Tag Archives: agriculture

Ripe for recession

Strawberries/Credit: Flickr/ClayIrving

Strawberries/Credit: Flickr/ClayIrving

Every Tuesday, I cook dinner with a friend of mine to save some money by cooking at home and improving our kitchen skills. This week is her turn at the stove, but I’m bringing strawberries for dessert. Why? Well, in the spirit of frugal cooking, imagine my excitement when I saw strawberries for 88 cents a pound at my local supermarket. I was pretty stoked, but with a little research learned that low prices for me means bad news for strawberry farmers as the height of the season approaches.

It’s the cold winter on the east coast that’s permitted Florida strawberries to flood the market, just as California’s growing season gets underway. Marketplace’s Kai Ryssdal spoke with Plant City, Florida farmer Gary Wishnatzki about the surplus.

Typically in mid-February growers will plant in the same bed spring crop like melons, eggplant, tomatoes or cucumbers, but by late March the two crops begin to compete for room and at that point the grower will just come in and twist off the strawberry plants to give the spring crop room to grow. This year the extended cold slowed the strawberry harvest down.

Savings blog WalletPop also picked up on the strawberry bounty, reporting that prices in Ohio are also low, coming in at around $2.50 per pint. WalletPop even had some suggestions of what to make if you (like me) have found yourself with a fridge full of strawberries.

How can you take advantage of the deals being offered in local groceries? One of my favorites is freezer jam, which avoids all that messy pouring of wax caps. By the same process you can make a killer ice-cream topping by thinning down the mix.

One WalletPop writer took her bounty and managed to make strawberry tacos (or galettes, if you’re more Martha).

While strawberry prices have crashed this year, the cost of land to grow them on is still high. Why is that, if real estate prices in urban and industrial areas are still dropping due to the mortgage crisis? PBS NewsHour’s Paul Solman found out why from agricultural economist Gerald Nelson:

Agricultural land is driven by future agricultural prices. And while we are off the highs of 2008, agricultural prices are still high and the expectation is that they will continue to be high.

Have you seen other unexpected deals on produce this season at your local store?

Reaping and sowing

The economy has put farmers in a tight spot, but there is good news out there, too.

NPR today reported on dairy farmers in California, the top dairy-producing state in the country. And while they may have funny commercials featuring talking cows, farmers like Joey Mendoza aren’t laughing.

“Mendoza says he’s squeezed between competition from mega-dairies, the high cost of feed and the dip in consumer demand. These days, he’s earning only about half of what it costs for him to produce each gallon of milk.”

From PBS NewsHour’s Patchwork Nation, there’s somewhat comforting news in Tractor Country, a key community the project is following. In Sioux City, Iowa, farmers are not feeling quite as despondent as Mendoza after a damp spring. Blogger Donald King wrote about the start of summer in farmland and shared his thoughts about the current climate.

“For areas like this, agriculture is totally wrapped up with the health of the economy. So it is as hard to ignore the state of the economy in Iowa as it is anywhere these days. I can report that at least in traditionally strong agricultural communities like Sioux Center and Orange City, Iowa, we are holding our own. Sure, everyone is behaving cautiously, spending is fairly flat, but no one is panicking, and unemployment is still below the national average.”

There’s also good news for the industry as a whole. This feature from earth-friendly web site Mother Nature Network features 40 Farmers Under 40 – many of whom are experimenting with new techniques of both growing and selling.