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Asparagus: Perfect Crop for Small-Scale Farming

Farm Planning

Spring can be associated with many things; flowers, longer days and warmer weather. Spring is also the time of year highly associated with the well-sought after vegetable, asparagus. Asparagus is a perennial vegetable with a distinctive taste many enjoy.

With the rise of asparagus consumption in the U.S. and its potential for profitability, it just may be the perfect crop for small-scale farming.

Where does asparagus grow?

Asparagus is native to temperate regions, where there is either low temperatures or drought conditions that provide the plant a “rest” period. All U.S. commercial asparagus production occurs in Washington, California and Michigan. However, asparagus can be grown in other states as well.  Asparagus grows best in well-drained sandy loam soil and needs to be planted after the soil warms to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. 

What is the cost of growing asparagus?

Crowns go 1 to 1-1/2 feet apart in a row. This takes between 5,800 and 8,700 crowns per acre. Costs run about $130 per 1,000 crowns or from $780 to $1,170 per acre, including fertilizer and lime (if needed), soil preparation, etc., total cost should be about $1,500 acre. (ucdavis.edu)

How is asparagus best marketed?

This is where asparagus is perfect for small-scale farming. It is most profitable in a direct-to-consumer situation. This is because small-scale producers do not realize much profit in the wholesale market.  Wholesale markets require certain packaging and cooling procedures, adding to the cost of production. Asparagus is best marketed through farmers markets, roadside stands or pick-your-own farms. If you are considering any of these options, contact your local extension office and farmers market managers for specific regulations that may apply. 

Is asparagus an enterprise for you?

The best way to determine if adding asparagus to your small-scale operation would be beneficial, is to run a market-based enterprise budget.  This marketing tool assists farmers when analyzing net returns.  To find the enterprise budget tools for asparagus, visit the resources available through Iowa State University Extension, here.  You will be able to download a free Excel budget worksheet.

Spread the word on asparagus!

If you determine asparagus to be a perfect crop to add to your small-scale farm, don’t forget to spread the word about your product.  We have developed an infographic you can use to educate consumers about the nutritional value and fun facts on asparagus. For the PDF version, click here.

Other info that may be of interest:

USDA National Agricultural Stats

Additional Resources:

Growing Asparagus: South Dakota State University

https://openprairie.sdstate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1210&context=extension_extra

USDA National Retail Report

https://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/fvwretail.pdf

Sample Budget Spreadsheet for Mature Asparagus Production: Penn State University

https://extension.psu.edu/business-and-operations/starting-a-farm/ag-alternatives

Happy growing!

Asparagus: Perfect Crop for Small-Scale Farming

 

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