COOPERATIVE EXTENSION WORK IN AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECONOMICS (Acts of May G and June 30, 1914)
AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICE, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA FLORIDA STATE COLLEGE FOR WOMEN AND UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE COOPERATING WILMON NiEWELL, Director.
COST OF PRODUCING CELERY ON EVERGLADES ORGANIC SOILS, SEASONS 1937-38 AND 193--39
By R. H. Howxard, Extension Economist in Farm Management
AGRICULTURAL ECONOMICS DEPARTMENT AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA
Celery AE 2 May, 1940
COST OF PRODUCING CELERY ON EVERGLADES ORGANIC SOILS, SEASONS 1937-39 AND 1938-39
By R. H. Howard
Celery is one of the leading commercial vegetables grown in
Florida during the winter and early spring months. There are five principal areas as shown in Table I. The total acreage planted in celery is small compared to many other truck crops, ranging from about 6,500 to 8,000 acres annually. The average annual gross f.o~b. value is exceeded only by tomatoes and beans, according to the annual reports of the State Marketing Bureau. Florida ranks second in total acres and production, being exceeded only by California. However, the average price received by Florida celery growers ranges from 10 to 20 percent greater per crate, according to the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural Statistics of 1939.
History of Celery Production in Florida
The first commercial production of winter-grown celery in Florida dates back some 45 years, For many years prior to 195 celery had been grown in Florida, but not commercially. In those days its plantings were limited to the better class of home gardens. The first commercial planting was made in Hillsborough County on some heavy bottom land near Tampa and in the vicinity of what is now Ybor City. The first crop was small but attracted much attention as a money crop. This pioneer celery grower planted several acres the following year (1896) which proved to be a profitable commercial crop. Farmers in Manatee and Seminole counties quickly became interested in this crop and in a few years were noted for the principal celery producing areas in the State.
It was 1899 before car-lot shipments began in the Sanford area. Prior to this date plantings consisted of small patches and all celery was shipped to large commercial cente s by express. The Sanford area developed quickly and in car-lot shipments has been the leading producing center since that date, Until about 1919 the Sanford celery was grown on the sandy soil. But after most of the better class of the sandy lands were in celery production, a further expansion was caused by finding its adaptability to the muck soils in the southern part of the county (Seminole). In a few years the muck soils became quite popular for celery production due to their natural fertility, particularly in nitrogen. But the potential supply of this type of land was comparatively small and the cost of clearing, draining,
V Bureau of Agricultural Economics, Market News Service, issued March 1928.
ACKNOWI2DGMENTS: The writer wishes to express his appreciation to the celery growers who furnished information which made this study possible, and to make special mention of their cooperation and interest; to Mr. M. U. Mounts, Palm Beach County Agricultural Agent, for assistance in obtaining the data. Much credit is also due Dr. 0. V. Noble, Head of the Department of Agricultural Economics, for his valuable suggestions.
and water control was high. However, due to the success of growing celery on the muck soils in this area, growers began to look for similar lands in other areas of the State. Several growers in 1927 moved from the SanfordOviedo area to Sarasota, where another area developed on muck soils. In a few years this area became second in importance in celery production in the State, The muck lands adapted to celery in this area were likewise limited.
TABLE I .-ACREAGE OF THE PRINCIPAL CELERY PRODUCING
AREAS IN FLORIDA, SEASONS 1935-36 TO 1939-4o.*
Areas : 1935-36 : 1936-37 : 1937-39 : 1939-39 : 1939-40*
Sanford Oviedo 4,250 5,300 5,60O 4,98O 4,750
Sarasota 1,350 1,275 1,300 1,250 1,350
Manatee 500 525 450 265 450
Belle Glade 100 ISO 400 600 1,000
Marion County 250 175 175 160 IO
* Bureau of Agricultural Economics, Division of Crop and Livestock
Celery production on muck soils has increased rapidly in Florida. Of the total acreage produced since the 1937-38 winter and spring crop, more than 50 percent of celery has been grown on muck soils.
Celery Production on Eyerglades Organic Soils
The first commercial acreage of celery planted on the large potential supply of Everglades organic soils was in 1928. Plantings were repeated for two or three years but apparently with little success, as several years elapsed before commercial plantings were resumed. Many of the production problems in this area have been worked out by the Everglades Agricultural Experiment Station, and this crop has been grown more extensively in this area since 1935-36, the acreage planted increasing from about 100 to 1,000 acres in 1939-40, as shown in Table I.
