Asparagus Harvest is in Full Swing, Despite a rough start
Agriculture officials said although the asparagus crop looks good, growers are concerned with labor costs. More growers have had to rely on the government regulated H-2A visa program to get workers.
Jamie Cloveradams, is the Executive Director at Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board.
“Most of our growers have moved to H-2A labor. They are people that work legally in the country, they come they work and then go home. The cost of that just continues to go up.”
Cloveradams said the H-2A program sets workers minimum wage at 14-dollars an hour, plus housing and transportation.
She said Michigan growers are also facing pressures from Peru and Mexico, which are importing asparagus into the U.S to compete directly with domestic growers.
From the grower’s perspective, they said the weather was unusually warm at the beginning of the month, but the asparagus crop is showing good yields and good quality.
Colleen Gregory, is Co-Owner of Gregory’s Asparagus Farms in Mecosta.
“It's been a bit difficult with the heat that we’ve had, which has been a bit abnormal for this early in May. Those warm nights make it grow all night long.”
Gregory said having restaurants open this year should positively affect sales. Last year, sales were down due to restaurant closures during the COVID shutdown.
About 62 miles West, of Mecosta in Oceana, an asparagus farm has dealt with the same issues.
Jason Baker, is the Operational Manager at American Asparagus.
He said the beginning of the harvest was like no other season that he’s seen before.
“Compared to seasons in the past, this one has been a little weird because it started off like it was going to go gangbusters but then it got cold and the frost that made us stress some plants. But then it got hot and so the plants were kind of responsive and so are we.”
Baker said the recent rain came at a good time and should help crops recover.
Gena is reporting as part of the Michigan News Group Internship. A collaboration between WCMU and eight community newspapers. Gena is based at the Big Rapids Pioneer