"- HUME LIBRARY
POTENTIALS OF VEGETABLE PRODUCTION IN NORTH AND WEE FLORIDA L
JUL 1 1 1972
Producing Vegetables for Sale in Markets Outside North ad West Florida
Over the years many requests have been received frcm var MwAagea 4jiVpo orida
and vest Florida concerning the feasibility of growing vegetables for fresh market.
Many kinds of vegetables can be grown in most areas of north and west Florida if
proper, modern techniques and procedures are used. The important thing is to sell
these crops and to receive sufficient return for them to allow a profit for the
grower. Thus, in determining the feasibility of commercial production of any
vegetable, it is necessary not only to know whether the crop can be grown but also
to know if the crop has a reasonable chance of being marketed at a price sufficien-
tly great to cover production cost plus a profit for the grower.
Present day marketing of fresh vegetables is greatly different from what it
was twenty years ago. The number of buyers has greatly decreased and thus buyers
remaining buy larger quantities. These buyers want volume of a uniform good qua-
lity over a period of time. The longer they can buy in one area the better they
like it. This change is purchasing has tended to concentrate the production of
vegetables into relatively few areas. To attract buyers to an area means that the
area must demonstrate its ability to have available quantities of uniform produce
at a given period of time.
As vegetable areas have become concentrated, fewer farms producing larger
acreages of vegetables have become increasingly coamonplace. Along with increased
acreages and larger farms has come a smaller and smaller profit on each package
sold. Thus, large acreages plus high yield are essential if growers wish to make
a living growing vegetables.
Only high quality merchandise can be sold. Drainage, irrigation, good control
of insects, diseases and other plant pests are essential. Thus, irrigation and
good spray or dusting equipment must be available for virtually all vegetable crops.
Since vegetables are extremely perishable, adequate labor for harvesting must be
available when the crop reaches the proper stage for harvesting and ample facilities
available for washing, precooling, and packaging so that it can be done quickly as
well as efficiently. Rapid movement from the field through the packing house and
to the final market is necessary if quality is to be maintained. To produce good
yields of high quality vegetables for market requires not only suitable land, equip-
ment, production supplies and labor but skill and knowledge in plant production.
Some vegetables require considerably more skill and expense to produce than
do some others. Celery and staked or trellised tomatoes* are examples of crops
requiring considerable skill and expense to produce successfully. It costs more
than $500 an acre to grow celery and another $600 an acre to harvest and market.
Staked tomatoes cost more than $600 an acre to grow and another $700 to harvest
and market. It is questionable whether a new production area should consider the
production of crops requiring this size investment except where the products may be
sold at premiums on local markets.
Probable Crops Suitable for Production for Sale Out-Side of Area
Among the crops that may be suitable for growing in north and west Florida on
sizeable acreages are watermelons, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, southern peas and
okra (primarily for processing), pickling cucumbers, greens and possibly cabbage.
During the past four or five years, a number of county feasibility studies
have been made of West Florida counties. These studies have indicated the possi-
bility of certain specific crops being grown for rather specific markets. Most
have emphasized the importance of competition with crops from peninsular Florida
and from southern Georgia. It has been repeatedly emphasized that there are
vegetables that could be grown in certain West Florida counties if growers were
willing to meet certain production and marketing criteria. Among these were:
* See Cost and Returns from Veg. Crops in Fla. Agr. Econ. Mimeo Report Ec. 64-11
1. Ability and willingness to produce at a low profit per package; 2. Equip-
ment and facilities to apply up-to-date disease and insect control to crops:
3. To provide good water control (irrigation and drainage) for most crops;
4. Willingness and ability to apply desirable production techniques; 5. Suffi-
cient capital to allow for assuming risk of crop loss either from elements or
markets; 6. Adequate labor; 7. Willingness and ability to assemble produce at
central markets; 8. Willingness to grade and pack a standard product essentially
meeting established grade standards and producing sufficient volume to justify
experienced marketing man to handle sales. With these things in mind, growers may
want to reassess the desirability of growing vegetables.
Certain crops would appear to fit in with the general crop pattern of many
West Florida counties and these may be the ones that should be given first priority.
