point in one of the nation’s largest asparagus-growing regions. 

Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Tim Boring tells Brownfield the asparagus industry is facing several complex challenges with no easy solutions.

“Issues all the way from labor availability, the cost of labor today, ongoing supply chain issues, just international trade issues,” he says.  “We as a state need to be working on how we support and foster these industries before we lose them.”

Caleb Coulter with American Apple and Asparagus says his packing shed has become a 24-hour facility to cut overhead, but other changes are needed.

“Our harvest season could end early if the production doesn’t offset the labor, we may have some product left in the field,” he shares.

CEO of Michigan Freeze Pack Tom Brian expects automation to direct what the industry can look like in the future.

“We’d love to be able to process asparagus forever, however, world markets, and economics play and dictate what we do there,” he says. “Mechanically harvested vegetables is where we need to move to.”

Boring says he wants to tackle the bigger issues and find where action is needed.

Brownfield’s Nicole Heslip joined the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for a Michigan Asparagus Industry Tour Thursday across Oceana County, one of the nation’s largest asparagus production areas.

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