Apparently the muck soils are particularly well adapted to various truck crops, and especially to leaf crops. String beans were a sure money crop in the Everglades for many years, but recently the margin of profit has been diminishing and many growers have had to branch out to other crops. The production of almost any truck crop in the Everglades may easily by overdone, due to the vast amount of good potential land. This is what happened with string beans several years ago and is likely to occur in the production of celery if plantings continue to increase during the next four or five years as in the past five years.
The estimated celery acreage planted in the Belle Glade area of Palm Beach County amounted to only about one-eighth of the total acreage grown in 1939-40, but this has been the third largest producing area since
1937-38. Based upon average yields and price received for the 1937-39 and 1938-39 crops, the gross income to growers in this area amounted to about $10,OOO.OO and $375,000.0, respectively.
Cost of Production
Of the more important truck crops grown in the Everglades, the per acre cost of producing celery is highest. Celery being a heavy feeder, large initial outlay of money for fertilizer in comparison with other truck crops grown in the area is necessary. More time and expense is necessary in growing the plants in the seedbeds, and in preparing land for efficient control of water, both in and out of fields. Then too, celery, unlike other truck crops, requires a special operation of blanching, which adds considerably to the cost of production.
Naturally, one might expect considerable variation in costs incurred
in producing celery among growers in a comparatively ne, area and with a crop that has expanded so rapidly. With the exception of two or three operators now roducing celery in this area, most growers have only a few years experience in growing this crop.
The average cost figures used in this report are based upon two surveys made following the production and marketing of the 1937-3S and the 1939-39 crops. Accurate book figures, with the exception of marketing cost,
by operations were difficult to obtain, since most celery growers also had other crops for which the cost of labor and other items were difficult to separate. Figures on costs for land rent (if land was not owned by the operator), fertilizer, and'spray and dust materials, were more often obtained from growers' records. All yields and items of cost of marketing were obtained from packinghouse records. The expense of producing celery was divided into four main classifications: cost of raising plants, cost of growing celery in the field, cost of harvesting, and the cost of marketing,
Cost of Raisina Plants: The cost of raising plants sufficient to insure ample plants to set the celery acreage desired varied among different operators, as normally would be expected. The usual seedbed covers an area
4 feet wide and 300 feet long. Each bed under normal conditions will set about one and one-half acres of celery. However, most growers at seeding time figure one acre of celery set in the field per seedbed. If the plants do well, more acres of celery are set than the number of seedbeds planted. So, the success and supply of plants, in a large measure, determines the total number of acres of celery set in the field during any one year,
Based upon the number of acres set and produced up to harvesting time, it cost the average grower $22.69 in 1937-39 and $23.60 per acre in 1938-39 to raise the plants, as shown in Table II. The cost of raising plants includes all cost of materials, labor, depreciation on equipment, repairs, and land rent. It should be noted that no charge has been made for operator's supervision or interest on money used for production purposes. The variation in cost of raising plants between individual operators was influenced most by the number of acres set and grown from the number of seedbeds sown. In other words, if one operator set, on the average, only one acre of celery per seedbed and another set two acres, the cost per acre was approximately doubled for the
TABLE II.-COSTS AND RETURNS FOR AN ACRE OF CELERY, BELLE
GLADE AREA, FLORIDA, SEASONS 1937-38 AND 1938-39.