Some of these crops are:
1. Watermelon is one such crop with more than 10,000 acres being grown and
harvested. It is questionable whether acreage of this crop can be greatly expan-
ded but attention should be given to lowering production cost on the acreage
2. Sweet Potatoes would appear to be a suitable crop for production. Weevil
control which only a few years ago was extremely difficult need not be a serious
problem if recommended controls are used. There is a market for quality sweet
potatoes throughout the State at all seasons of the year. Most sweet potatoes
sold in the State are imported from areas out-of-state. Labor requirements are
high for producing and harvesting the crop. These may be greatly reduced by the
use of modern equipment. Ample acreage would be necessary to justify the use of
this equipment. Equipment needs, in addition to usual fann equipment, would in-
clude transplanters, spraying or dusting equipment and harvesting equipment.
3. Southern Peas or edible Cowpeas is another crop that could be successfully
grown as both spring and fall crops. There is a continuing increase in demand
for this crop for processing. Prices paid for crops for processing while not high
can be profitable to grower who learns to produce high yields at relatively low
cost. Mechanical harvesting equipment often furnished by the processor has
eliminated much of the labor required for producing this crop. Contracts with
processors should be established before committing large acreages to this crop.
4. Cucumbers for pickles Many communities in North and West Florida have
at various times grown this crop. Where adequate labor is available this appears
to offer a most excellent opportunity. Many. present pickle producing areas in
the U.S. are dependent on imported labor for harvesting the crop. This labor may
disappear or at least will become much more expensive, depending on federal pro-
grams finally adopted. The strict application of modern production technique will
permit greatly increased acre yields. Again, markets should be established before
committing any acreage.
5. Greens including turnips, mustard and collards have been grown to a
limited extent and it is probable that in certain areas expansion of this crop may
be possible. Probable success of any expansion will probably depend on the grower's
ability to produce a quality product, to assemble at a control point and to grade
and package a standardized product over a period of time.
6. Cabbage is a possible crop for several areas, suitable production facili-
ties including irrigation and spraying or dusting equipment should be available
before attempting to grow the crop for commercial production. A study of present
cabbage production in Florida and price received by grower may give an indication
of the possibilities of this crop. With good marketing facilities, it may be
possible to expand the production of cabbage for spring harvest.
7. Cantaloupe is another crop that has a good potential for certain areas of
West Florida. Production of this crop is dependent on growers using the very best
of modern techniques, including irrigation, frost protection and good disease
and insect controls. Quality of melons produced in Florida quite often is below
quality produced in dry land areas of the West. However, the ability to produce
and sell this crop at a lower price than western melons is a distinct advantage
that should allow for a sizeable production. Without good culture including disease
and insect control, growers cannot hope to produce melons having desirable market
quality. This crop would require assembling in a central point for marketing and
careful control of market quality by rigid grading of melons.
8. Okra for processing may be a suitable crop. Arrangement for sale should
be made before committing sizeable acreages.
Crops Suitable for Local Markets
As population continues to expand in North and West Florida, there is an in-
creasing local demand for fresh vegetables. Many of these demands can be met by
growers in the area. Among the vegetables that could be grown are the ones men-
tioned for sale outside of the area, plus beans (bush, pole and lima) tomatoes,
peppers squash, strawberries, lettuces, onions (both green and mature), eggplant
and broccoli and many others. Sale of crops for local use has no uniform pattern
but will vary fram area to area. In same areas curb markets or roadside stands
have provided outlets for local grown produce, in other areas door to door house
sales have worked. Probably sale to established local stores or to supply houses
furnishing supplies to stores, restaurants and hotels has been the most successful
method of selling sizeable quantities. In some cases a combination of several of
these methods may be desirable such as roadside stands plus direct sale to store.
Irrespective of method of marketing repeat sales are based on buyer wants
being well satisfied. Merchandise of uniform good quality sold at a competitive
price is the best way to insure repeat sales. Good production practices are as
essential for producing crops for sale on local markets as for more distant sales.
Producing high yields of top-quality is dependent on using the very best tech-
niques for growing the crop and proper grading, packaging and handling are es-
sential to place this top-quality produce on the market.
Information of the production and handling or grading of these crops for
out-of-area sales or the ones indicated as possibilities for local markets is
available for anyone needing such information. The Florida Agricultural Extension
Service is willing and anxious to assist any group of growers who have the desire
and facilities to meet the criteria for producing commercial vegetables. Again,
it should be emphasized that vegetable production is a high risk industry and
profits in the industry are not high and over a period of years are made only by
those skilled in management including both production and marketing.