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Tighter rhubarb supply from Pacific Northwest

The rhubarb field crop out of Washington has some challenges this season. "We had some damage last fall so we've had to move a lot of our customers to some other local growers," says Brian Anderson of Knutson Farms Inc.

He notes that normally it ships out 40-50 pallets of rhubarb a week and right now, it's shipping one or two weekly. "We have enough acreage that we can rotate our fields. So if there's a field that's ready but we're picking in another field and we're not going to get to that field, we'll go in and chop it so it will come back in six more weeks when we'll need it. That way we can continually pick from April to October," says Anderson.

Along with Washington and Oregon supply, there may also be product available from Michigan at the moment.

Field and hothouse growing
While current production is coming from the fields, Knutson Farms also does hothouse rhubarb growing in the off-season starting in mid-December. Picking generally begins in the middle of January to the middle of March. "We're not quite year-round–from October to the middle of January we don't have it," says Anderson.

As for demand, hothouse rhubarb did see stronger demand over the winter. "We got a lot of calls about it from people looking for it–but we can only grow so much there," he says. Meanwhile, demand right now for field-grown rhubarb looks stronger given the shorter crop.

This is also all leaving pricing stronger than last year. "If we're going to continue to grow rhubarb, we have to raise the price this year," says Anderson. "It costs a lot of money to grow rhubarb because it's so labor-intensive–you have to hand pick it and there's a lot of cultivating and the labor and input costs are going up. I hope we can continue to grow it."

For more information:
Brian Anderson
Knutson Farms Inc.
Tel: +1 (253) 863-4477