: 1937-38 : 1938-39
Number of Operators. 4 7
Total Acres Planted : 40o8 485
Acres Harvested : 368 425
Average Yield of Harvested Acreage (Packed Crates): 448 449
: Average per Acre
Cost of Raising Plants: Rent on land : $ .54 $ .42
Preparing seedbed : 5.73 5.51
Fertilizer : .86 .95
Seed : 2.90 2.44
Fertilizing and seeding : .32 .28
Spraying and spray materials : 1.33 1.36
Irrigation expense : .99 .99
Labor (weeding and caring for beds) : 4.24 5.19
Depreciation on seedbed equipment : 5.50 5.76
Miscellaneous : .28 .70
Total : $22.69 $23.60
Cost of Growing Celery:
Rent on land : $10.91 $11.04
Preparing land : 5.07 6.51
Mole-draining land : 1.00 .87
Fertilizer : 34.77 33.08
Applying fertilizer : .86 .97
Transplanting from seedbed to field : 14.03 18.09
Water control : 2.88 4.30
Cultivation (includes weeding) : 11.64 11.99
Spraying and spray materials : 16.17 17.14
Applying and removing paper : 11.38 10.87
Depreciation on paper and equipment : 9.30 9.27
Miscellaneous : 3.58 1.77
Total : $121.59 $125.90
Cost of Harvesting:
Cutting celery and field stripping : $ 34.36 $ 28.86
Hauling to packinghouse : 15.68 10
Total / : $ 50.04 1.93
Cost of Marketing:
Grading and packing : $ 58.24 $ 57.99
Crates : 85.12 82.90
Pre-cooling : 35.84 35.55
Selling : 26.85 27.33
Ice for cars and inspection : 5.85 901
Total / : $21.90 $212.78
Total Cost Excluding Interest on Production
Capital and Operatorls Supervision : $406.22 $404.21
Returns from Celery Marketed : 487.76 622.05
Net Returns to Operator : 81.54 217.84
Computed on the basis of planted acres. Based on acres harvested, as no costs for harvesting or marketing were
incurred for the unharvested acreage.
former. Therefore, the management and care of seedbeds was an important factor influencing the cost of growing plants per acre of celery produced.
The average amount of fertilizer used, analyzing 12 percent phos-. phoric acid and from 18 to 30 percent potash with three to Live minor plant food elements, was 50 pounds per seedbed. No nitrate materials were used in the mixed fertilizer. However, nitrogen was used as a top-dresser to stimulate better growth, if needed, Nitrate of soda was the principal material used as a top-dresser on seedbeds at the rate of 10 to 25 pounds per seedbed.
Cost of Growing Celery in the F'ield: On the average, fertilizer
represented the largest single item of cost in producing celery, and also exhibited the greatest per acre difference in the expense of materials among the operators for each of the two years covered in this study. In 1938-39 the fertilizer cost varied from $25,76 to $)41.53 per acre. Strictly speaking, the Everglades soils are fertile in the potential supply of nitrogen but very limited in many of the other essential plant food elements in the profitable production of celery, The greater part of the cost for fertilizer was for phosphoric acid and potash. Nitrogen is usually excluded from the commercial mixture applied before planting but small quantities of manganese, zinc, and
copper are included. Nitrogen was used only as a top-dresser when plants began to show yellowing as a result of cool weather. According to the Everglades Experiment Station, Bulletin No. 333, "...it was found that in eight successive years, fertilizer mixtures containing phosphate and potash plus 3 percent nitrogen gave higher yields than fertilizers of the same potash and phosphate content without nitrogen,...In seven of these eight years, the increased yield due to added nitrogen was sufficient to more than pay the cost of nitrogen, at the very conservative estimated value of 50 cents per field-trimmed crate,"
According to the records, fertilizer represented approximately 29 percent of the total cost of growing celery in 1937-.39 and 26 percent for the 1938-39 crop. Based upon the average cost for the two years of $33.92 and yield of L495 crates per acre, the cost of fertilizer was about 7.5 cents per crate marketed, as com-pared with between 15 to 27 cents in other celery producing areas. The same fertilizer analysis used for seedbeds was also used in the field at the rate of approximately one ton per acre by most growers.
Preparing land for celery, including putting in mole drains, represented about 6 percent of the total growing cost. However, preparation of land is of great importance for profitable production. Much of the expense in preparing the land was for leveling the fields in order to obtain uniform irrigation and drainage. Both irrigation and drainage during most growing seasons are important and level fields aid in the efficiency of water control.
Mole drains are put about every 10 feet across the fields and approximately 24.1 inches deep. These openings run out into field ditches where the water is regulated by pumps located on the canals. As the water is pumped into the field ditches, these openings fill up and distribute equally water over the field. Then too, these openings serve as drains after heavy rains and during the growing season when a lower water table is more desirable. When this system of controlling water was found to work, it was believed that these drains were good for several years. Recently however, the practice of making new mole drains each year on celery land was found more profitable. The cost of this operation was about $1.00 per acre each time the land was moled.
