Similar production windows for many growing states

US has a late start to asparagus

Oregon and Idaho are experiencing a very late start to the asparagus season, mainly due to cold weather. “It’s probably one of the latest starts we’ve ever had,” said Robin Froerer of Owyhee Produce. "Last year, we were able to start in March, but we’ve only begun just last week, and even that was only one full day of production." The season should last until the end of June. 

Neck and neck with Washington
According to Froerer other states are also late. “We run almost neck and neck with Washington. Washington is also late this year. I actually just came back from California and they’re also starting later.” She says they don’t normally run as much in tandem with, but rather come in after, California. The company purchased all new packing equipment to reduce labor costs. “It’s been a big learning curve but it’s reduced our labor, which is a good thing because labor is getting harder to find all the time. It’s scary,” she exclaimed. Last year was the hardest year yet for her to find employees on both the picking and packing side. “As a farm we decided at that time we should make an investment so we could reduce some labor costs.” 

Soon promotable volume from Idaho and Oregon
Froerer hopes their volumes will increase if the weather cooperates and the price will stay steady, although they haven’t put any crop estimates onto paper because they’re just too far behind. Promotable volume should appear within the next 20 days from both Oregon and Idaho growing locations. “We (distribute) to Chicago, and some into Canada. We really try hard to supply as much local as we can which is Oregon and Idaho.” Production from Peru and Mexico can have an impact on the market at any time since they’re nearly year-round. “If it’s a good market they’re always going to try and come in,” she said. Prices have been very good because of high demand and not a lot of product available. 

It should be a good year for the crop – one of their peak crops, in fact. “It takes four to five years before a crop comes into full production and we’re just hitting that right now,” noted Froerer. “So we should have a really good year this year and next.” Are those smaller spears of asparagus better? Are they tenderer? Not necessarily, says Froerer. “People always seem to think the smaller asparagus is better but I’d like to challenge them to try some of the larger stuff. It’s grown on the same ground and harvested on the same day. You could have one that’s pencil thin right next to one that’s bigger around and an inch or two taller.” She says the only reason that larger stalks could be misconstrued as being tough or woody tasting is if they’ve sat in the store too long and have become dehydrated. 

For more information: 
Robin Froerer 
Owyhee Produce 
Tel: (541) 610-0410

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