The expense of controlling diseases through the use of fungicides amounted to approximately 13 percent of the total cost of growing celery in the field, or 3,7 cents per crate, All fungicides are applied in the form of spray. Based upon yield records from 1931 through 1939 at the Everglades Agricultural Experiment Station, fungicides used as sprays showed higher yields than where the same fungicide was used as a dust. The cost of dusting is greater than for spraying, including the materials. The indications are, based upon the records, that it cost approximately $1.23 per acre for each application of spray. The number of applications varies from 12 to 16, depending upon the number of weeks necessary to grow the crop ready for harvesting. Spraying was discontinued when blanching paper was applied. From 65 to 110 days are required, after plants are set in the field, for the average growing season. Variety and time of year grown are the principal factors affecting length of growing season.
Blanching celery is an expensive operation and is exceeded. in total cost per acre or per crate only by fertilizer. The average per acre cost, excluding interest on capital invested in paper and other materials, and owner's supervision, for the two years was $20.40, which amounted to 4.5 cents per crate marketed. Labor applying the paper on each side of rows and removing represents approximately 60 percent of the total cost of this operation. Blanching paper was applied from 7 to 10 days prior to harvesting. In recent years the late crops harvested, which amounted to about one fourth of the total acreage grown, have been marketed unbleached.
Rent on celery land in the Everglades may seem comparatively cheap
in comparison with other celery producing areas. This may be accounted for, in part, by the potential supply of land and the fact that no permanent improvements are provided. Celery growers have the expense of laying out the farm after renting the land. Farm layout for celery is important, having to do with arrangement of fields, ditching, putting in a centrally located pumping system that will economically and efficiently control the water, and prividing for roads and bridges over canals and ditches. The necessary expense of preparing newr lands for celery every year or two increases the cost, As a result of this increased cost and the fact that celery has been fairly profitable for several years, growers have purchased large tracts of land since the spring of 1939. Only one operator included in this studr owned the land farmed in celery. The average rent for the two years was $10.97 net per acre of celery grown.
The cost of water control includes the expense of operating pumping equipment. Depreciation on the equipment and fuel for motors represents the larger portion of the total cost. The increased cost in 1939-39 over the previous year was due to the use of larger and more efficient units, An efficient and economical system of controlling water is one of the most important, if not the most important, factors affecting profitable yields. A well laidout system for both irrigation and drainage pays good dividends on its investment. Irrigation and drainage are indispensable for economical and profitable celery production on Everglades organic soils.
Cost of Harvesting: The per acre cost of harvesting celery tends to vary with yields. Yield is affected most by the size of stalks produced, as most plantings are comparatively uniform, consisting of about 5,200 plants per acre. Celery is graded according to the number of stalks required to fill a crate, If the sizes run largely to three, four, and six dozens per crate, the
yield is usually greater, and the per acre cost of cutting, including field stripping, is not mgch greater than if the sizes run largely to eight and ten dozens per crate. This is due to the fact that about the same number of stalks are cut and handled regardless of sizes. The principal difference in cost of harvesting a large yield, as a result of sizes principally, is that more crates are necessarily handled in hauling to the packinghouse, which affects the cost per acre. On the other hand, since all plants are cut and handled at least in the field, which represents approximately 70 percent of the total cost per crate of harvesting, a small yield--meaning usually small sizes--increases the cost per crate for cutting and field stripping but does not materially affect the per crate cost of handling. The average expense for harvesting celery was $45.99 per acre for the two years, or approximately 10 cents per crate sold. The reduction in cost of harvesting in 1938-39 below that of the previous year may be explained, in part, by better organization of field crews and more efficient methods. Accessible roads near fields, which trucks may travel, reduces the time and expense of getting the celery to packinghouse s.
Cost of Marketing: The cost of marketing an acre of celery varies
directly with the yield per acre, as the charges for grading and packing, precooling, and selling, are on a per crate basis. The average cost of marketing an acre of celery for the two years was $212.34. Cost for grading and packing amounted to 13 cents, crates 19, pre-cooling 9, and selling 6 cents per crate. The balance of 1.5 cents, making a total cost of approximately 47 cents per crate, was for miscellaneous items such as icing cars consigned to brokers and for inspection of a very few cars, as shown in Table III.
The commercial rate charged for processing celery by the two packinghouses which included grading, packing, pre-cooling, and crates, varied from 40 to 45 cents per crate. However, the brokerage charge for selling was based upon the fo.b. price received at the packinghouse. During the two years covered by this study it cost the growers 5 cents per crate if the celery netted less than $1.50 per package f.o.b. packinghouse. If the price was greater than this amount, the brokerage charged was 10 cents per crate. Such a basis of charging for this service a.ears to be fair and reasonable. The average selling cost was 6 cents per package for each of the two years.
A high percent of the celery was sold f.o.b. the packinghouse which, based upon the records, is more satisfactory and profitable on the whole to the average grower. In times of risin prices, shipments to large consuming markets enable a grower to obtain the latest price which normally would return the grower more for his celery. If prices are declining the reverse would be true and the f.o.b, packinghouse sales would net more per crate and per car. Over a period of years the price of celery declines about as frequently as it rises. According to the records, f.o.b. sales return the grower more for his celery, due to the extra charges of handling and selling in the consuming markets,
Total Cost of Production and Returns: The total cost, excluding interest on production capital used and oneratorls supervision, was approximately the same for the two years though some of the individual items varied considerably. The average cost was $405.21 per acre. Cost for individual growers ranged from $336.11 to $453066 per acre in 1938-39 and had about the same spread the previous year.
Returns from celery were influenced most by the yield harvested
per acre and the average price received per crate. For the 1938-39 crop the average yield from acreage harvested was 449 crates par acre. Yield among the seven growers varied from an average of 304 to 557 crates marketed per acre. The average price likewise exhibited considerable difference among the different growers, ranging from $0.96 to $1.53 per crate f.o.b, packinghouse. The lowest average price received by a grower was principally due to low quality and time of marketing. A large part of this crop was late celery. The grower who harvested the smallest yield per acre also received about the lowest average price, which resulted in a minus net return for the crop. One other grower failed to get enough out of his crop to pay costs of production, excluding interest on production capital and owners supervision. The grower who harvested the largest yield obtained about the highest average price and as a result of these two important factors showed the largest net returns per crate and per acre.
TABLE III.-AVERAGE COST OF PRODUCING CELERY, BELLE GLADE
AREA, FLORIDA, SEASONS 1937-39 AND 1939-39.
Number of Operators' Records 11
Total Acreage Planted 993
Acreage per Operator 8102
Average Yield of Harvested Acreage (Packed Crates) 449.5
Per Acre Per Crate
Cost of Producing Plants l/ $ 23.14 5.1
Cost of Growing Celery lJ 123.74 27.9
Cost of Harvesting / 45.92 10.2
Cost of Marketing 2 212,34 47.3
Total Cost Excluding Production
Interest and Owner's Supervision $405.21 90.4
Average Returns $554.90 $1.24
Net Returns to Operator 119.69 .34
1 Computed on the basis of planted acres.
?J Based on acres harvested.
The average price received was $1.09 for the 1937-38 and $1.38 per crate for the 1939-39 crop marketed. The average per acre returns for the two years surveyed, the difference between cost of production (as computed in Tables II and III) and returns from celery, was $149.69 per acre. These returns may seem high in comparison with other truck crops grown in the area and State, but on the other hand, the outlay of capital invested in production as well as machinery and equipment is also much greater. Then too, the average return per acre as shown is greater than actually was the case for the total acres planted which included acreage produced but unharvested, therefore incurring no cost for harvesting or marketing during the two years studied. Should these costs have been figured on the basis of acres planted, the figures would have been meaningless as to the actual cost of harvesting and marketing per acre or per crate of celery. The unharvested acreage, all
of which was in late plantings, was principally clue to poor quality and price, During the 1937-38 and 1938-39 seasons it was unprofitable to make plantings of celery which could not be harvested before the second week in M~ay. In many cases it was unprofitable to harvest the celery produced and readyr to be marketed after the first of May.
The average cost of producing a crate of celery for the two years included in this study was approximately 90 cents, as shown in Table III. Returns ,-mounted to $1.224, which left an average net return of 3)4 cents per crate to the operator. In 1937-38 the returns were 18 cents as compared to )48 cents per crate the following year.